I suppose it's not a bad place to be, really. With pundits far and wide penciling the Canucks to finish last overall this season, they're literally underdogs from the get-go. On the one hand, who doesn't like an underdog? Anything that's gonna generate some excitement this season is a gawd-send, especially after the Mayonnaise on Wonder Bread sandwich that was their last season. On the other hand, the bar is set so low that the most minute accomplishments will likely be trotted out as a sign this team is playoff bound, and the fatigue from this will set in early.
No matter where the Canucks end up, it's important to get off to a good start. If you're trying to sell hope to the masses, losing in your opener (and let's face it, either game this weekend) ain't gonna do it. Of course this is the fickle Vancouver market, so any win will be asterisked a) because it came against an already struggling Flames team (and Carolina visiting tomorrow, so a lot of that reaction will hinge on whether Eddie Lack starts), and b) how much they win by.
It's early. There's going to be ups and downs, and no matter how you see the Canucks doing this season, pace yourself. We're seeing mid-November style outrage before there's even been a puck dropped on their season. So, let's take a look at tonight's opposition: the Calgary Flames.
Apart from Johnny Gaudreau extending his holdout, I can't imagine a worse start for the Flames. Yes, they've scored 7 goals in 2 games, but Brian Elliott. the former St Louis Flames G brought in to fix the goaltending nightmare the Flames endured last season is putting up some, small sample size aside, numbers that are pretty discouraging if you`re a Flames fan: His save % is .818, and that GAA is 5.07, but you know, that`s not that bad. No, really...
The Flames haven`t been able to figure out Connor McDavid, and let`s face it, this is going to be a recurring theme for nearly every team this season, the Canucks included. Their problem is they`re giving up goals to guys whose numbers aren`t 97, and that`s where there`s hope for tonight. Maybe the problem is that they`re missing Kris Russell on defence and all the shots he bl
While it`s too early to pin the blame on anything, a bad start in Cowtown will have some wondering about Glen Gulutzan, you can bet. Seriously, though... it is an over-reaction, likely due to who they lost to more than anything else (something you'll want to refer to as the year goes on). There is some truth to it, as it's more how you lose than who you lose to.
The Flames will start Chad Johnson in goal tonight, and we'll let you know about the rest of their lineup as soon as we can track it down...
THE HOME TEAM
After last season's debacle, one thing the fans demanded was change, and while there wasn't the kind of change some fans wanted (as Willie D, GMJB and Preznit Trev all still have their jobs) there are a lot of new faces. There are also some line changes that are, well... Let's start with Bo Horvat. You know, the guy who was pretty much the best Canuck in the last half of the season. The one they are obviously grooming to be the face of the franchise as the Sedins prepare to ride off into the Swedish sunset. The knock on Bo is that his defensive game needs work. No argument here. He knows it. They know it. We all know it. Fortunately, Willie's got a plan, and that plan is to put him on a line with Alexandre Burrows. Good call. Burr is a great 2-way player, and has enough skill to make the 4th line a legit threat. So who's on the other side with him...? Derek Dorsett?
Even if you bought into the narrative that Dorsett is a good defensive player (if you have definitive proof, I would love to see it), I cannot see how playing with a guy like Dorsett is somehow good for Horvat's development, and yes, he is still in development as a 3rd year pro.
On the bright side, we get the first real look at Loui Eriksson with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, and I am hoping that much like last season, the Sedins continue to prove the nay-sayers wrong. Eriksson is a talented, gritty guy and with the chemistry they've shown, this could be a great season for the top line.
Another thing that's different from the past couple seasons? The Canucks are actually starting things off healthy. Brandon Sutter is 100% after a disappointingly short season last year, and with Jannik Hansen eager to prove last season wasn't just the Sedin Effect, as well as Brendan Gaunce wanting to show he deserves to stay, the 2nd line is going to be key if the Canucks hope to have a sniff at the postseason.
On the back end, Chris Tanev and Alex Edler are in the top slot, and it really needs to be said that Edler had himself a pretty damn good preseason. I am still a little hesitant to assume that his downfall over the last couple seasons has stopped, but we saw Edler playing more like 2011 Edler and that's encouraging. The 2nd pairing of Erik Gudbranson and Ben Hutton will be one to watch, with the newly acquired Gudbranson bringing a bit of snarl to the Canucks D that has been missing since the departure of Willie Mitchell, and Hutton likely able to flex his offensive muscles more now that he's not playing Luca Sbisa's personal fireman. And speaking of Sbisa, he's on the last pairing with Phillip Larsen. Let's hope they're playing low, sheltered minutes and maybe things won't be so bad, hmm? Still, when you think of what could have been...
Hoping for a big night to shut down losers like this. It's mind blowing these idiots still exist, but Alberta gonna Alberta, right?
GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN
This year, I am going with all cover tunes. I love hearing a band offer up their interpretation of another band's work, whether it's a faithful recreation or a challenging re-working. We'll kick things off with one off an album likely to end up on many top metal album lists for 2016, 'Great Is Our Sin' by Revocation. Their last disc offered up a blistering rendition of Metallica's "Dyers Eve", and this time out they bring us an absolutely raging version from Slayer's classic Reign In Blood album: "Altar Of Sacrifice".