The Vancouver Canucks. The team the pundits have finishing last. One of them had them getting 65 points. Sixty. Five. That is the team we write about and mostly cheer for. For some of Canuck fans, they are actually secretly happy about that. What's that Patrick kid's first name ? Brandon Wheat Kings, right ?
OK, I can even go there as a logic exercise. Sixty five ? Bite me pundits. Before last year's injury filled year, you had them fighting for a playoff spot. Instead, you just look at young ( not entirely true, more in a minute ), almost last in the previous season. Plus, those Alberta teams got better !!!!!!
The prevailing wisdom seems to be that the Calgary Flames are going to be Top 10. Sportsnet, I believe it was, had them at 9th. Evidently no smallish player that signed a big deal has ever not lived up to it in the NHL ever. Gaudreau is good, but the team that barely beat the Canucks in points signed Troy Brouwer AND Kris Versteeg.
And sure, you can just dismiss any talk of ameliorating all these assumptions of young talent on other teams as "JEALOUS". Point out Johnny Hockey and Sean Monahan are better than anyone you got, "neener neener". The Flames are indeed in a different spot in their development curve than our West Coast team is. All the experts say so, and they are never wrong on these things, and no team ever regresses, right Avalanche? Regardless, to put that team, that finished one spot better than the Canucks last year, as a 9th place team is patently absurd without a game being played. ( EDIT, they played one so far, and lost to McJesus )
I'm not sure where the Oilers are in that thing, because I don't care, but evidently ( I forget the list, everyone has a damn list, its out there, trust me ) Captain Connor McJesus is now the #2 player in the NHL behind Sidney Crosby. Think about that a sec. He is talented and exciting, to be sure. But he had one injury hampered season. And yet he ranks above such luminaries as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, just to pick one team that has actually done some things. All they and Sid have done is won multiple Cups and reasserted Canada's dominance as the best hockey nation on the planet. Evidently the young Oiler showed enough last year. OK.
Let's just say that there are other ways the season could go for the teams from Alberta, and leave it at that.
So, what does ranting about the other guys have anything to do with betting on the team I like, the Canucks ? Well, an admission first. I usually bet an amount on my team every year. Sometimes it is just a coffee or three, like last year at work. It provided endless banter for less than 10 dollars. Last year, the bet was that the Canucks would finish better than the Flames. I just lost that one, but it was minor anyhow. What can you get for ten bucks these days?
This time, I am five times more confident ( or foolhardy and reckless with my money ) I found another guy at work and bet him FIFTY dollars that the Canucks would make the playoffs. Before you judge me, I did get two to one odds. And regardless of the way it goes, it was money well spent. If you can afford it, I highly recommend it. As long as you don't bet with the wrong person, putting a friendly wager on your team provides endless banter and conversation at work.
Well, there are lots of reasons. Botchford gets into them here, and does a good job of seeing both sides. He knows there are two sides of every story in this town about the Canucks, and that for everyone wanting to see the team take this "insult" as motivation ( listen to Guddy and Hutty say that very thing here ) , there is a "\#TeamTank aficionado . So, let me give you my thoughts on it. Why I put my money where my mouth is : ( roster and Cap hits here )
- The Sedins have the best linemate they have had, or maybe two of them. While you know I am an Alex Burrows fan, he might be the the second best, if things go to plan. Loui Eriksson and the Twins have undeniable chemistry at the international level, and a Tre Kronor line has the potential to be a top line in the NHL. Age be damned. And if Willie wants to change things up, he has Jannik Hansen coming off a career year with the Twins, as well as shining at the World Cup.
- To that. I get Botch has to write copy, and this story got the people talking. And he once again does a good job of taking both sides of the issue for his audience. But it is concern trolling a bit tool. First, Bo Horvat between Burrows and Derek Dorsett is NOT a "4th line", as Willie politely corrected in the article. What they are is an interesting combo for checking and possibly scoring against other teams' top lines. To say nothing of rewarding Markus Granlund for a very, very good camp. Botch may not like Granlund with Sven Baertschi, but I do. One of the reasons I wanted to get some money down was the camp and preseason games.
