During Sutter and King's post season press conference, the former observed his team's poor record on home ice and preached a return to the "identity" he had emphasized for so many years, pre and post lockout--the defensively sound, hard hitting, tough as nails team that outworks its opposition on every shift and never quits. This team has been all over the map in recent years--from the offence-starved division title winners in 2005-06 to the teams that scored in bunches and were amongst the best in the league in terms of possession, but couldn't keep the puck out of their net. This past season, with the addition of new personnel, the concepts of "youth" and "speed" quietly acknowledged, and the goal of improved defence in mind combined with the assumption that an improvement on the blueline would cover for any drop-off in offence, a return to the defence first, score by committee approach looked to be in order.
Well, not only did the latter not materialize for a variety of reasons, some out of management's control, but the team wasn't especially good in areas where they were supposed to be good, as stipulated by this so-called identity. Despite an improvement in goals and shots against, the penalty kill fell to fifteenth, and the team finished eighteenth in total blocked shots, thirteenth in giveaways, and twentieth in total hits. While there is some discrepancy between home and road totals to be accounted for and the fact that real-time stats can be fickle and not particularly indicative of success, this suggests, to me at least, that the moves Sutter made at the end of January and at the trade deadline were an attempt to rectify not only the lack of scoring, but the other problem areas as well.
Now, with his expressed off-season goal being to "reclaim the team's identity," his first move of the summer is to sign overage junior and undersized fifty-goal scorer Bryan Cameron. While Cameron's addition won't have an immediate impact on the team or even the organization as a whole, his addition isn't exactly congruent with Sutter's plan--unless his idea of the team's identity is changing? We've seen moves like this before, and the remainder of Sutter's off season decisions, presuming he is still the general manager, will ultimately be the judge of that. He is still left with a veritable mix of younger players, veterans, and some key free agents to deal with--all represent varying levels of value to the team, and some decisions will inevitably be more difficult and inherently more risky than others, especially given the fact that he doesn't have the best track record of late. I had hoped that last off-season finally represented something of a change in philosophy for Darryl, but that was essentially reversed over the course of this past season. On its own, the addition of a guy like Cameron is a good move, but it remains to be seen if it truly is part of something bigger. What do you think?
Links after the jump.
The Heat dropped game two in Hamilton last night, losing two more players to injury in the process [Abbotsford Heat], while the Hitmen have an opportunity to take a 3-0 stangle-hold in their series with the Tri-City Americans tomorrow night in Washington [Hitmen]
Team Canada prepares for the World Championships with their first exhibition game against host country Germany tomorrow, but Canada has until May 7th to submit their roster, and Messier will wait until the conclusion of the second round of the NHL playoffs to make his final additions [Hockey Canada]
Just when you thought Canucks fans couldn't get any worse, Vancouverite Grant Rowe was arrested and is facing battery charges after punching a United Centre security guard in the mouth during game one of the Canucks' semi final series against the Blackhawks [Chicago Sun Times]
The NHL's newest "History Will Be Made" ad, courtesy of Mike Cammalleri's spectacular goal against the Penguins in game two of the Eastern Conference semifinals:
Three ways to improve NHL broadcasts [Lighthouse Hockey]
Suspiciously silent after the Capitals were eliminated from the playoffs last week, Mike Green finally spoke to the media today [Kukla's Korner], while Japer's Rink takes a closer look at Karl Alzner.
Who are the best forwards in the NHL, and why? [The Copper & Blue]
Mike Chen takes a closer look at the value of Corsi numbers [From the Rink]
What if Matt Cooke had his own show? [Bloge Salming]
Tonight's playoff schedule:
Vancouver at Chicago (VAN leads 1-0, CBC 7PM MT, 9ET)
Philadelphia at Boston (BOS leads 1-0, TSN 5MT, 7ET)
Have a good week everyone, and remember to cheer the Blackhawks Canucks on to victory in the comments.