It has been a while. Taking the summer to recharge, and then life and whatnot get in the way. You know how it is. The Overlords have filled the content void with more voices and viewpoints, and an “old guy” like me needs to recharge the battery now and then anyhow.
And now it is time. In a just a week, the Young Stars will be hitting the Penticton ice. The fruits of Jim Benning’s labours will start to make their way, and we will be right here to dissect and critique their actions to the most minute detail.
Until then, a look at what you might be watching, why you can enjoy the games more this year than last, and maybe even get to watch few more wins for a change.
Now, this is not to say I have the Canucks winning first place in the Pacific. Teams have different arcs, and that time is not here just yet. Hell, we haven’t even won multiple lotteries like the Oilers (who, and are you effing kidding me pundits ? The Oilers are the “template” to build a team ? Lazy ass basta...more on that in a bit... ) yet !
But this was a good off season. And I am definitely on #TeamBenning as far as drafting goes, and that continues apace. He had another good haul there as well. So, a quick recap and why it helps. The current roster :
- Dave Gagner : He had a very good year in Columbus, and will make our power play better because he made their better. A good player up and down the lineup. His 18 goals and 32 assists for CBJ last year included 8 PP goals and 10 assists.
- There are eight guys with a “C” beside their names in the position column. From Bo Horvat, Henrik Sedin, Brandon Sutter, Gagner, and a cadre of names new and old ; Markus Granlund, Alexander Burmistrov, Brendan Gaunce, Jayson Megna and Griffen Molino. Aside from the first two, they can all play the wing, situationally, or all the time. Man, Manny Malhotra is going to be busy !
- All Christopher Tanev has done is play the position as naturally and well as it can be. He keeps working to improve his game, and gets noticed for his labours all over the NHL. So why is the media always trying to trade him ? He has still got a two beside his name for a few more years ( 28, Dec birthday ). He has bled Blue and Green. Why can’t we have nice things anymore ?
- The rest of the defence is different, more in the mold of today’s evolving game where getting the puck up the ice is paramount. Michael Del Zotto brings the ability to get the puck through on the power play, something Troy Stecher also has naturally. Alexander Edler, as always, needs to get a new stick pattern ( if his stick guys ever nail it... ), but can bring the 100+ heat from the top as well.
- The rest of the guys have that ability as well. Ben Hutton makes plays under pressure well, and makes nice passes. Eric Gudbranson is a man on a mission, which is a good thing. He is one of two guys at 6’5”, with newcomer Patrick Wiercioch also that big ( at 202 to Guddy’s 220 ). And The Bulldog, Alex Biega, who has held onto that position against all comers. Jordan Subban and the rest of the Comets on the rise had better be prepared to take it. Biega makes some nice plays, and some pretty good hits for 5’10” and 193 lbs. ( and yes non Canadian readers, we use pounds and feet when we talk about the players, and we ARE a metric country. And no, that is not hypocritical. Why are you looking at us like that? )
- Ah yes, scoring. That old thing. You can’t win more if you don’t score more. That is the reason they signed Thomas Vanek today. The Canucks had their worst scoring season in team history last year. And while Vanek is not at his younger levels, he had a decent enough season with the Wings. Besides, “rebuild” folks should love this. He helps a few young guys learn the little things in the offensive zone, peps up the power play, and then, if things are as bad at the deadline as they expect, you trade him. The Wings got a guy and a 3rd round pick from Florida, I think it was.
- The kids. Brock Boeser will probably make the team, although ( and this is another thing the Vanek signing impacts. Make them earn it ) it is not guaranteed. I like that too. Earn your ice time. If a young hotshot with all the tools can’t outplay a vet who is slower and maybe even a defensive liability, he needs more seasoning. I think Boeser is on the opening night roster. Nikolay Goldobin and or Jake Virtanen will have to take it. That is not a bad thing.
- The kids, blue line : Guilliaume Brisebois. Anton Cerderholm, Jalen Chatfield and Even McEneny all come with various pedigrees, and various chances of showing enough to make a roster impact. Most of those names are the Comets’ blueline this year. Olli Juolevi has the age / CHL thing going for him, so he would maybe play in the SEL or Finland for a year. I suspect that a kid that bulked up to over 200 lbs ( the roster at Canucks.com has him currently at 182, but all reports have him about 20 pounds more than that when working out at Rogers Arena. ) is going to go all out to not play in Scandinavia this year however. He is my pick to force his way onto the roster, even if it is a pressbox, playing some games in the NHL kind of year.
