Nov 162011
 

For long-time readers of this blog, you’ll know that my family has a soft spot for Nolan Baumgartner.

This started during one memorable April weekend in 2003. I was coerced convinced by friends to join them for a night out at the Cellar. Don’t get me wrong. I quite enjoyed the scandalous nature of the Cellar back then (and maybe it’s still as scandalous today), but I wasn’t feeling up to snuff that night. Plus, I had tickets to the Canucks’ last regular season game of the 2002/2003 season the following day, and the game started at an unusually early time.

While at the Cellar, I met a woman named Tracy. She was blonde, beautiful, smart and obviously intoxicated. We talked, we drank, we danced, and we drank some more. Afterwards, we went to a local coffee shop and continued our conversation. And then before we parted that night, she gave me her email address and a wrong phone number.

*****

The following day – or a few hours later, I suppose – I met my sister and we went to GM Place to watch the Canucks play the Los Angeles Kings.

It was Fan Appreciation Day and the Canucks were finishing off a storybook season. They had won 45 games – at that time, a franchise record. A win and they would’ve won the Northwest Division. A couple of points and Markus Naslund would’ve won the Art Ross Trophy. Instead, the Kings, who won only 33 games that season and missed the playoffs altogether, shut out the Canucks, and Naslund would say two words that still have a prominent place in Canucks lore, “We choked”.

*****

During the game, they drew out seat numbers of about 25 lucky fans who would receive the jersey off a player’s back; to my shock and surprise, mine was one of them.

I don’t usually win in raffles like this so I was speechless. On the other hand, my sister was as excited as a teenage girl at a Justin Timberlake concert so with a few minutes left in the game and the Canucks down 1-0 on Mikko Eloranta’s goal, I gave her my ticket and she went down to the Olympia tunnel to wait with the other winners.

As soon as the game ended, she strolled on to the ice and opened an envelope containing a Canuck player’s name. It said Nolan Baumgartner. Moments later, Baumer, wearing a sharp suit, came out and handed her his jersey.

*****

A few days later, Tracy and I went on our first official date – game 1 of the Canucks’ first round series against the St. Louis Blues. She had never been to a hockey game before. So of course, the Canucks treated her to a 6-0 shutout playoff loss.

Regardless, we started dating and got married three years later. But a few months before the wedding, we gave ourselves a wedding present – a Shih-Tzu/Bichon Frise we named Baumer, and who is still very much a part of our family today.

*****

We still remember that first date like it was yesterday, and we reminisced about it last Sunday when we took our now two-year old daughter, Mia, to her first ever Canucks game.

The Canucks beat the Islanders 4-1, and while the game itself was mostly uneventful and certainly didn’t have the playoff atmosphere like that game against the Blues, defensive depth defenseman Aaron Rome had a career game. Rome, who was kicked out of the Ducks game only a couple of days earlier for a high hit, scored a goal and added 2 assists. His 3 goals in 4 games this season already equal his combined career total from 152 previous regular season and playoff games; his 5 points to date already matches the career-high he set in 56 games last year.

In all likelihood, Mia won’t remember this game or that she was clapping, cheering and dancing every time they played the Canucks goal song.

But Tracy and I will definitely remember taking her.

And who knows? If we get another puppy in the future, maybe we’ll name him Romer.

Apr 232010
 
Henrik Sedin and Canucks celebrate game 4 game-winning goal.

Photo credit: canucks.nhl.com

Jul 182009
 

As Free Agency has gone on, Gillis hasn’t dipped any further into the pool of potential players and it’s looking more and more like he’s going to stick with the core group of players from last year, minus corner stone puck moving blue-liner and Canuck record holder Mattias Ohlund.

Gillis made clear his interest still lay in adding another blue-liner to the Canucks, but has watched the likes of available players in the right price range like Beauchemin, Bergeron, Mara and Komisarek, get picked off the market by other more pro-active general managers. (2 of the aforementioned going to Mr Pro Active himself, Brian Burke and the Leafs)

Our top four for next year are set to be Salo, Mitchell, Bieksa and Edler. Edler stepped up nicely last season and “Baby Ohlund” will be expected to take his game again to another level on a blue line that is going to expect consistency from him all year. The new contract Gillis gave O’Brien suggests to me that he’s expected to develop and lock down that number 5 spot on the blue line leaving the door open for the number 6 and 7 spots.

Gillis’ lack of action to bring in a blue liner with the players he has under contract for the Canucks says to me that he’s not going to make any moves. The Canucks have Baumgartner under contract and if Canucks fans can remember back a few years you’ll remember he used to patrol the blue line with the Orca on his chest in the days of the West Coast Express. Baumer doesn’t fit the young and fast model Gillis is going for, he’s 33 and spent all of last season in the AHL, but he comes at a small cap hit, and he knows how to play at the NHL level having done his tour of the NHL with the Flyers, Stars, Capitals, Blackhawks, Penguins, and now the Canucks for the second time.

The Canucks also have under contract Lawrence Nycholat. Nycholat was acquired by the Canucks in a trade, only be to lost on waivers to his hometown team the Calgary Flames. After being traded to the Avalanche at the deadline last season, he now ends up back in the Canucks system, and where he was a depth defenceman last year, with the loss of Ohlund and the lack of replacement, he’ll be fighting for one of those bottom two spots on the blue line. He’s 30 and fits the younger age requirement just a little more than Baumgartner, but will have to prove himself come training camp.

The Canucks latest blue line pick up was 25 year old Aaron Rome who at league minimum, is a great pick up to bolster the bottom end of the blue-line. He’s 6 foot 1, 222lbs so with his youth he brings a bit of size. Rome is younger, but has a lot of developing to do.

The problem with the aforementioned is a lack of NHL Experience. Nolan Baumgartner has a combined 131 NHL games played (more than half of those – 70 – in the 05-06 season as a Canuck), and Rome and Nycholat have a combined total less than that of Baumgartner – 58 games, 50 of this belonging to Nycholat. If anything Baumgartner looks like a lock for that number 6 spot based on the players available and if Gillis does in fact chose to go with what he has locked up already, it’s likely we’re going to see an inexperienced back end logging minutes this next season.

If Gillis is going to take a gamble on inexperienced blue-liners who need on-ice, in-game development time, it might be worth his while to take a chance on Sauve, or Ellington who will be doing their best to impress at camp. While Baumgartner is older than Nycholat, he knows how to play at the NHL level and will be less of a liability than the inexperienced blue liners. If one of the aforementioned were to make the team this year, my money would be on Baumgartner. Either way, it looks like what we’ve got is what we’re likely to see, or at least some variation of it.

Apr 032009
 
Nov 182008
 
Nov 132008
 
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