Willes' Musings: Whitecaps and B.C. Place fans were robbed
Referee/Bond villain played a huge role in Vancouver’s demise
They won’t have the playoffs this season but this will help fill that empty place in the hearts of Canucks fans, the Monday morning musings and mediations on the world of sports:
+ Was all set to write a column for Sunday’s paper about B.C. Place being the happiest place in Vancouver when the Whitecaps are playing, when circumstances, in the form of dim-witted referee Ioannis Stavridis, forced a change of plans.
If you missed it Saturday, Stavridis — and why is it soccer referees sound like Bond villains? — watched on dully as Colorado’s Nick LaBrocca molested the Caps’ Matias Laba, then issued a yellow card to the fallen Laba when he grabbed hold of the ball.
We understand that call doesn’t allow for a lot of discretion but it was also Laba’s second yellow and the Rapids scored two goals in the last 12 minutes while the Whitecaps were playing a man short.
Suddenly, B.C. Place wasn’t the happiest place in Vancouver anymore as the Rapids went on to win the game 2-1.
The point is this: Stavridis played a role in the game’s outcome and that shouldn’t happen with any official in any sport. It also happens far too often in the games we’ve taken in at the Dome and if you check soccer bloggers and social media, it seems the problem isn’t confined to Vancouver.
MLS is on the verge of establishing itself as the fifth major professional league in North America. Amateurish refereeing doesn’t help its cause.
That said, still love the atmosphere at Whitecaps games. Would have been a great column.
+ With a week to go in the regular season, here’s our choices for the NHL’s major awards.
HART: Sidney Crosby. Runners-up: Ryan Getzlaf, Patrice Bergeron.
Bergeron is the choice of the I’m-smarter-than-you sector and he’s had a superb season. But it’s tough to build a case for him as MVP when he’s 42 points behind Crosby in the scoring race. El Sid, in fact, has 18 more than his closest pursuer, Getzlaf, and he’s done it on a Pens team ravaged by injuries. Bergeron will have to settle for the Selke.
VEZINA: Tuukka Rask. Runners-up: Semyon Varlamov, Ben Bishop. OK, Rask plays behind the NHL’s best team defence in Boston but he’s also third in save percentage, fifth in wins, fifth in goals-against average and leads in shutouts. Varlamov has quietly had a terrific season with Colorado, leading the NHL with 40 wins. Bishop gets the nod over Carey Price just because it will tick off Habs’ fans.
NORRIS: Shea Weber. Runners-up: Zdeno Chara, Ryan Suter. This is close but the sense here is it would be a runaway if Nashville’s Weber played on a playoff team. He leads all defencemen with 21 goals and his team with 52 points. Interesting note: Suter is averaging 29:43 minutes of ice time a game. That’s against the labour laws in some states.
CALDER: Nathan MacKinnon. Runners-up: Torey Krug, Ondrej Palat. Another season and Krug — 38 points, plus-17, 17:29 per game — would be a solid choice. But MacKinnon leads all rookies in goals and points and plays a lead role on a good Colorado team.
ADAMS: Claude Julien, Runners-up: Ken Hitchcock, Patrick Roy. Coaches like Julien who win with a good team are generally devalued at awards time in favour of coaches like Roy, whose team are perceived to have over-achieved. But the Bruins have the best record in the NHL while scoring the second most goals and allowing the second fewest. This shouldn’t be close.
STANLEY CUP: Bruins over San Jose.
+ Just so you know, Cory Schneider is sporting a 2.02 GAA and a .918 save percentage with the Devils this season. Canucks fans should be happy for him.
It’s a moot point now, but the prices of Leafs playoff tickets were released last week and they were set to rise 50 per cent across the board with standing room going for $99. It’s another one of those things that makes you wonder about the sanity of Canadian hockey fans.
+ And finally, this one kind of flew under the radar in all the excitement over Canucks GM Mike Gillis’s comments last week but if you were wondering about the disconnect between Gillis and head coach John Tortorella, consider the following.
Gillis was asked an innocuous question about Zack Kassian and he answered: “Having played 12, 13 minutes this year, he’s had a pretty good season.”
The inference, of course, was obvious but it’s also clear the Canucks have to do more to develop Kassian. He has the biggest upside of all the players on their roster and second place isn’t particularly close. Still only 23, he could develop into a 75-point power forward, and those players are game-changers for an organization.
The point is he’s not going to get there playing 13 minutes a game. It’s time to take the bubble wrap off the kid and see what he can do in a feature role. You pretty much know what you’re going to get from the Canucks’ other forwards.
You can’t say the same thing about Kassian.
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