- Another guy to consider on the blue line is yet another signing by the busy beavers on Griffith’s Way. Phillip Holm is only 25, and I like what Bob McKenzie says about him in this Canucks Army story of his signing.
- You know how it goes. Success becomes the new “blue print”, and the Oilers, after wallowing at the bottom so long they won multiple lotteries, are now supposedly “the way you do it”. I am not sure what is sillier there. The assertion, or the lazy writers and pundits pushing this most tired of narratives. Look at all the teams currently “on the rise”. Most had at least one overall top pick, or the second, or the third, at the least. The Islanders got Tavares. The Leafs got Mathews. Buffalo lost out on the McDavid lottery, and got Jack Eichel, who looks to finally be overcoming some injuries and bad luck to get things going.
Your Canucks have lost the last two years lotteries where they had a reasonable chance at the top pick. I get the math. I know it is within probabilities and chance that the Devils and Flyers could come from way back and pass the teams that the whole draft lottery system was supposed to help. Perhaps the tweaks they made to give more chances down the line are at fault. Whatever. Shit happens. Perhaps the damn Puck Gods are still not willing to forgive Vancouver for....something ( my theory is we had the Patrick Boys, the first indoor arena down on Denman, guys that were literally writing the book on the modern game, integral to the game’s early growth, and the Puck Gods dug that perfect setting so much they are still punishing us for Denman Arena burning to the ground...alas ). The bottom line ? Play as hard as you can to win, and let luck have it’s way.
No more of the #TankNation talk, please. It may be how buffoons and fools will tell you “you should do it, look at the Oilers and McDavid...”, but that is almost as silly as saying the Penguins were “smart” to win a league wide lottery to get Sidney Crosby. They all patted themselves on the back with “see, the Canucks finished right where we said”, without even looking at the huge injury list last year that had them playing half the AHL roster in the NHL. That is not to excuse last year because guys were hurt. It is just a fact that a team not deep enough cannot compete in the best league in the world without a full, or close to it, NHL roster. That is why all the signings this off season were made. If it means a few “kids” have to earn their time, be “disappointed” and “want to prove them wrong in Utica “, then sign me up. I can handle losing, if you are competing hard. But having to dump it out all night, because the other team is just better, is not going to teach you much. Even if the Canucks did compete well, and just did not have the horses on some nights. They stand a better chance of having “the horses” this year.
Give your SuperScout GM some credit as well. Myself, as a life long Canuck fan who has seen the highs of Pat Quinn ( RIP ) and the lows that saw us draft guys like Patrick White, Josh Holden, and too many busts to mention ( don’t get me going on Petr Nedved when Jaromir Jagr was there on the board ). Yeah. They drafted Pavel Bure too, in a moment of brilliance. Brian Burke is forever is remembered fondly in Vancouver for working the trade phones like a wizard to get the only real talents at the top of the ‘99 board. Going into the draft saying “we aren’t leaving without the Sedans” and then doing it was great.
But Jim Benning has consistently made some great picks. Sure, Nikita Tryamkin got homesick, ( he’ll be back, I think. ), and some folks want everyone to play RIGHT NOW, instead of the various picks at various stages of their careers getting the work in and learning how to be pros. Just look at the list of guys that will play in the WJC this year for various countries when it rolls around. I won’t link to them here. But from William Lockwood for the USA, to Elias Petterssen for Sweden, to Kole Lind, Jonah Gadjovich and Michael Di Pietro for Canada, you’ll be watching a ton of WJC games over the holidays. The future is bright.
And that is just as good as winning a lottery. OK, it’s not. That’s a lie. But it is the very next best thing. The prospect pool reaches critical mass, and guys start breaking out. The vets come into camp this year, and see these kids flying, and it pushes them too.
All of that, and new coach Travis Green, new / old power play coach Newell Brown will bring a new outlook and direction. Yes, the Pacific is getting better. Yes, the Oilers have all those top picks that they stockpiled in the doldrums already reaching that critical mass, and the Flames are a good young team. But the Canucks won’t be a soft mark for points this year, I believe. Maybe not a playoff team again, but a helluva lot closer to that line this year. ( I lost $ 50.00 ( 2 to 1 odds ) at work last year. I like to bet a little something to add spice to the “banter”. This year, I am thinking of making a bet with a Jets fan about who will finish higher. Should I get odds, or is that a decent bet straight up ? Let me know in the comments. )
“Competing” all year is enough for me at this stage. Enjoy the start of the year. It should be brighter this year than it was last year.
Stay healthy guys !