- Brendan Sutter is going to play a lot more games. That alone will bring up the face offs, the scoring, the depth and matchups, and the power play, as his sneaky good right handed shot will be put to good use on the man advantage. The lines at the start may be together for a long time, or a few games, or a period. That is not the story. Having a guy like a healthy Sutter on the whiteboard is going to give Willie Desjardins of options he simply did not have last year.
- The Canucks have young players. They also have maybe the oldest first line in the NHL, and guys like Edler, Dorsett, Burrows and Hansen as guys that can guide them. Gudbranson is still young and a veteran. So is Sutter. The future may be "the kids", but I like the mix.
- Brendan Gaunce. Jack Skille. Jake Virtanen. Anton Rodin when he gets back to health. Those are better options than Linden Vey, or Emerson Etem ( and my reaction to his getting claimed by the Ducks ? Whatever. He did not earn a spot here, and Gaunce and Skille and Virtanen did. As for who won that trade, Jensen got waived too, so there ) and the almost the entire AHL lineup by the end there last year. Injuries could easily derail things. They do for all teams. But the Canucks staying healthy should mean at least a more competitive team than last year.
- That is all up front. If you look at the back end, you have to think the defense will be much better. Let's do the pairings quickly. First up, you have Alexander Edler and Chrisopher Tanev. One in need of a bounce back season, and the other finally getting some publicity as an awesome blueliner. All Gumby did was help win the World Championships as a top pairing guy. Edler ? He missed out on the World Cup, and that might leave a chip on his shoulder. People confuse his quietness for something else, but if the player that was dominating the preseason gets it going like we know he can. teams will start having to game plan for this pairing.
- I was happy to see Edler kicking it old school in the preseason, but Ben Hutton looked like he took his Bobby Orr pills. ( No, I did not just compare him to Orr ). The talk of him "having the shackles off" by the GM and coach when they acquired his partner was certainly taken to heart. He was rushing a lot, and still getting back most the time. And when he was not able to, his partner was covering. Eric Gudbranson may be the biggest acquisition by Trader Jim this offseason. Loui will get the headlines with the Twins, but this guy looked like the real deal when this pairing was together in the mean nothing games. ( Just a thought. Was it just me, or was the preseason more fun to watch this year ? Maybe it was the overall competitiveness of the team, a good thing as far as depth goes, but I enjoyed watching that more than in years past ). There is a lot of potential here.
- Larsen and Sbisa. This pairing will NOT get the benefit of any doubts this year. Luca Sbisa was already the resident whipping boy, and the 411 on Larsen is he is an offensive defenseman with some defensive liabilities. So there is that. But there is also supersub Alex Biega ( The Bulldog ) and Nikita Tryamkin ( have we settled on a nickname for the big Russian yet ? ). Both will see time. Like Jim Benning said, "we played 12 defensemen last year, and we will probably need that many this year". Troy Stecher will get his debut this year, don't you worry Canuck fans.
- The net is where I feel pretty good about my bet too. Not only because the Canucks will probably defend like demons, even while they promised more offense and creativity this year. With Ryan Miller and Jakob Markstrom, you have a very solid pairing that kept their team in games all year lsat year. Markstrom showed his bonafides when he got in the World Hockey tourney, and Miller is not only playing for what all players play for, but he is on his last year of a contract. He knows the game well enough to know if it goes south, he is trade bait, and then who knows ? Regardless of the politics, the Canucks are fine in net. That is going to be a good thing in a push for the playoffs.
Another year is about to start, and this one, we really don't know what is going to happen. Last year, the team had been thought of as a "bubble" team before the season. Now a team that is arguably better at every spot is thought of as the team that is going to lose every night ? I don't think so pundits. Some of that is the fan talking. Some of that is just logic and a head shaking exhaustion at how these supposed experts are alway wrong and never admit it. They always will just shrug and say "oh, they were a surprise team that came out of no where".
No guys, they made improvements in a couple areas, and now have some young guys a year wiser. You were just blinded by the fact the Oilers signed Lucic, and "isn't Brouwer the perfect guy to teach the young stars in Calgary to win?". Ahhh well. After Mathews got four goals in his first game, we will have to stomach the spotlight being firmly in T.O anyhow.
Use it as fuel guys. Us against the world. The Canucks need a good start in those nine games in fifteen nights. Everyone needs a "good start". But at the risk of being too positive, I do feel good about my investment. Here's hoping I am not paying off by Groundhog Day.