Will we be seeing Cody Hodgson in Canuck blue this season or will the people of Brampton be seeing him back in one of those snazzy green Brampton Battalion jerseys? That’s the decision that Mike Gillis and Alain Vigneault are trying to make and fans of the Canucks are debating. Yesterday I theorized that Hodgson would be sent back to junior.
I thought that until I read this from Vigneault: “One thing I firmly believe is talent has no age,” Vigneault said. “Talent helps a player improve and improve quicker. If we start with a player that might be 10 or 15 per cent behind somebody else at this time, but because his skill set is better … he might become by Christmas a better player than what we have here, we’d have to consider that in the equation.”
To me, this is an indication that they will make excuses for Hodgson’s play. Look for them to insert Hodgson for at least the 9 games (the cut-off point for junior players able to return to junior and not count towards the cap). They will do this with the thought that as Hodgson’s back gets better and he gets more comfortable, he’ll be full marks for his NHL job. While this may be a perfectly legitimate viewpoint to have, I don’t think they should give Hodgson a job unless he really deserves 15 minutes of ice time a night. To do that, he’ll have to supplant himself into the top 9 forwards on the team. That list currently includes: both Sedins, Kesler, Burrows, Samuelsson, Wellwood, Bernier, Raymond and the injured Pavol Demitra. So then it becomes a case of who deserves the spot more, Shirokov or Hodgson. If you want to keep both (even with Demitra’s injury), then you will have to put one of your defencemen or Jannik Hansen on waivers, for which they will likely be lost. The other scenario is that Gillis pulls the trigger on a trade to open up space.
Hodgson will get a great chance to show what he’s got tonight against the Sharks when he lines up with Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler. If he doesn’t show he really belongs, then I think he should spend another year in junior.
This year has been the most competitive Canucks camp in recent memory, with so many players with a realistic chance to make the team. Head coach Alain Vigneault has a lot of tough decisions ahead of him, particularly concerning players on the bubble. Numerous young and old guys are fighting for spots at forward, defense and in goal. Here’s where the “bubble boys” stack up so far:
Perhaps none of the battles have been as close as Schneider versus Raycroft for the backup job. Both have played well in their games, but conventional wisdom would suggest if it’s close, they’d give the job to Schneider. One would think that the Canucks want desperately to shop Schneider and then trade him as soon as possible while his stock is high. The thinking is that Schneider has already done everything he can do at the AHL level and that his trade value can only go up if he proves something in the NHL. It wouldn’t come without consequence though, Schneider’s cap hit of $1.084 million is more than double the minimum wage $500,000 hit from Raycroft. Raycroft would also have to clear waivers, while Schneider doesn’t. Should be interesting to see how Gillis makes the jigsaw puzzle come together.
Shane O’Brien has been impressive so far in the preseason, looking more mobile and making good decisions with the puck. Everyone knows he’s tough, but he’ll need to be reliable defensively to deserve his new $1.7 million deal. Christian Ehrhoff has 4 points in 2 games, and is looking like he is solidifying a spot on the first unit power play. Brad Lukowich is a steady defensive defenceman, which means he won’t dazzle anyone, even when he’s at his best. Look for Lukowich to be their #7 or 8 defenceman, along with O’Brien. Mathieu Schneider hasn’t played a game in the preseason yet, presumably resting the 40 year blueliner for the regular season. It would be hard to imagine them not having him in mind for their top 6 if they are resting him in the preseason. Another impressive player in the preseason has been Aaron Rome. Barring injury/trade, I give Rome very little chance at cracking the Canucks roster. The resumes of the other 8 defencemen in camp are far superior and I don’t think there’s anything Rome can do to change that.
The Canucks currently have 13 proven NHL forwards under contract and I believe that all of them will make the team. Mason Raymond and Rick Rypien in particular have looked very impressive. Of the 13, Jannik Hansen is in the most danger of being thrown on waivers. That list of 13 forwards also includes the injured Pavol Demitra, which means that at least one of the bubble players will get a shot on opening day.
