We just got our first taste of hockey with the Young Stars Tournament, and it has us drooling at the prospect of having some young players inter-mixed with a "stale....aging.....slow" core. Virtanen with the Sedins.....Cassels shadowing McDavid......McCann skating by Kesler to snap one in the net.....ah dreams.
Let's get to reality. Some seem to think that hockey is just a sport and to win games you put out your best 23 man roster. But hockey is a business....with a salary cap. And GM's not only have to the think about the short term (this year), but the long term. A player that could be "ready" to play this year may never get the chance because of the business side. The Canucks management will make a lot of hockey decisions this year and a lot of them will have nothing to do with hockey and everything to do with the cap or show casing players before the trade deadline or just getting their money's worth out of a player. If years past are any indication, even under different management, the Canucks are not going into their youth movement yet. As of today, 22 of the 23 spot on the opening roster are pretty much set. How do I know this? The two players on a two way contract are Horvat and Corrado. The Nucks aren't sending Horvat down. And the Canucks are so weak on defense that Corrado is almost sure to get the 7th spot.
So that leaves one spot. One little tiny spot. Virtanen or Gaunce....or maybe a surprise like Subban! I know this idea pisses some of you off but common sense says this is what will happen. Management says they want to get younger but have players under contract that have to be on the roster. Our cap space is far too tight to be sending down veterans to Utica and have to eat the cap. And this coaching staff seems cautious with letting newbies get too much time during their first year. Horvat had limited minutes last year and was put into roles that sheltered him from opposition top lines. I see no reason why a different pattern would emerge with another younger player.
So doesn't it seem cruel to have a Young Stars tournament this year? The masses are clamoring for change and yet change is always slow to come to this market. McCann is probably a year or two away. Shinkaruk is a friggin mystery as to when he will arrive. I wanted to see if 6'5 A.Greiner could be the next Lucic so we don't start talking about signing Lucic. Some people remember a young guy named Jensen as well. And one of Virtanen or Gaunce or both won't be a Canuck when the puck drops on Oct. 7th.
Before you get the torches lit, sit back and think about the trade deadline. If the Canucks play like most have predicted or hoped, we will have tons of space for those young kids come March. Maybe we can get a sneak peek at McCann/Horvat/Cassels on the PP, with little Subban on the point. Of course I probably won't be awake to see that as I will have drank myself into a stupor because the Canucks suck so bad they had to jettison, Vrbata and Hamhuis. I sure hope that doesn't happen as it would probably lead to my wife divorcing me and getting my golf clubs.
In the end, I think this year is one of wait and see. Stop-gap is a term I keep hearing. A few contracts end this year and the feeling is Vrbata and Prust won't be back so there will be more space for young players next year. You may want change to come now, but the business of hockey is more important to the owners/management than some fans feelings of cleaning house now to maybe get dividends later. Maybe the business decisions change in March if the team sucks. Until then, I really hope the Canucks surprise me like they did last year and management is forced to make some hard decisions over personnel instead of no-brainers like dumping salary when you suck. Hard decisions make for way better discussions on NM.
Can the season start already?