Mike Gillis wasn’t lying when he said that things are going to change around here. We’ve all seen his wizardry in signing and trading players, his commitment to improving scouting and developing young players. And now, we have a chance to see how he selects the squad for this coming season.
I personally don’t recall the last time the Canucks have such a competitive training camp. In today’s NHL, where training camp has been significantly reduced to a few days of on-ice scrimmage before pre-seasons, the Canucks are taking it very seriously this year.
With the showcase of highly-publicized talents coming out of Prospect Camp, fans finally have a glimpse of Russian Sniper Sergei Shirokov, and First-Rounder Star Cody “Hod-Son” Hodgson in action. Aside from our prospects, the Canucks also invited a number of Veteran players like Dave Scatchard, Mark Parrish and Ron Petrovicky. Together with newly-acquired players and the existing regulars, the Canucks started this year’s camp with 56 players.
Number-wise, I don’t know if that’s considered a lot or just normal, but talent-wise, this is easily the most competitive try-outs in recent years, if not the entire Canucks history.
As suggested in my previous post, even without adding any new player, the Canucks current roster is all filled-up by proven regulars, with a few to spare. With the forward lines of Sedins-Burrows, Demitra/Hansen-Kesler-Samuelsson, Raymond-Wellwood-Bernier, Hordichuk-Johnson-Rypien, defensive lines of Bieska-Salo, Mitchell-Edler, Ehrhoff-O’Brien/M.Schneider/Lukowich, and goalies of Luongo/Raycroft, every single position is jamm-packed already.
How on earth, are Gillis and Vigneault going to fit Hodgson, Grabner, Shirokov, C.Schneider, Parrish, Scatchard, or Petrovicky into the holes which don’t exist?
It will be survival of the fittest to the extreme and is definitely good news for fans, but something has to give. It’s pretty easy to say “No, but thank you for coming” to Veteran Invitees, but are we really going to send Grabner back to Manitoba for the fourth consecutive year? At the time I am writing this, with his performance (or lack-of) in his first pre-season game this year, it is looking very likely to happen.
But what about Hodgson?? The highly-rated junior-sensation, who has been named as the best player not playing in the NHL today. Although, he has just recovered from a back-injury, are we really going to send the player voted by THN as likely-Calder-Trophy-winner of 2010 back to Manitoba?
What about Shirokov?? The Russian Young Gun who sacrificed so much to be here, a hard-working player with two-goals in his first NHL pre-season game, are we going to send him to the Moose?
If not, will players like Bernier and Wellwood, who both recently signed a new contract, and both worked so hard in the summer to improve their condition be on their way to demotion?
It’s not any easier for our defense either. We have eight NHL-worthy defensemen signed, each having their strengths and weaknesses. On the surface, it would appear that O’Brien is easily the odd-man out, but with reduced-weight and the great shape he is in right now, he can surely challenge the other seven for a job.
Yes, Mathieu Schneider is still recovering from injury, but you can bet that he will join the club around mid-season. You can probably count Salo as likely to suffer an injury as well, so it leaves the six spots filled. But if you have players like Salo and Schneider waiting around, how likely are players like Sauve, Oberg, Ellington, Funk, Rome, McIver or Ramsey to have a chance with the big clubs?
Perhaps the easiest position is in net. Luongo will undoubtedly start for about 70+ games, if he’s healthy. Former Calder Trophy Winner Raycroft will likely get his last chance to redeem himself as backup, and Schneider will be traded if he puts up a decent showcase in the upcoming few games.
With so many talented players to choose from, it’s really too bad that there can only be twenty spots available. Although the Canucks have reduced seven players in the past couple of days, still a lot of hearts will be broken before the season officially begins on 1st October.
Well, I know something for sure, and that is, the Moose will have a heck of a team next season.