That’s where things get interesting. Cody Hodgson, Michael Grabner and Sergei Shirokov make-up the list of youngsters trying to crack the Canucks roster for the first time while Mark Parrish, Ronald Petrovicky and Dave Scatchard are all veterans on tryout contracts. None of the veterans have shown enough to earn an NHL gig thus far. Michael Grabner appears to be a young sniper who doesn’t score, and that’s a bad combination. Cody Hodgson has looked ok, but I don’t think he looks quite at home in the NHL yet. I think there’s a good chance that Hodgson will be sent back to junior. That leaves Sergei Shirokov. He’s impressed everyone since his first day at rookie camp and, assuming he can recover from his minor injury set-back, is my pick to make the Canucks roster.
And now for a trip back down memory lane… Possibly the greatest preseason goal ever scored:
I woke up this morning and read a couple of troubling stories about some Canuck prospects. Arguably the Canucks best player of the preseason, Sergei “the Pocket Russian Rocket” Shirokov, suffered a mild first degree sprain on his knee in the Canucks 3-1 win over Edmonton last night. They are hoping to have him back for next weekend, which leaves him little time to impress the coaches enough to crack the opening day lineup.
I also read a story by Jason Botchford, describing Michael Grabner as “invisible” in last night’s win. I must say that I have been very disappointed in his play this preseason also. He is supposed to be a prolific scorer, and should have shown more than he has. He’s getting dangerously close to “bust” status if he can’t crack the Canucks lineup soon.
Couple these two stories with the back ailment that Cody Hodgson is recovering from and I couldn’t help but think back to all the bad luck the Canucks seem to have had concerning draft picks. From losing the wheel turn in 1970 and having to select Dale Tallon, while the Sabres got to choose future Hall of Famer Gilbert Perreault, to giving up too soon on a young Cam Neely. It seems like the Canucks don’t get a lot of breaks. When they get a good draft pick, they trade him away prematurely (see Cam Neely, Mike Peca and RJ Umberger). When they have a bust on their hands, they seem to hold onto him forever (see Fedor Fedorov, Jim Sandlak and Nathan Smith).
Now, there are exceptions like Pavel Bure, but overall, the Canucks just seem to be cursed. Unless Bure can get into the Hall of Fame (which he has been unsuccessful so far), the Canucks are the only team (aside from the teams that joined the NHL in the 90s or later) to not have a player in the Hall of Fame that played the bulk of their career with the franchise. Every other team has had at least one Hall of Famer, like Dale Hawerchuk (Winnipeg/Phoenix), Rod Langway (Washington) and Ron Francis (Hartford/Carolina). Instead, the Canucks have had players who have been good, not great, like Trevor Linden, Stan Smyl, and Markus Naslund. All three are extremely unlikely to get a sniff of the Hall.
Lets hope Hodgson and Shirokov can get 100% healthy, and help the Canucks ASAP and have great careers. Lets also hope that Cory Schneider can find his form in the NHL to give the Canucks a good bargaining chip to play with. But if history is to repeat itself, start worrying!
Is this for real?!
The Canucks got their first exhibition game underway in Terrace, BC versus the New York Islanders as part of Kraft’s Hockeyville extravaganza. The game presented a once in a lifetime opportunity for Terrace residents to see the Canucks live in their hometown. Too bad the rosters of both teams more closely resembled that of an AHL roster. Now, the Islanders lineup looks like an AHL lineup at the best of times, but shame on the Canucks for not icing a more respectable lineup, given the circumstances. I know that training camp just started, but it was only about a 2 hour flight (if that) and the Canucks should have tried to put on a bit more of a show. The biggest names playing for Vancouver were Kyle Wellwood and Shane O’Brien. Maybe they didn’t need to send Luongo, but how about the Sedins, Burrows or Kesler? They would have never dared to ice such a lineup on GM Place ice. Even the most die hard hockey fan would have had a tough time identifying a lot of the players on the ice.
