Time to celebrate, hockey is damn near back. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
It will be exactly 130 days since Chicago showed Vancouver the door and the start of training camp on Friday. For the second straight camp we'll be without a blueline rock (first Mattias Ohlund, now Willie Mitchell). For the second straight camp, all eyes will be on Cody Hodgson. For the fourth straight camp, everyone will be wondering about Luongo's ability to blah blah blah.
Here's a quick snapshot of some questions heading into the Vancouver Canucks camp. Ain't it nice to have hockey back to discuss?
1. Which prospect will make the biggest splash?
Regardless if they make the opening night cut or not, there is plenty of reason to be excited for the next few weeks. First we've seen some strong Tourney play from Jordan Schroeder, Bill Sweatt, Aaron Volpatti, Prab Rai, Kevin Connauton, Chris Tanev, and Eddie Lack. We have yet to see what some others like Hodgson, Sergei Shirokov, Yann Sauve (still recovering from that automobile incident), Anton Rodin, Peter Andersson, Kellan Tochkin and new comer Patrick McNally will bring to camp. Hockey's Future recently re-ranked the Canucks prospects; scan that list up and down and you'll see it's been a long time since there's been that much promise in the baby 'nucks.
2. What version of Sergei Shirokov will show up and does it even matter?
We looked at him a few weeks ago, the Sun looked at him this morning. Last year's camp darling remains an enigma with a formidable upside. With Alex Burrows on the LTIR, the forward ranks need to be adjusted and another strong camp (he lead the Canucks in scoring last preseason) may give him just that opportunity to step back into the NHL. It should prove interesting to see if his time with the Moose improved his understanding of the pace of the North American game. But if not, then what?
Speaking of how the mighty have fallen...
3. What now Cody Hodgson?
If he plays and makes the roster, awesome. No harm no foul right? If he plays poorly and gets cut again, he'll at least get a chance at a full season of maturing with the Moose but it won't stop the firestorm between camp Hodgson and camp Gillis. No one wants to see Hodgson join an ugly line of prospect failures (certainly not on the 40th anniversary!) but how far away is he from just that if his injury limits his camp again? Deep breathes all around, but we're all obviously pulling for the kid to be healthy and shut his critics up.
4. What about the third and fourth lines?
Just like last camp, our cup runneth over with bottom six guys. Raffi Torres, Manny Malhotra, NM favorite Victor Oreskovich, Jeff Tambellini, Joel Perrault, Marco Rosa and Shawn Weller join Tanner Glass, Jannik Hansen, Guillaume Desbiens and Mario Bliznak who were all resigned this summer, Peter Schaefer who is on a try-out and Rick Rypien and Darcy (ugh) Hordichuk. Pop quiz: who's heading to Manitoba and should we buy a cake for whoever destroys Blackout in his attempt to fight his way to relevance?
5. What about the defensive pairings?
The logjam on defense has been discussed since July 1st. Unless they do something almost criminally insane, Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, Alexander Edler, Christian Ehrhoff and Kevin Bieksa have starting gigs. Chuck in what's left of Sami Salo (when or if he decides to return) and that spells some problems for the remaining guys: the resigned Shane O'Brien, the maligned Andrew Alberts, the dependable yet forgettable Aaron Rome, Nolan Baumgartner, brother buddy Lee Sweatt, Travis Ramsey (who at 6'4'' is just as large as Alberts) and the Mathieu Schneider parting gift in Sean Zimmerman. Salo won't be playing for awhile, so the logical battle would be between SOB and Alberts for the remaining ice time. It's a shame Rome may not have a prayer to make the opening cut. Even if Connauton, Sauve or Tanev have fantastic camps, can they unseat anyone in the logjam in front? Or what if Bieksa gets moved before the start of the NHL season?
Are there are questions we missed? What battles are you most looking forward to seeing?