Due to the Canucks long playoff run, the team is in for a very short offseason. The NHL entry draft is in four days and free agency begins in only eleven days. Mike Gillis has some work to do, as all GMs do. Luckily for the Canucks, most of their core is locked up long term, but there are a few key players that will become restricted free agents. Kevin Bieksa, Christian Ehrhoff, Sami Salo, Andrew Alberts, Raffi Torres, Chris Higgins, Tanner Glass and Jeff Tambellini are all unrestricted free agents on July 1st. Maxim Lapierre, Jannik Hansen, Victor Oreskovich and Alex Bolduc are all restricted free agents.
The Vancouver Canucks will play tonight’s game in Nashville without Alex Edler, Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, Andrew Alberts and, as we found out this morning, Kevin Bieksa. That’s 5 of their top 7 defencemen out of the lineup. To make matters worse, minor leaguer Lee Sweatt broke his foot in practice. Even the Manitoba Moose have injury troubles on the blueline, with Nolan Baumgartner suffering an injury last week. He might have been one of the recent call-ups.
One of the most exciting days on the NHL calendar is just around the corner. That day is trade deadline day, and it’s less than two weeks away. We have already gotten a taste of deadline day in recent days, with the Leafs and Senators beginning to offload players.
Sami Salo is back, well, almost. He’s been skating for a long time now, and has been practicing and traveling with the team for a couple of weeks also. So when is he set to return? The Canucks are keeping this somewhat secretive, but it looks to be soon. The reason is of course the salary cap. The Canucks are very close to the cap right now and will be over it when Salo returns. According to CapGeek, the Canucks would need to get rid of $1.8 million of annual salary if Salo returned today.
The Canucks looked like a team still pissed off about their series loss last year, storming the Blackhawks right off the hop, while the Blackhawks looked a bit surprised by the push and never really seemed to recover. They’ve earned at least a split in Chicago, which is huge for a team like the Canucks who are so much better at home than on the road.
The so-called “parity” of the salary cap era is on display, as the three top seeds are now eliminated in the East. But what about the parity between the West and the East? It seems as though the only strong team remaining in the East is the Pittsburgh Penguins and compared to their counterparts in the West; San Jose, Chicago, Detroit and Vancouver, they look overmatched.
Game 5 was the first one sided game of this entertaining series. For the first time in the series, Roberto Luongo clearly outplayed Jonathan Quick, who was chased in the second period. For the second game in a row, the Canucks power play equaled the Kings power play, perhaps indicating that this penalty killing jinx is at least close to ending.
The advice the Canucks could use can be summed up in five words: stay out of the box. Vancouver gave up six man advantages on Saturday night, which isn’t a lot, but that’s not the point. The point is the types of penalties they’re giving up right now: dumb penalties. Look no further than Shane O’Brien’s stupid penalty midway through the 2nd period last night. With the Canucks up 2-0, O’Brien got his arm up into the face of the Kings player to take an obvious roughing call. The puck had already been played out of the area and O’Brien didn’t hit him very hard. The Kings scored on that power play and the Canucks lost the game, which magnified the blunder.
After calling the Canucks “Cup pretenders” last Friday, I must admit that I was starting to believe they were contenders with one of the most impressive outings of the season against the Senators on Saturday followed up by a 1st period knockout of the Calgary Flames the next day. But then came the Islanders game on Tuesday night. Now I’m not suggesting that Canucks fans should begin panicking about this team because of it, but it certainly didn’t help. Another thing that didn’t help was losing first star of the week, Mikael Samuelsson. He’ll be gone 2-3 weeks with a shoulder injury or so we’re told (and we’ve been lied to before, see Dan Cloutier). With that said, here are a few random thoughts going through my head as the playoffs loom:
Am I the only one that had a little bit of trouble adjusting to life after Olympic hockey? What an amazing tournament with such speed, skill and intensity. Then two days later, we have to watch the Canucks take on the Blue Jackets? Tough transition, but I think I’m getting back into the swing of things. The Canucks are on a nice little post-Olympic roll, beating the Blue Jackets in a comeback and laying a surprising beat down on the Red Wings.
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