That being said, it looked like the people of Terrace had a great time. It’s a real cool event that the league puts on. To the credit of the Canucks, they did send Willie Mitchell and Kevin Bieksa to sign autographs and talk to kids. Ron MacLean and Don Cherry were also on hand, undoubtedly making them the biggest celebrities on hand (with apologies to Tommy Larscheid of course).
So what about the game? The Canucks won 2-1, with two notable performances. Cory Schneider stopped every shot he faced in the half game he played and Sergei Shirokov scored both Canuck goals. I must say that I was very impressed with Shirokov. His speed, skill and vision on the ice were nice to see, as was his intensity. He’s got an outside shot to make the team. Speaking of which, isn’t Michael Grabner supposed to have speed and skill with an outside shot to make the team? He was invisible Monday night.
Monday also marked the start of the comeback trail for Dave Scatchard, but he’s not the only veteran NHLer on a tryout with the Canucks. Ronald Petrovicky and Mark Parrish are also on unpaid tryouts with the big club. Parrish is probably the most intriguing one of the bunch, he is a six-time 20 goal scorer and is only 32. Perhaps in another year I’d give one of these three a chance to make the team, but in a year where the Canucks already have too many forwards and have young guys pushing to make it, a two-way deal is the best that these three can hope for.
The Western Conference just got a lot tougher for Luongo & Co. Dany Heatley has finally been traded, as rumoured, to the San Jose Sharks. San Jose gave up Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo and a 2nd round pick in the deal. They didn’t just acquire Heatley, they stole him. A perennial 50 goal scorer in return for two players who have highly inflated numbers playing with Joe Thornton. Even considering that, their numbers weren’t very good last year: 57 points for Michalek and 29 points for Cheechoo. Cheechoo has to be one of the most overrated players in the NHL, due to his fluke 50 goal campaign playing alongside Thornton. He’s been on the decline ever since and isn’t so young anymore (he’s 29). Despite questionable character, it’s hard to imagine that Ottawa couldn’t have gotten more in return.
So it looks like holding out for a better team worked for Heatley. The question for Sens fans is, what was the better deal: the one with the Oilers or the one with the Sharks? It’s certainly debatable. The deal with Edmonton would have landed Andrew Cogliano, Ladislav Smid and Dustin Penner. I think I might have preferred the Edmonton deal, mainly for the upside of Cogliano. What do you think? Let us know in the comments section.
That’s right, I said it. Pavol Demitra revealed on Tuesday that he will likely miss another six weeks with a shoulder injury and what ensued was what can be described as mild jubilation on sports talk radio and message boards. Demitra has been described as too soft and too streaky, and many are suggesting that the Canucks would be better off without him.
While Demitra is soft and is streaky, that by no means is an indication that the Canucks are better off without him. Every teams needs grinders like Kesler and Burrows, but they also need skilled/versatile guys like Demitra. Lets review. Demitra started last year at centre in between Taylor Pyatt and Mason Raymond on the 2nd line. Amazing he kept that line afloat. He also played the point on the power play when needed. When he actually had players to play with at his natural position (on the wing with Kesler and Sundin), he put up 31 points in the last 32 games of the regular season. He only put up 3 points in 6 playoff games, but the Canucks were 5-1 with him in the lineup. And if you need further convincing for his value, consider that he scored an overtime goal to beat Calgary in October and had the best shootout percentage of any Canuck that took more than 2 attempts (including the only shootout goal against Calgary in February).
Yes, I’m aware he makes $4 million. Yes, being out for a bit of time may help their cap situation. But having a skilled, experienced, versatile, enigmatic European on your team has its value.
Kiprusoff still hasn’t moved on this one:
Nice to see Cody Hodgson back on the ice this week at Canucks prospect camp. Hodgson injured his back from the 120+ games he played at the NHL exhibition/OHL regular season and playoffs/AHL playoffs and had surgery on it over the summer. Everyone is praying that this isn’t going to be a chronic problem that plagues him (that would be just the Canucks luck wouldn’t it?). He’s not participating in any contact drills, so it’s not 100% yet. Here’s hoping that the Canucks don’t rush him at all and allow him to get to 100%. You know a young guy like that with all sorts of expectations will probably want to rush it.
