Being a Canucks fan in Winnipeg means a couple of things.
1) The Jets aren't back. Yet.
2) Staying up until Midnight CST to watch Canucks home games. It means some early mornings.
3) Getting to watch the future Canucks while they ply their trade on the farm.
While the Moose have been in Winnipeg since 1996, they only became affiliated with the Canucks when the IHL went belly-up in 2001 and Manitoba joined up with the AHL. However, having watched this team over the years, this is the first time that I actually consider this team to be "Vancouver's Farm Team".
More after the jump.
I've witnessed the Canucks call up the best players on the Moose during playoff runs only to have them sit in the press box while the Moose get waxed.
I've seen the Canucks send down their unwanted players (Marc Chouinard anybody?) for cap relief.
I've seen failed prospects become career minor-leaguers (Nathan Smith? Brandon Reid? Fedor Federov?) before my very eyes.
But this year, the roster looks like a team that would have laced them up during Vancouver Canucks prospects camp. The best players on the Moose are the best prospects for the Canucks.
Cody Hodgson? Check. Jordan Schroeder? You betcha. The Sweatt brothers? Double check. Sergei Shirokov? Yup. Kevin Connauton? Evan Oberg? Aaron Volpatti? Victor Oreskovich? Chris Tanev? Eddie Lack? All accounted for. Also, once you add in routine call-ups for Mario Bliznak, Joel Perrault, Jeff Tambellini and Alex Bolduc, you can clearly see that this team is Vancouver's future. And it looks bright.
Vancouver also couldn't have a better place for their youngsters to hone their craft. As of today, the Moose are 2nd in the AHL in attendance, drawing 8,495 to the MTS Centre in a league where the average attendance is well below 5,000. They get to play in a Canadian market, in front of knowledgable fans, while being covered by a media who actually puts them on the front page of the Sports section. To illustrate this point, the Moose drew 14,134 for a Friday night game on Nov. 19 when the Rockford Ice Hogs were in town, on the same night that the Atlanta Thrashers drew 11,115 while hosting Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. Winnipeg is a hockey town.
And the current Moose are Vancouver's future. The Canucks do have a lot of Moose graduates in the lineup right now, with Kesler, Burrows, Bieksa, Edler and Schnieder all spending time in the 'Peg. However, there have never been so many future Canucks playing on the same Moose squad at once (save for the lock-out season).
Despite being 4th in their division with a 12-8-0-3 record with only a +3 goal differential right now, they are only 5 points out of first with a game in hand. But I'm not worried about the record. I'm worried about checking out these kids while they are still here, because I know that some of these players will be pulling on the Canucks jersey soon. So I'm going to enjoy watching these players while they are still here in Manitoba, before I have to stay up until midnight to do so in the future.