October 06 2014 09:00AM
Vrbata, who has out produced any number of more famous forwards over the past three years including Rick Nash, Mike Cammalleri, Scott Hartnell, T.J. Oshie, and Alexander Semin, has routinely led all
Phoenix Arizona Coyotes forwards in scoring, and he's done it seemingly without ever making a major headline. The Czech winger's uncanny ability to hide in plain sight could prove a more useful skill in a rabid hockey marketplace like Vancouver, where the media's glare can be paralyzing even when the demand for tickets is soft, than even Vrbata's right-handed shot on the power play.
Entering training camp Vrbata's story line - can the 33-year-old first line winger revitalize the Sedin twins offensively - is arguably the most critical question for a club that couldn't buy a goal last season. Yet the attention was focused instead on Vancouver's burgeoning youth movement, on Nick Bonino's impossible task of replacing Ryan Kesler, on the possibility of a redemption season for Alex Edler, or on the three-way goaltending controversy...
So let's give the anonymous Czech volume shooter some due attention on the other side of the jump.
Nation World HQ
October 06 2014 06:30AM
The Nation Network is proud to introduce the Nation Minute, a rapid fire look around the network and the NHL every Monday morning. With the season drawing closer we take a gander at achievable milestones this year. Enjoy!
October 05 2014 08:44PM
In many ways, Luca Sbisa is an asset that many teams covet. He's big, he's young, he's physical, he's a defenseman, and he has a first-round NHL entry draft pedigree.
Then again, Cam Barker and Ryan Parent had the same things going for them.
Sbisa has struggled to gain his footing in the NHL so far in his career, being relegated to the 9th D role in Anaheim last season, and ultimately cast off by the Ducks in the Ryan Kesler trade. Jim Benning and Willie Desjardins have given Sbisa every opportunity to show he deserves a top-6 role in Vancouver this upcoming season, but that hasn't gone all that well so far. Can Sbisa finally live up to his potential and become a legitimate NHL player? Or will he fail to make a good impression in what may very well be his last shot at being a long-term NHLer? Read past the jump.
October 05 2014 03:21PM
Pressed against the upper limits of the salary cap last off-season, former GM Mike Gillis had to get creative when dipping into the free-agent pool. Upon checking into the clearance isle, Gillis found his man in Los Angeles Kings castaway, Brad Richardson.
The move was met with disinterest and cynicism. Richardson had spent much of the last few seasons in Daryl Sutter's doghouse and was healthy scratched for large parts of the season prior to signing with Vancouver. It also did little to address the Canucks most glaring need that offseason, for youth and scoring punch in their top-six.
When looked at in a vacuum, though, Richardson provided the Canucks with value that greatly exceeded his two-year contract, valued at a total of $2.3 million. Looked to as a replacement for the departed Max Lapierre, Richardson's play and a dearth of center depth necessitated his role expanding beyond that.
That alone makes the Richardson signing one of the last great coups by Mike Gillis. Let's look at this a little more in depth, on the other side of the jump.
October 05 2014 12:53PM
In the past 12 months the Vancouver Canucks have traded a pair of star players in Roberto Luongo and Ryan Kesler in exchange for a pair of offensively gifted pivots best suited to playing a bottom-six role (and also two non-tender candidates, and a first round pick, and a third that became Derek Dorsett).
That pair of centers with offensive talent includes Shawn Matthias who has size and skill, but has never really put it all together. At 26-years-old he's likely running out of time and upside.
What can we expect from Matthias this upcoming season? Read on past the jump.