Speaking of prospects camp, anyone else notice that they’re practicing on the old UBC rink (Father Bauer Arena) and not the brand new Thunderbird Arena built for the Olympics? I’ve skated on both and the ice is a lot better in the old rink. Thunderbird Arena is just too warm. They might want to think about that before, say, the world comes to visit.
Seems like Alain Vigneault is a lame duck coach… for now at least. That shouldn’t last long though, Mike Gillis has said that he wants to extend the entire coaching staff. The question is, when? Gillis said that he wanted to do that in May, so you’d wonder why it would take until September for it to happen. That said, that seems to be Gillis’ style, so expect Vigneault to get an extension soon.
Nice to see Dan Cloutier is at least on the NHL radar again. Cloutier is trying out for the Detroit Red Wings. There’s no guaranteed money for him, but if he impresses, he could be Chris Osgood’s backup (which is interesting as they are both known for giving up goals from centre ice, but I digress). I hope Cloutier finds a way back to the NHL. He’s been criticized heavily, often warranted, but often unwarranted as well. Most of his poor play was injury-based. He was a middle of the road starting goalie when healthy.
Keeping the theme of former Canucks going, nice to see Taylor Pyatt finally found a new team. Pyatt signed a one-year deal with the Hamilton Phoenix Coyotes last week. It would have been sad to see him lose his job/lifestyle in the NHL after all he has already had to deal with.
How good has Sergei Shirokov looked so far at prospect’s camp? Well, he’s being compared to Austin Powers. Is that a good thing? I’m not sure, but video clips like the one below are nice to see:
Ok, I’m sick of this weekly segment, and training camp is around the corner. So this will be the last edition of our weekly feature: sportscaster of the week. Lets go out with a bang, take it away Roger!
The Vancouver Canucks have just announced that Roberto Luongo has re-signed, to the tune of a 12-year deal! No word yet on the official dollar amount, but it was rumoured to be a $64 million dollar deal (that’s $5.3 million per season). If that dollar figure is correct, it has the potential to do a lot of things.
This will make the Canucks more competitive in the short term, no question. Luongo is really a $7 million goalie. Having him on the hook for almost $2 million under market value will allow the Canucks to go out and sign a $6 million player instead of a $4 million player, which is significant. That’s the difference between signing a 1st liner or a 2nd liner.
Short term is clear, but long term isn’t as much. If Luongo plays out the balance of his contract, it will pay him $5.3 million per season until he is 42. I don’t know of any goalie in NHL history that was worth that much money in his 40s. Of course if the salary cap goes down, this will be magnified, and if it goes up, this will be minimized.
The scenario that Mike Gillis is probably banking on though, is the scenario where Luongo is a bargain for the next 5-6 years, and retires at the point where he is no longer an elite goaltender. Luongo strikes me as the type that would do that anyway (how many elite goaltenders become backups at the end of their career?).
Every Tuesday, Canuckz.com profiles a Canadian sportscaster. Sometimes they’re sportscasters we like, sometimes they’re ones we don’t. Today’s sportscaster is one that you either absolutely love or absolutely hate: Pierre McGuire. What do we think? Well, lets think about that for a minute…
Pierre McGuire has many different roles. He works for TSN and NBC, and is also a regular guest on the Team 1040. He’s an in-studio analyst, a colour commentator in the booth, and an ice-level commentator. My biggest problem and his biggest attribute is his excitement level. Let me explain. As a colour commentator in-game, he gets WAY too excited about the fine details of the game. He can get more excited about a chip off the boards than some announcers get after a goal. He needs to pick and choose his moments and I think 2.5 hours of him in a game can get a bit much.
Now Pierre McGuire the in-studio analyst or on-air radio guest is a much different story. He’s obviously well tapped-in to many sources, so he’s well informed about the ins and outs of the league. He also gets a chance to calm down a little, and focus his thoughts in a smaller time frame. In that format, he’s great. Just don’t give me 2.5 hours of him.
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