Murphy’s Mailbag: Are the Canucks a playoff team?

Jamie Benn had two goals and an assist as the Stars crushed the Canucks by a score of 6-1.

This week we caught up with a Canucks fan favourite, Jarkko Ruutu. Since he retired from playing hockey, ‘Ruuts’ has authored a book and then took a job with the Columbus Blue Jackets. I asked him a few questions and also took a few from the Twitterverse.

Q: You’re still involved in hockey as the European development coach for the Blue Jackets, but do you miss playing the game?

I don’t really miss it. The day I retired that was it. The tank was empty and I was proud of how it ended up in the long run. I got to realize my dream and I closed the book and that was it. I had no issues after making that decision.

Q: How are you enjoying the new gig?

It’s totally different than playing. There is nothing better than playing. But now I get to help guys realize their dream and it’s fun. There are three guys in the Columbus line-up I worked with last year and that’s a good thing for us that we are able to produce a couple of teenagers in the lineup.

That’s the reason I’m in Columbus right now too. Bring in a familiar face from the last few years to see how the guys are adjusting. It’s only been two-to-three months since they came over for training camp so it’s important they feel comfortable with the set up. I’m really trying help them adjust on and off the ice.

Q: Do you have a favourite memory of your time in Vancouver?

I can’t just pick one to be honest. I loved the whole time. It was a great time to join the team because it was a great team, but at the same time the guys were all pretty much the same age. The city, the fans, the regular season success we had is something I’ll cherish the rest of my life.

Now to Twitter for some questions for Ruutu…

I’ve probably seen the clip a million times and I guess it’s still going around social media from time to time. It’s pretty funny because Calgary was getting a penalty and they ended up down two men because of Phaneuf there. The announcer even cracks up.

I was almost always targeting the top guys on the other team, which means that everyone was after me. I really didn’t have to try to get under anyone’s skin specifically. It just happened because star players have a certain status and they didn’t always expect the other guy to just forget the puck and get everyone involved, but that was the recipe for me.

(I think I phrased this question to Jarkko as, who was your favourite coach? And why wasn’t it Marc Crawford?)

To be honest I think I was lucky to land in Vancouver and play for Crow. He was very demanding and didn’t let things go. Obviously guys were pissed at him at times, but when you look at it after, and how things rolled, it benefitted me because I was always on my toes.

Q: I suppose because of the way you played you knew you were going to have to fight. Did you have to work on that part of the game? Did anyone help you?

I didn’t really work on the physical part of it. I knew my limits too. I wasn’t going to get into it with heavyweights because I’m not stupid. I did study guys on YouTube at times before games in order to prepare and see what I could expect at times. Darren Langdon is a guy I kind of picked stuff up off of, how he tied up guys and tried to be smart with the way he fought. Try to tire the guy out and then land a few in the end. But in my mind it was always, don’t get killed.

Q: How many pops on the plane from Turin before this picture was taken in Helsinki? (Following Finland winning bronze at the 2006 Olympics)?

You only want to count the beers on the plane? Listen, that was a lot of fun. It was like 3 a.m. and minus-15 Celsius and I didn’t intend to take my shirt off, but I’m looking front row and there are a few guys with their shirts off. So I’m thinking if they don’t have shirts on, I should be without a shirt, too. So I made up my mind like 10 seconds before I was announced. Everyone is lucky that those fans didn’t have their pants off because if they did then mine likely would have come off too.

Now on to the mailbag!

I can’t find the question, but someone asked me if I thought the Canucks would make the playoffs. Prior to the start of the season I went on the record a number of times stating that I gave the team a 30 per cent chance of making it. And yes, after the start they’ve had I would have to say that I now put the odds at 50/50. So they’ve been upgraded.

The next couple of weeks are obviously key. There are five more games on this road trip and of the teams they are playing only the Predators are outside the playoff bubble. And I think many believe the Predators will make the post-season. So there are no easy outs on this trip.

Aside from staying healthy and some of the obvious stuff, the Canucks need to figure out their middle six forward group if they are to be in the mix for a playoff spot. Bo Horvat has had a difficult time producing at evens this season and I don’t think that’s all on him. GM Jim Benning needs to find him a winger.

Can Micheal Ferland be the guy when healthy? Perhaps. But I wouldn’t bank on it. Sven Baertschi has been just OK since his recall. And let’s be honest, Tanner Pearson, Josh Leivo, Jake Virtanen and Antoine Roussel (when he returns) are all guys who can have their moments, but contending teams are probably not deploying these guys in their top-six.

If you want to know what the numbers guys think of the Canucks’ chances, there are a number of sites that update their daily playoffs odds. All use their own unique models and the results can vary greatly.

As of Tuesday morning, MoneyPuck had the Canucks at 65 per cent to make the post-season…

While Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic wasn’t quite so bullish, giving Vancouver only a 48 per cent chance.

I get in trouble when I hop up on the counter to eat things every now and then. I also like to leave my stuffies on the stairs. Other than that, I’m good.

I really like the rink in Columbus. It has an open concourse to the seats and these cool corner suites. The Blue Jackets’ practice rink is also housed in the same building. Now about that damn cannon though…

If we’re talking non-hockey, then I would say the 2000 Canadian Open Golf Tournament at Glen Abbey. I somehow conned my way on to the broadcast crew as an on-course commentator and followed Sergio Garcia’s pairing both days on the weekend. For some reason the producer gave Peter Osterhaus Tiger Woods’ group, but I was right behind the green when Tiger hit that famous 6-iron out of the bunker on 18.

The atmosphere was sweet.

As for hockey, it would have to be the playoffs in Vegas in the spring of 2017. The energy in the building was unreal and man was it loud. It was a real pleasure to work the first two playoff rounds in Golden Knights history.

I think everyone has heard of the times that Keith Ballard would hide in guys’ equipment bags to scare them.

There was a time in Vancouver when Matt Cooke wore this terrible turtleneck sweater to practice and was heckled mercilessly for it. A couple players got the trainers to raise it to the rafters during the skate so it was hanging in all its glory, much to Cooke’s chagrin. He wasn’t happy about it to be honest.

And do you remember the yellow visor Eric Weinrich used to wear?

Well, he had a tough game one night for the Canucks and finished minus-4. The next day he got to the rink and someone had spray-painted his visor black.

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