As we move along from what could possibly happen in the Post AV hellscape that some say ( certainly not me, I'm a bit more positive about what a new voice could do here ) awaits us over here on the West Coast, it is important to remember that Canuck fans are of many minds when it comes to drafts, how they turn out, and, sometimes where they turn out as well.
You have to remember, outsiders to the cult, that most of the trades, drafts and how they have worked out are ALL viewed through the prism of June 6th, 1986, and the results of that one trade. Hell, the linked article refers to it, ( with only a slight bit of hyperbole! ) as "one of the darkest days in the franchise’s history "!
Because of that one player's local connections, there grew a desire amongst the fanbase for the "local guys" to succeed than is of course outsized to whether a player is worthy of the pick at where he was selected, for instance. We want someone to come along that will forever cleanse the stain of trading the kid from Comox, and watching him succeed elsewhere.
Remember the hue and cry when Cody Hodgson was selected? Sure, the "experts" said that the Canuck fans should be ecstatic about getting this fine young man ( possibly unrelated, check the language in this report about how things are going in Buffalo's negotiations with "Hockey Dad" and Rich Winters ), but all a segment of our fanbase could think about is "why didn't they take Kyle Beach!? " Without looking them up, I can almost guarantee that more than one article written at the time in our media about that choice mentioned Kyle Beach in a positive comparison with Cam Neely.
Which is of course absurd. But if you say David Perron to a Canuck fan, for example, he or she will inevitably shake their head and mutter "Patrick effing White". Petr Nedved was a pretty good player in the NHL for 18 years, but Jaromir Jagr is the one ( look at most those picks in 1990 ) we will point to in retrospect first. In fact, by the time he was traded, instead of bemoaning just those at the top of the 1st round in 1990, we Canuck fans had already worked down the list, convincing ourselves that if we only went "off the board", we'd have Martin Brodeur! At least we could work up a wan smile later on as we remembered that at least the #18 pick that year brought the Canucks Markus Naslund in a trade where OUR SIDE WON A DEAL FOR ONCE!
There is literally one draft over the last fifteen years where everyone was as happy as they were after this last one, in 1999. Some of that is the lottery that is drafting players, some of that is the fact that Brian Burke saw that there was only a couple players that year that were transcendent talents, and he ended up with both of them, bringing Vancouver two wonderful players, ( and even better citizens, thanks Brian! ) Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin.
So, no pressure Bo Horvat. Don't even give it a second thought Hunter Shinkaruk. I'm sure that guy on twitter was only kidding with that talk of the player picked below you that some "prospect" website wrote a glowing story about.
But just because we can, ( and because, with the Cap going down, it makes more sense to get those players on ELC's into the lineup if they can play at an NHL level ) let's look forward to what the kids might be doing these coming days in Canuck colours.
Goaltending ( also known as the "Waiting For Any Failure" position ) - With the trade of Cory Schneider, this position seems to be the most "set" in all the pre camp opinions out there. Mike Gillis has said he thinks the question is settled, and it certainly is as far as the hierarchy goes. Roberto Luongo will start 60- 70 games, and one of Eddie Lack and Joacim Eriksson will win the back up job, and the other will battle with Joe Cannata for Comet ice time.
Playing goal in this city requires a special kind of personality, seemingly. The rebirth of Luongo's narrative in the most talked about position will inevitably eat up most the bytes, and we will definitely hear more about Joacim once Camp gets closer. With Eddie Lack having recently been cleared by medical staff from his hip injury, ( and he definitely has the edge in twitter presence, joining his soon to be mentor in embracing social media ) look for him to have an edge in grabbing the brass ring.
Outlook ; Not just because of that higher profile, but because he has had a season in the North American game and Eriksson will be figuring out the different angles on the smaller rink, I give Eddie Lack the edge at getting those 12-17 games in the NHL this year. "The Stork" also has a one way deal this year, which makes the decision, pending who plays better, a little easier.
Defense ( "There Can Be Only One #1! ) - As sure as there are narratives in any sport, there is the supposed truism of "only teams with a true #1 defenseman win Cups". I've always been of the opinion that those players create said narratives by actually winning the Cup, in much the same way as the victors have written accepted "history" throughout civilization.
My point is that the blue liner becomes that "#1" defenseman by his game in that most crucial final series every year. There is no doubt that teams that have a minute eater seem to do pretty well if they have a great team to play for, but is Zdeno Chara who he is if he plays in Nashville? ( Conversely, can you imagine if it would have been Weber as the villain in 2011 instead? Ohhhh...man! )
Anyhow, while there may not be a "#1" waiting in the wings, there is Frank Corrado, who has shown to have a great mind for the game, as well as having all the nascent talents to eventually grow into a major role on our NHL blue line. Honestly, if I look at the results in New York, the position that benefited from Torts Teachings over his tenure there was the defense. In Tampa, Torts did just fine with a deep veteran blue line, and will have the same here. But Chris Tanev and Frank Corrado are going to be put in positions to succeed. And don't forget the "Swiss Power Play Whisperer with the Sami Salo Shot" Yannick Weber. That's an underrated signing, as almost anyone that has seen the Swiss National Team's rise can tell. We'll take THAT player, not the one the Habs broke please Torts. Work your magic!
