Sep 232010
 
Andrew Alberts, Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: canucks.com

Not much was expected from Andrew Alberts when the Canucks gave up a 2010 3rd round pick to acquire him from the Carolina Hurricanes at last season’s trade deadline. With Willie Mitchell still suffering from post-concussion symptoms at the time, Alberts’ mandate was simple: provide a physical presence by using his 6’5″ frame, and as a bottom-pairing defenseman, play his limited minutes solidly – uneventfully – and not become a defensive liability. As we all know, he failed to meet even these low expectations and performed miserably enough that Canucks fans started dubbing him “AHL-berts”.

But if he missed the memo last spring, it sure as hell looks like he’s got it now.

In back-to-back preseason games against Calgary and Edmonton – and yes I’m aware it’s only the preseason – Alberts was noticeably better. And by noticeably better, I mean, unlike at the end of last season, it was noticeable that you didn’t notice him on the ice. He played close to 19 minutes of ice-time in each game. He skated well, covered well and led the team in hits in both games. For the most part, he’s been mistake-free, though he does sport a minus-3 rating. At least in these early stages of the preseason, he’s playing like we all hoped he would when the Canucks first traded for him.

Does Alberts look good because it’s only the preseason? Or did it just take a while for him to finally understand the Canucks system? Or is he finally adjusting to playing in front of a pressure-packed, media-crazy environment in Vancouver? Whatever the reason is, he’s doing a good job of erasing (or at least starting to erase) the bad memories from last year. Most fans had him slated to start the season in Winnipeg, an expendable, salary cap casualty, but if he continues to play like he has so far, maybe there’s a spot for him on this Canucks roster after all.

Sep 212010
 

There was one particular moment at yesterday’s training camp session that probably best describes Lee Sweatt’s determination to make this team. During one of the drills, the forward (in this case Rick Rypien) was supposed to stop on the wing just inside the blue line and pass the puck back to the defenseman (Sweatt) joining the rush. Rypien’s pass was far behind Sweatt, the play was broken, and while Sweatt was skating off, he shot Rypien one of those “WTF was that” kinda looks.

If looks could kill.

With a revamped defense corps – a much deeper defense corps – the elder Sweatt was a long-shot at making this Canucks team. After trading for Keith Ballard, signing Dan Hamhuis, and re-signing Shane O’Brien and Aaron Rome, the Canucks have 8 NHL-caliber defensemen on one-way contracts (9 if you count Andrew Alberts). Needless to say, Sweatt has an uphill battle in front of him.

It hasn’t fazed him; he knows what it will take to make it.

“I’m responsible defensively and I like to throw the body around,” said Sweatt, a native of Elburn, Ill., whose younger brother Bill also signed with the Canucks this summer. “For me to be successful here, I need to move the puck quick and jump up in the play and create scoring chances. I need to be the fourth guy in. I also need to be on the power play and contributing there.”

So far, so good.

In Penticton this weekend, he displayed a good first pass, smart pinches and smart reads on defense. And despite his size he hasn’t shied away from the physical stuff, even laying Darcy Hordichuk out in one drill and then proceeding to put a puck past Roberto Luongo.

His play this weekend wasn’t lost on the Canucks.

“He’s turned a lot of heads,” said Henning. “He can skate, he’s got smarts and he competes. Nothing is written in stone. If a guy comes in and plays well, we’ll make room for him.”

And Lee is determined to make that happen.

Sep 212010
 

After a four-day, five-team Young Stars Tournament and a three-day training camp in Penticton, Canucks fans are still looking for a feel-good story. The Young Stars tournament was only mildly-entertaining and Canucks training camp was mostly uneventful. More notably however was the fact that, after a week of drills and scrimmages, we’re still waiting for someone to step up, stand out and steal a roster spot.

Last year, Sergei Shirokov surprised everyone when he left Russia and successfully made the Canucks’ opening roster. Ditto Aaron Rome who signed out of nowhere and played his way on to the team, even if only as their no. 7 defenseman.

So who are this year’s version of Shirokov and Rome?

After a seemingly seamless transition from college to the Moose late last season, Jordan Schroeder was largely ineffective in the Young Stars tournament and ordinary in training camp.

Bill Sweatt showed flashes of brilliance but also a lack of finish.

Brendan Morrison is a sentimental favorite to make it, but while the Canucks are encouraged by his performance in camp, they are also well aware that there is a difference between performing well in drills and performing well in games.

