A monster about to come alive again.
Cam pointed out after the preseason win over the Coyotes that the Army had published 344 posts since we last recapped a win.
It hasn’t been quite that many since my last writing, but it’s not exactly far off either. I haven’t been in hockey mode for a long time, so it’s good to be back. Excuse me while I shake off the cobwebs.
This is a regular Friday feature combining a healthy mixture of observation, analysis, and foresight on the Vancouver Canucks. If you’d like to get at me about anything covered in this column, follow me on Twitter at @yyjordan and let’s start a textual relationship (wink).
1. Before diving into the upcoming season, I want to reflect on my last post from May 31. I was decidedly negative surrounding the immediate future of the team, suggesting that Mike Gillis had missed the boat on trading Cory Schneider and restocking the cupboards with quality offensive prospects. Yeah…apparently not. I wrongly thought there had been too much invested in Schneider, and too much damage done with Luongo to salvage any sort of working relationship. Who’s to say what the return for Cory could have been in 2012, but Bo Horvat is a top quality prospect and Hunter Shinkaruk isn’t far behind. Gillis probably could have handled the situation more gracefully, but the ends justify the means in this case.
2. I haven’t seen as much preseason action as I would have liked, but it is great to see Horvat and Shinkaruk having strong showings as 18-year-olds. That hasn’t happened in a Canucks training camp in a long, long time. Are they the calibre of player that can eventually replace the Sedins? Their offensive ceiling isn’t as high, but they put the Canucks in a great position down the middle for the next several years.
3. That said, my outlook on the immediate future of the Canucks hasn’t changed much over the summer. John Tortorella was the right choice given the head coaches that were available, but he’s basically working with the same group Alain Vigneault was. The issues that plagued this team last season (namely a lack of the following: scoring depth, a quality 3rd line centre, and a dependable 4th line) remain. I am generally a positive fan, and will try to avoid too much negativity permeating my posts here, but I’m also a realist.
4. A healthy David Booth would go a long way in helping my positivity. Torts is also anxious to see Booth back in action:
“I’m dying to see him in game action, I haven’t seen him in game action since he stuffed some goals in on us when I was in Tampa.”
Unfortunately Booth has been stuffing dead animals a lot more than hockey nets since Torts was in Tampa. That was before Booth’s concussion, back when he was a 30-goal scorer. On one hand it’s annoyingly optimistic for the coach to expect Booth to return to that form, but on the other it’s nice to have a fresh perspective from somebody who hasn’t been around for Booth’s recent misfortunes.
5. On the topic of Tortorella, I still find it jarring to see him behind the Canucks bench and podium. The hockey highlight of the summer on Twitter was watching the attitude of Canucks fans gradually shift from "No chance" to "Maybe" to "F*ck it, why not?" at the prospect of hiring him. It was like watching an ultra conservative poker player take a couple of bad beats before losing all self-confidence and going all-in with a pair of twos.
6. While the roster remains essentially the same, a new coach does bring the added excitement of seeing how he will handle lines, D pairings, and ice time. If nothing else, another season with Alain Vigneault would have been as dull as a Chris Tanev interview. If what we’ve heard — everyone must block shots! The Sedins must master the penalty kill! Kesler must play 65 minutes a night! — turns out to be true, we may discover some things about the players we thought we knew well under AV.
7. The threat of Zack Kassian replacing Alex Burrows on the top line with the twins is just that: an empty early season threat. It will be but a memory by the time January rolls around and Burrows has cemented his spot there once again. Torts is a new coach with new ideas, but he’s not dumb enough to permanently split up the best line in the NHL over the past five years.
8. I’ve very curious how Torts, Mike Sullivan, and Glen Gulutzan will handle the defensive pairings. It’s been hard to get a read during the preseason given the disturbing frequency we’ve seen pairings like Alberts-Weber. God forbid we ever see "Weberts" in the regular season, but I said the same about Cam Barker last year and he played 14 games (sigh). With the decision to send down Frank Corrado after last night’s win over the Rangers, it appears the coaching staff is more willing to tolerate an Alberts/Weber in the 6 slot than they are robbing a quality prospect of valuable playing time in the minors.
9. AV and Rick Bowness made some head scratching decisions with the defence last year, not the least of which was the frequent appearance of the Bieksa-Edler pairing. Does Torts resort to the Hamhuis-Bieksa top pairing that proved so reliable during the 2011 run, or last year’s top duo of Hamhuis-Garrison? Will Garrison finally be properly utilized on the power play? Torts had great success with defencemen like Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh in New York; I’m looking forward to seeing what he gets from Vancouver’s talented but discombobulated bunch.
10. Lastly, I’m wondering what kind of year we’re going to see from the Sedins. Their production has been declining steadily since 2011, and their contracts are up at the end of the season. They’ve managed to surprise us several times throughout their careers so far. For a while, no one thought they would be top line players. Then, no one thought they’d be 100-point players. Then, no one thought they’d win any hardware. Now they have a new coach for the first time since becoming elite players, and a chance to earn one more big contract. Do they have any surprises left?