One of the things I've always liked about the Canucks was their ability to employ players from the first category, not the second. It might seem like a very slight distinction between the two but trust me, you know a goof when you see one.
It's not just me seeing the league through blue and green coloured lenses. I honestly believe that the Canucks, as hated as they are for being a bunch of chippy babies, have a very solid track record when it comes to the character of the players on their roster. There have of course been some exceptions over the years, and before I start talking about our current cast, I'd like to bring up a guy I honestly didn't like rooting for last season. These were pre- Halloween feelings, but I might as well make reference to it.
"Allow him to re-introduce himself, his name is Hov!"
I didn't like him in Edmonton, and hot streak and all, I didn't like him here. I will admit that I was a Raffi Torres fan for about 45 minutes. When he scored THE goal in Game 1 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals with less than a minute on the clock, I forgot about my feelings about the guy as a player and enjoyed the big moment he had given me as a Canuck fan. Once the "shock and awesome" wore off, I found myself wishing someone else had gotten that goal, but you can't script hockey and sometimes villains win.
While he isn't in the same class as some of the league's notorious repeat offenders, I still had issues cheering for Torres. It's one thing to throw your weight around and finish a check, it's completely different to blindside somebody in a nothing game late in the year (Oilers were way out of contention).
Some people don't have a problem with it, some people do. Opinion is opinion and by writing this blog I get to state mine. Did not like the hit. He got a four game suspension for that, and first thing that happened upon his return was a headshot to Brent Seabrook. You can say "it's all part of the game" ect. ect., but I look at those hits and I don't see someone "finishing their check", I see intent to injure.
As a fan of the Canucks, I don't like Eberle or Seabrook. As a fan of hockey, I don't like hits like that.
Back in the old NHL (before all the "clutch and grab" rules came into effect) the lines were blurred. The best characters on teams were the villains. Goof was not the word for those players - that was back when "enforcer" was in style. Your Donald Brashears and Gino Odjicks were all in that muddy enforcer water where it was nearly impossible to tell goof from character. Thankfully we could count on the Chris Simons of the world to let us know where the line was.
But the game has changed and with it comes these new distinctions. We've had guys come through Vancouver over the last several years that have been real characters and have also been a lot of fun to cheer. Players like Jarko Ruutu and Rick Rypien. And who can forget that magical two weeks when Jeff Cowan was a scrappy darling in this city?
The trend continues with the Canucks current squad. Aaron Volpatti is a real solid worker who plays hard and finishes his checks the clean way. It's only been 14 games (and he has yet to find the scoresheet) but I'm really liking what he is doing on the ice.
New addition Dale Weise has shown a lot of heart and promise in the early goings of the seasons as well. Who among us didn't get excited for the guy when he got his first goal a month ago?
Maxim Lapierre, although he gets his fair share of penalty minutes, can also play skilled hockey. There's "getting under someones skin" and then there's "dirty". Nothing wrong with the former. I don't even really mind it when someone does it against the Canucks because I believe that kind of agitation is "part of the game" and you need to be mentally strong to get past it. It makes for an entertaining, passionate game and Lapierre brings that every night. Lappy is officially the team scoundrel.
As I said, Lapierre spends his time in the box and does some foolish (yet funny) things at times, but I don't really mind. What I do mind is
I would hate it if those two played for the Canucks. At least Raffi Torres had deniability.
And there it is, the Canucks may not have always been the most likeable team league wide, but I take offence to them being called "cheap" or "dirty". Lappy might do goofy things, but until I see him throw a blindside flying elbow to an unprotected players head OR the league has to create a new rule mid playoffs to stop his clownery, he's not in the same class as the league's goofs.
As for the rest of the team, do they have an attitude? Yes. A swagger? You betcha. But they can still play hockey and they aren't defined or dragged down by a goof throwing around dirty hits on Sportscenter and getting multi-game suspensions.
As I said, the game has changed. If you can't play, and are just out there to cause trouble, a light now shines on you - a light that lets the entire league know what you're about.
That light? "The Shanny Signal"
"Bettman, turn... that... off!")
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