Lee Sweatt may be in the same boat as Morrison (more on Lee in a separate post), and I think it says something that no one’s talking about Peter Schaeffer.

So far this year, no one seems poised to surprise and make the big squad. I realize that’s partly because there are veteran incumbents already in place in most positions, but, IMHO, there are four, maybe five or six, spots available up front (bottom-six) and on defense (depth) and there are no clear front-runners for any of them. Maybe it speaks more that the competition for these spots is fierce, and with the first of nine preseason games starting tonight, there is still ample opportunity for someone to step it up and seize a roster spot.

The question is, over the next two weeks, who will it be?

Sep 202010
 

After a couple of days of drills, the Canucks finally break into a couple of scrimmages today (though most of the veterans will sit these out), and will then split into two squads tomorrow.

Barring last-minute changes, those heading to Vancouver are:

Peter Schaeffer – Rick Rypien – Victor Oreskovich
Raffi Torres – Manny Malhotra / Alex Friesen – Guillaime Desbiens
Bill Sweatt – Brendan Morrison – Sergei Shirokov
Prab Rai – Stefan Schneider – Shawn Weller

Aaron Rome – Lee Sweatt
Kevin Connauton – Kevin Bieksa
Evan Oberg – Chris Tanev
Taylor Ellington – Sawyer Hannay

Cory Schneider – David Shantz

Those heading to Calgary are:

Jeff Tambellini – Joel Perrault – Jannik Hansen
Tanner Glass – Alex Bolduc – Jordan Schroeder
Aaron Volpatti – Mario Bliznak – Pierre-Olivier Morin
Darcy Hordichuk – Marco Rosa – Steven Anthony / Matthew Fraser

Keith Ballard – Nolan Baumgartner
Shane O’Brien – Travis Ramsay
Sean Zimmerman – Andrew Alberts
Adam Polasek

Tyler Weiman – Eddie Lack

Sep 192010
 

Going into day 2 of Canucks training camp in Penticton, we paid closer attention to those guys on the bubble.

First, a word on the continuing battle for bottom-six spots:

Then, some thoughts on guys who we feel need to show more to get themselves a spot on the team:

And finally, an update on Cody Hodgson:

Sep 182010
 

The first day of Vancouver Canucks training camp in Penticton has come to an end. The players were divided into three groups: two groups on the main ice and a small group including the injured players on the smaller ice. We kept our eye on a few, specific players and recorded the following videos after each session.

First, Richard and Chris talk about the players from group 1.

Next, Richard and I talk about a couple of observations from group 2.

Sep 162010
 

For those of you interested, here are some details about the Canucks’ training camp in Penticton this weekend. There are a few of us from CHB that will making the 4 1/2 hour drive to the Okanagan so hopefully we’ll have some good content to share with you.

MAIN CAMP SCHEDULE

There are two on-ice sessions per day: 9:00 AM and 11:30 AM on Saturday and Sunday, and two simultaneous 10:00 AM sessions on Monday. All sessions will be at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

DEFENSEMEN

Andrew Alberts, Keith Ballard, Nolan Baumgartner, Kevin Bieksa, Kevin Connauton, Alex Edler, Christian Ehrhoff, Taylor Ellington, Dan Hamhuis, Sawyer Hannay, Shane O’Brien, Evan Oberg, Adam Polasek, Travis Ramsey, Aaron Rome, Sami Salo, Yann Sauve, Lee Sweatt, Chris Tanev, Sean Zimmerman.

FORWARDS

Steven Anthony, Mario Bliznak, Alex Bolduc, Alex Burrows, Guillaume Desbiens, Matt Fraser, Alex Friesen, Tanner Glass, Jannik Hansen, Cody Hodgson, Darcy Hordichuk, Ryan Kesler, Manny Malhotra, Pierre-Olivier Morin, Brendan Morrison, Victor Oreskovich, Joel Perrault, Prab Rai, Mason Raymond, Marco Rosa, Rick Rypien, Mikael Samuelsson, Peter Schaefer, Stefan Schneider, Jordan Schroeder, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Sergei Shirokov, Bill Sweatt, Jeff Tambellini, Raffi Torres, Aaron Volpatti, Shawn Weller.

GOALTENDERS

Eddie Lack, Roberto Luongo, Cory Schneider, David Shantz, Tyler Weiman

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