What else can we say about the Vancouver Canucks and their regular season? They have already won the President's Trophy as the best team in the league, have sewn up the top seed in the West for weeks now, and are tops in virtually every statistical category there is. Feel free to disregard last nights game against the Oilers, because it really didn't matter. And with 3 more meaningless games to go this season, they really have nothing to play for other then practicing various aspects of the game and also getting their wounded soldiers back into some game action.
So let's turn our attention to the future for a moment. The Manitoba Moose also have 3 games remaining in their regular season, including today's matinee against the Toronto Marlies on the CBC (1:00 ET/10:00 PT), but these three games are vitally important. Despite their shoot-out loss yesterday afternoon to the Hamilton Bulldogs, the baby Canucks are tied atop of the North Division of the Western Conference with 91 points (42-28-1-6) and are poised to earn a playoff berth in the Calder Cup Playoffs with a win today. However, due to the absolute logjam near the top of the AHL Western Conference standings, only two teams have even clinched spots in the postseason and home-ice advantage is still up for grabs for a number of teams.
So here is an Open Game Day Thread for todays Moose game. Come cheer on the Baby Canucks as they attempt to punch their ticket into the playoffs. Oh, and after the jump you'll find some more Cody Hodgson talk, too...
So, Cody Hodgson, huh? While AV is experiementing with Jannik Hansen and Mason Raymond as the 3rd line center in the absense of the injured Manny Malhotra, our top prospect (who just happens to be a center) is toiling down in the minors and not even getting top-line minutes. Hodgson is currently centering the 2nd line in between Bill Sweatt and Guillaume Desbiens, while veteran AHLer Marco Rosa is taking reps on the 1st unit with Sergei Shirokov and Jason Jaffray.
So obviously the Canucks as an organization have decided that Cody isn't ready to play in the bigs. But that statement right there tells me that something may not be right with either Cody or the relationship between the player and the organization.
Hodgson went 10th overall to the Canucks in the 2008 Entry Draft, and followed that up by winning the CHL Player of the Year Award. He also won Gold for Team Canada at the 2009 World Juniors, leading the entire tournament in scoring. We're talking about a player who was a can't-miss, blue-chip prospect here. Until the back injury.
Ugh, the injury. Was it a bulging disc? Was it a torn muscle? Which doctor missed it? Which doctor figured it out? Why were both parties arguing about it in the media? I won't bother going through the entire timeline of what happened and when, so Google it if you are interested. But in my opinion, the relationship between the player and the organization was damaged more then his back was and I'm not sure if it has been repaired yet.
And say what you will about Tony Gallagher, but his article on March 28th addressed the issues that a lot of fans have been thinking for a long time, myself included. Was there any better time for the Canucks to bring up their "prized" prospect then an opening at the 3rd line center position for a trial run of meaningless hockey games? If we are going to experiment with Hansen and Raymond, two natural wingers, at the center position and consider them as options for that spot in the playoffs, what kind of message do you think is being sent to Hodgson?
But I hope I am wrong. I hope that the Canucks want Cody to play important (albeit second line) minutes in the minors. I hope that they want him to keep working on his game on the farm. I hope that they are keeping him there because the Moose are fighting for top-spot in their division and are gearing up for a playoff run. And if so, then I hope Cody knows that. Because I fear that the ill-will between both sides may still be there, and I fear that Cody is miffed that he isn't getting this chance, because his previous "chance" was 6 minutes a night on the 4th line. I suppose time will tell, but I hope that Hodgson can help the Canucks in the near future as a player, and not as trade bait.
I managed to get out to a Moose game this past week (a 3-2 victory over the Rochester Americans), and I thought that Cody was really good. He did make one bad pass to the point on a power-play late in the 3rd period that resulted in a Rochester shorthanded goal, but other then that he was one of the best players on the ice. I thought that his line was the best for the Moose that night, as Bill Sweatt scored twice, including the game winner. And though Hodgson didn't get a point on either Sweatt goal, he played an important factor in both of them. So maybe he is with the Moose because he is an important piece of their puzzle this year. Hopefully he can be an important piece of the Canucks puzzle eventually, too.
Some other newsworthy odds and ends about the Moose:
- The injury to Chris Tanev couldn't have happend at a worse time for the Moose. Yann Sauve was recalled by the Canucks for the game last night against the Oilers, and an injury to Kevin Connauton required the Moose to sign Kyle Bushee to a professional tryout contract (PTO). The team was forced to dress rookie forward Stefan Schneider as a defenceman. Times are tough for the Moose blueline. Again.
- The Moose finished their recent 8-game home-stand with a pretty solid 5-3 record. What makes it even better? That they were 1-3 at the half-way point before reeling off 4 straight wins.
- Today's game against the Marlies is the final road game of the regular season. The Moose embarked on their final 3-game road trip on Friday, losing to Rochester 4-1 two nights ago and then losing 3-2 in a shootout in Hamilton yesterday.
- A pretty big honor was bestowed upon Eddie Lack last week, as the netminder was named to the AHL All-Rookie Team. Lack has been incredible this season, posting a 27-20-4 record with a 2.19 GAA and a 0.927 save percentage, including 5 shutouts. This kid is for real.
- Jason Jaffray returned to the Moose lineup last week, and scored a goal in his first game back. Playing on a line with Marco Rosa and Sergei Shirokov, Jaffray has been very solid and is looking to provide some veteran leadership for the young club.
- The top D pairing for the Moose has been Nolan Baumgartner and Mark Flood this season, and both guys have been great. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Flood will be signed by the Canucks in the off-season to a 2-way deal. He is a very solid defender.
- Jordan Schroeder was wearing a full face-mask at the last game I saw, and he was down on the 3rd line with Mario Bliznak and Aaron Volpatti. Unfortunately, the mask was the only reason I noticed him out there as he was an absolute non-factor. This mildly concerns me.
- Rick Rypien was okay on the Moose 4th line, as he was lined up with Garth Murray and Stefan Schneider. Nothing fancy, just an okay 4th liner in the minors. I'm not sure what we can expect of Rypien in the future.
- Yann Sauve lined up with Keith Seabrook on defense, and I thought he was really solid. However, as his -2 rating last night against the Oilers indicated, Sauve isn't ready for the big leagues yet.
- There still hasn't been a Lee Sweatt update anywhere lately, and with Chris Tanev also hurt (both injuries while up with the Canucks) it would be very interesting to see how the Moose would be doing right now with both in the lineup.