As Things Stand

With the recent signing of a FFP (Frequently Favourite Player) of mine, the forward ranks seem to be filling out reasonably well. There's still some question about a second line scorer, but it's entirely possible that the Canucks will start the year with Samuelsson and Raymond (when he's back from injury) and see if those two can have bounce-back seasons. Oreskovich should be coming back to the fold as well: he's restricted, limiting his options, and I don't think I'm alone in liking what I saw from him last year. Still, lots of bodies coming in looking for fourth line work, so maybe he's not returning. Seriously, there are eight players with the team right now who could make that fourth line...

Added bonus for Raymond ponderers: he's a restricted free agent after this season, making him more desirable to teams - including Vancouver. Stays? Gone? Just have to see.

More interesting, from my point of view, is the defence...

With the acquisition of Alexander Sulzer (AKA "The Replacement"), Vancouver's depth on the back end is downright ludicrous. There are the Obvious: Sami Salo, Alexander Edler, Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa, Keith Ballard; the Middling: Aaron Rome, Andrew Alberts; and the Others: Chris Tanev, Yann Sauve, Nolan Baumgartner, Ryan Parent.

Rome has grown on me. You get the feeling he will go through a brick wall for his team, which is something that every team wants; the problem with that being that "going through a brick wall" may not be the best decision he could have made. Reasonably young, quite affordable, and with a scoring touch at lower levels that may yet translate to better numbers higher up, he could be quite a desirable target for any team looking to add depth and willing to take a modest risk by giving him more ice time.

There were some brickbats, but I feel vindicated in supporting Alberts. I'm happy with his play as long as he stays on leash, and the leash jerks him back violently if he tries to cross the centre line. He is, as he should be, a shut-down guy who can clear the net. He's been around enough years to recognize plays as they happen, but young enough (and flexible enough) to adapt to new coaching demands. That being said, he's a bottom-pair defender making well over a million dollars a year.

It's a subjective thing, but it seemed to me that the adventurous, hard-hitting Ballard played at his best when paired with the intellectual Tanev - would that be enough to give Tanev a boost to the big team? There is certainly an argument for leaving him to star in the AHL for a season, learn how to run the blue line and pick up his offence there rather than take an ancillary role in Vancouver. Tanev has the smarts to play in the NHL, but should he? Maybe not just yet.

Sauve, on the other hand, is a solid candidate to step into a #7 role with the Canucks: primed to be a net-clearing presence, he can not only get practice against NHL players, he can be eased into it in a protected role on a very good team. Seeing as he would play the same role in Chicago (man, that's weird to type!), why not give him the advantage of NHL practices, coaching, and occasional opposition?

Baumgartner seems to have adapted to his "mentor" position with the Wolves (erk!) over the past year, but you know he longs for one more big league shot: it won't be permanent, certainly not with this club, but he can fill in for spot work as needed. If you only plan to carry 6 defence through much of the season, there are certainly worse options for an early call-up on a lot of other teams. Then again, if the AHL staff feel he is a good choice as captain, shouldn't he stay with the players there?

Parent is, as some have to be reminded, a first-round pick who is all of 24 years old. He was only ever going to be a body-banging defender, and his offence shows it. He's certainly had diminishing returns as trade bait (Forsberg to Hamhuis to O'Brien), but is coachable and reasonably solid positionally. And again, is all of 24: plenty of time to go from "18th overall pick" to "veteran journeyman teams ask for" with a bit of work. It could be more work than the team wants to apply, but that doesn't mean another team won't take the chance, even at the rather hefty price tag...

And this still leaves out Sulzer himself! He's billed as an offensive defenceman, but most of that has been at the AHL level. Then again, it's understandable if he found himself hard pressed for playing time on Nashville... Right now, I'm tempted to slot him in with Rome and Alberts at the mid-level, but a point-producer needs more ice time than either of them get, and I just don't think it's available unless he's much better than advertised!

So that them, for now. Lots of bodies there, massive depth, and a fair number of potential trade sweeteners, if not outright targets (hello, Keith Ballard!). Keeping all of them loads up not only the Canucks, but the Wolves and most of the spots on their ECHL affiliate, too! (BTW: any word on who that will be yet?) I can't imagine that being the status quo for season's open, but given the repeated cries of "Death Before icing five defence!" (I don't write many chants), this may well the what the team looks like in October.


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