If we had to search for a positive in last night’s 4-3 OT loss to the Colorado Avalanche, we can look to the play of Sergei Shirokov and Chris Tanev.
With the Canucks’ offense drying up a bit during this road trip, Shirokov played in his first NHL game this season, played on Ryan Kesler’s wing, put 6 shots on goal and scored his 1st career NHL goal. (It was a beaut too.)
With Andrew Alberts and Aaron Rome injured, Tanev played in his first career NHL game and logged a relatively uneventful 12:49 minutes of ice-time, which is all we could ask for from a young defenseman.
I know it’s only one game, but the fact that Shirokov and Tanev were able to come up and step into the lineup seamlessly reinforces the idea that the Canucks now have a better pipeline between themselves and the Manitoba Moose.
We can’t attribute this to better drafting yet because, while Shirokov was a Canucks draft pick, he was drafted back in 2006 and no other draft picks since 2007 have cracked the roster yet. That said, there’s some promise there with Cody Hodgson, Jordan Schroeder and Kevin Connauton having left the junior and college ranks last year and now honing their games in Winnipeg.
With the 2006 and 2007 drafts essentially a write-off, GM Mike Gillis was at least able to sign or trade for some players to fill the gap. If you look at the Moose roster, it’s filled with younger players with different levels of promise – Mario Bliznak, Guillaume Desbiens, Joel Perrault, Ryan Parent and Aaron Volpatti have all suited up for the Canucks this season already (Volpatti of course is still with the Canucks), and I’m sure Bill Sweatt, Lee Sweatt, Evan Oberg and Victor Oreskovich aren’t too far behind.
Part of this is due to good scouting and another part is due to improved player development. But just as important is that the Canucks were able to plan ahead and ensure that they have the right contracts to the right players in place to allow them to shuttle players back and forth.
What’s resulted is that the Canucks now have different options to call up different players depending on need – one of Gillis’ priorities at the start of the season. Shirokov and Jeff Tambellini are actually good examples of this. Whereas the Canucks used to call up a Jason Jaffray to center the second line with Markus Naslund on the wing – aka trying to fit a square peg in a round hole – they can now call up an offensive player to fill and offensive role.
No, the Canucks’ pipeline isn’t quite as good as Detroit’s yet, but it’s encouraging to see progress made.