Oct 042010

[As we approach the start of the NHL regular season, members of the Canucks blogosphere give their two cents about your Vancouver Canucks and address the issues, questions and expectations of the team in their 40th year anniversary.]

Bill Sweatt, Vancouver Canucks

You won’t receive a lot of argument here if you say that this preseason was relatively boring. With a stacked roster, the Canucks had few openings. And of the players fighting for those jobs, no one stood out more than the others.

Still, some players managed to move themselves up or down the Canucks’ depth chart. Alex Bolduc and Guillaume Desbiens look like they’re going to make the team’s opening night roster, while Shane O’Brien and Darcy Hordichuk played their way down to Manitoba.

In an otherwise uneventful preseason, who did we think made the biggest impression?

J.J.: IMHO, the Sweatt brothers improved their stock considerably this preseason. What Lee lacks in size, he makes up for in speed, smarts and the ability to make the right play and move the puck quickly out of the zone. He’s smaller than the prototypical NHL defenseman, but he showed that he’s not scared to mix it up with the big boys in the corners. Billy obviously has big-league skill and big-league wheels. What he lacks is big-league finish. Much like Mason Raymond did a couple of years ago, hopefully Billy can work on this in Manitoba. I think he’s played himself into consideration to be one of this year’s first call-ups.

Richard: The Canucks have so much depth they don’t need to look at prospects to fill holes this year. That said, Victor Oreskovich’s play in the preseason and the way he’s used his size is something that’s definitely moved him up. The Canucks have lacked bottom-six size for years and Oreskovich, when he eventually makes the team, will be a welcome fit.

Chris: I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but Andrew Alberts of all people has helped himself find his way into the 6th or 7th defensive spot. He’s shown that if given the appropriate number of minutes (say five or six.. okay.. maybe a few more), he’s a relatively decent addition to the blueline. If he were ever able to figure out what the word discipline means, and maybe understand how to better use his size in a manner that doesn’t draw the attention of the zebras, he’d be a beast of a player to see in front of you.

Sean from Nucks Misconduct: Alexandre Bolduc and Tanner Glass were terrific. They have earned roster spots. I liked Peter Schaefer more and more as preseason went along, but we shall see what Gillis and company have planned for him soon enough. Brendan Morrison played so well and it’s unfortunate he didn’t make the squad. But, management knows best. I still like the team moving forward.

Sep 292010

One thing that has been made clear this preseason is that the Canucks don’t have a lot of open roster spots. There were a huge number of bubble players and prospects at the start of training camp, but at the end of the day, even highly-touted like Jordan Schroeder and Kevin Connauton were sent down to the Manitoba Moose for further development . If you thought Prab “The Surrey Sizzle” Rai was making the team you were probably related to him. Much of the news around camp was focused on Cody Hodgson and his recovery from injury, well that’s been it. Schroeder and Hodgson were (or are) the Canucks’ most NHL-ready prospects and this training camp only reinforced the fact that they need more time in the AHL to hone their skills before joining the big club.

Unlike training camps for teams like the Leafs, the Canucks prospects haven’t had too much to get excited about. To explain what I mean you have to look at a team like the Leafs. The Leafs are going through a big restructuring of the team and it seems that everyone that was invited to training camp had an equal shot at making the regular season roster. You saw players fighting, kids trying to earn their way onto the team, there was fire in them. The Canucks roster seemed all but set heading into training camp. With three of four forward lines locked up, a blue line that had 8 NHL defensemen on one-way contracts, and a goalie situation that was set in stone the moment Cory Schneider signed his two year deal, there were few spots left for the youngsters – namely, the three, maybe four, spots on the team’s bottom-six.

When you look at the players brought in to vie for those fourth line spots (i.e. Brendan Morrison, Peter Schaefer, Victor Oreskovich), add in the incumbents (i.e. Darcy Hordichuk, Rick Rypien, Tanner Glass), you can tell the prospects had a hell of a battle to make the team. Realistically we were probably kidding ourselves if we thought they had a chance of cracking this year’s roster. And that’s not a bad thing. The Canucks have so much depth in their lineup this year, they can probably afford to properly develop Hodgson, Schroeder, Connauton, Tanev and the rest in the AHL and not rush them through their development.

Hodgson could use some AHL time where 20 minutes a game will go much farther than 6 minutes on an NHL fourth line. Schroder looked small and was inconsistent, unlike the kid that seamlessly transitioned to the Moose last year and found his scoring touch. Connauton, who is only 20 years old, has a long way to go towards building the defensive side of his game. Eddie Lack, the 22 year old Swedish Surprise, is going to be a good goaltender one day but he needs to learn the North American game and frankly there’s no room for him even if he was NHL ready.

Entering training camp, the Canucks had few question marks they needed to address when it came to roster spots. Most training camps are thoroughly evaluative whereas this one seems more like a formality. The few available roster spots have such competition that realistically we’ve seen an uninspired camp from a lot of the prospects. They haven’t played with the same energy you see in other camps. They’ve been wholly underwhelming. When the Canucks dressed a prospect-filled roster as they did against the Oilers on Sunday they got shelled. However, when they dressed a roster like the one that took on the Sharks last night the team did pretty well. And in fact, this is likely the team – or one that’s very similar to it – that we’ll see come October 9th.

The Canucks don’t have to make a lot of changes. They knew who was coming to camp, they know their returning core is only a few changes away from going deeper into the playoffs, and when they dress a proper roster the chemistry is visible on the ice. This preseason has been an uneventful and uninspiring one that only leads to more anxiety for the regular season to begin. At this point, I doubt this preseason is going to provide us with the discovery of this year’s version of a walk-onto-the-roster Tanner Glass. The roster’s practically set, and while management tinkers with line combos and has a few more bodies to trim down, the sooner the regular season starts the sooner we can really start dissecting the team.

Jul 062010
Mason Raymond, Jannik Hansen, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler, Vancouver Canucks

Three Canucks – Mason Raymond, Jannik Hansen and Tanner Glass – filed for salary arbitration before today’s 12:00 noon deadline.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I wasn’t surprised that Raymond went the arbitration route. He had a breakout season in 2009/2010 and going this route effectively guarantees he remains a Canuck (unless of course he receives an extraordinarily high award the Canucks may be forced to walk away from). Teams can’t offer him and offer sheet, and by most reports, it sounds like Raymond and the Canucks may agree on a contract prior to the arbitration hearing anyway. But if they do proceed with arbitration, the maximum two-year term of the award ensures that Raymond remains a restricted free agent even after this contract. (Because Raymond elected for arbitration, it would be up to the Canucks to request a one-year or two-year award.)

I’m not as clear on Hansen’s and Glass’ motivation to file. They can certainly ask for much more than their qualifying offers ($605,000 and $550,000, respectively), but considering their stats last season – and arbitration is a stats-driven process – I’m not sure which comparables they’d present to argue a higher salary. Or maybe their motivation is to receive a one-way contract; that may be the case for Hansen, but Glass’ qualifying offer should be a one-way contract already anyway as he played in more than 60 games last season.

The arbitration hearings are scheduled from July 20th to August 5th.

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