Outlook ; Maybe the position with a less than stellar draft record over recent years can pick it up. There is Peter Andersson coming along, and the Canucks are also high on Henrik Tommernes. Yann Sauve has resigned, and while this is a big year for the young man to prove his worth, I am willing to take a wait and see attitude with him, as I do see that he has more to give. The McNally's and McEneny's and Ben Hutton's ( all big boys and getting bigger for you size junkies ) of the world are unknown quantities at this point as well. Yannick Weber will certainly be in the coach's sights with his talents and shot, to say nothing of the fact that Tort's will probably be very happy if he just gets a bit more scoring out of "Ice Man" Chris Tanev, to go with the poised game he already has. The guy that will probably get the biggest boost from his coaching is Frankie Corrado, however.
Forwards ( "Just Ignore That Sea of Microphones and Play Your Game, Kid" ) - Of course, the spotlight will be brightest this year for the young centres at the heart of the narratives of virtually every story written so far in regards to our team in Vancouver, and it's fortunes going forward. A part of that is the stated need for at least one of them to reach up and grab a spot. There is the talk of Bo Horvat being such a great "200' player" already, and it seems to be apt to describe him. Looking at the size, and clips of Brendan Gaunce, last year's 26th overall pick should have the same descriptors. He's either 6'1" or 6'2", depending on the website, and 207 to 215 lbs. It is the playoffs last year in the OHL that turned a few heads, as Gaunce had 8 goals and 22 points in 17 playoff games for the Belleville Bulls. You know Torts will have noticed that stat line as he overlooked his charges.
So, how many spots? That is one of the reasons this Camp is one we are looking at so closely. Santorelli and Brad Richardson are both veterans that will pressure those young guys for ice time, Mike Santorelli in particular. And Jordan Schroeder deserves a chance at NHL ice time to at least start the season. Those are just the "centres". If one looks at how the Rangers and Canucks last year, for that matter, both AV then, and Torts now, seem to like players that can play both the middle and the wing. So, perhaps, for instance, if more than one kid shines, the veterans and Schroeder might be in the lineup, but on the wing.
Don't sleep on guys like Alexandre Grenier and Alexandre Mallet this coming Camp either. Darren Archibald is going to want to prove that his resigning was not just a "Utica signing". And I have not even mentioned last year's coach's favorite Niklas Jensen, who will undoubtably be given every chance to snag a spot on the wing.
Outlook ; The recent signings of Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk may have folks looking at them to be the ones right out of their first camps, but my money is on Brendan Gaunce as the one that grabs one of those two centre spots available in the lineup. The other player who may crack the roster is Jensen. But that is a bit cloudier. There will be youth on the wing already in the person of Zach Kassian, and every coach has his own ideas on how many youngsters is "too many". I would not panic if, say, two guys like Horvat and Gaunce made the team though. Both might "make the team" for opening night, for instance, and only make it into nine games while shuttling from this coast to Utica's one.
By my count, even the most cursory look at the roster for next year can see at least three true rookies playing meaningful minutes on what is still Canada's best team, and even a fourth is Niklas Jensen can play up to his promise, or if someone from off the board like Grenier, Mallet or Archibald can force at least a longer look on the fourth line. Perhaps the nine game thing happens with the young centres as detailed above. Hell, maybe Hunter Shinkaruk has no problem whatsoever adapting to the huge jump in leagues and dazzles in Penticton to force another decision!. Let us not forget, as well, that Schredder is only six games or so removed from rookie status, and probably has more to give too.
What we do know is that the management and coach are dedicated to giving these guys a shot at the brass ring. Part of that is the economics of the game in this lockout mandated reshuffle that is the Cap going ( briefly ) down. I love it myself. Yes, there might be a mistake or three more made on the ice as the kids learn in the tough "on the job training" that is the jump from anywhere else to the NHL. The Canucks certainly would not be the only team to experience that. But they are also a deep and still dangerous team where that blend of youthful drive and a hungry bunch of veterans could make beautiful music together.
Besides, how often have you bent your covetous glance at some other line ups in the NHL and said "I wish we played our kids"? Probably every time you watched the highlights where some 1st rounder showed why he was picked. Now it is the Canucks turn. Let's not be too hard on the kids.
Remember, if the worst happens ( as some Canuck fans inevitably think it will regardless ), then we can always trade them away, watch them blossom elsewhere, and go back to buying veterans on the free agent market when the Cap quickly rises in a couple years, and all those less money rich teams have youngsters to covet and poach.
Honestly though, I do look at this as a newer era where, with even some success this year, the Canucks always have those youngsters competing for a spot or two every year, replenishing the talent pipeline, making the competition for spots always intense. We could even see a marked increase in the play of players in the system as they all realize that the credo of "the best person will play regardless" is not just a platitude, and that if they work hard, they can make the team.
That's a very good thing.