It’s Friday, and with the dawn of a new season rapidly approaching, we’ve decided to revamp an old favorite: “Cheers and Jeers!”
This regular feature was originally started by Canucks Army forefather Cam Davie during the 2011-12 hockey season. Now that I’m the old hand at this here Canucks hockey blog (that happened… quickly), I figure it’s my turn to carry on, carry on tradition.
This week, I give a high-five to the Canucks’ suddenly promising stable of young talent and the Smylosphere in general, while I point and laugh at Luca Sbisa and the Edmonton Oilers.
Cheers – Let’s give a cheers to Canucks prospect Hunter Shinkaruk, who was re-assigned to AHL Utica today, but is a good bet to resurface in the NHL sooner rather than later.
Shinkaruk had an impressive showing at training camp and is really easy to root for, in part because he has the Tomas Hertl thing going and just so clearly loves scoring goals. Sure, it’s not a huge surprise to see him cut before Nicklas Jensen (who is simply older, bigger, and a bit better at this stage), but Jensen also didn’t have major hip surgery last winter. Frankly it’s an excellent sign for Shinkaruk that he looked this good despite spending much of last season convalescing.
Though Shinkaruk was cut on Friday, Canucks fans should be pretty excited about this young forward’s puck-skills and his uncanny nose for the puck. Shinkaruk’s ability, in particular, to close gaps and force turnovers while forechecking was on routine display in preseason action, and suggests to me that the Calgary native might be more than just an undersized goal scorer as a professional.
Shinkaruk should get a tonne of prime opportunities with Travis Green and the Utica Comets, and if he plays as well in the Mohawk Valley as he has with the Canucks over the past month, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get at least a cup of coffee in ‘the show’ this upcoming season.
Jeers – Speaking of undersized forwards with a nose for the net and the puck, the Edmonton Oilers tried to sign Vladimir Tkachev this week, only to have that deal vetoed by the NHL front office. As it turns out, because Tkachev spent some of his season outside the CHL last year, he’s still draft eligible and thus ineligible to be signed to a entry-level contract, even by a team that invited him to training camp on a tryout basis.
The Oilers made some sharp moves this summer – from adding credible NHL quality beef in the form of Benoit Pouliot, Mark Fayne and Nikita Nikitin, to hiring the smartest hockey blogger on the internet as a consultant – and still, they don’t seem to know the CBA. That bodes poorly, I’d say.
Cheers – Let’s give it up to Rhys (That’s Offside) for his stellar work this week.
Rhys is going to be your new Fred Armisen now that Dimitri Filipovic (Will Ferrell) has moved on like Cam Charron (Cam is the equivalent of Bill Hader for the sake of this analogy).
In the coming weeks we’re going to introduce a whole whack of new cast members, and we’ll do our best to avoid our 2014-15 season going the way SNL’s 2013-14 season did.
Jeers – This one is a bit out of date, but it’s our first Jeers and Cheers of the season (actually in nearly two years) so I’m going to reach a bit. I want to give a quick Jeers to Canucks fans who did a 180 this summer and began casting Anaheim Ducks center and former Canuck Ryan Kesler as public enemy number one.
Now I’m sure you’re yelling at your monitor (or tablet screen, or smart phone) “What the hell, that guy is an a-hole!” and you’re probably right. Kesler is kind of an a-hole. It’s part of what made him so successful in hockey.
But in my view you can’t celebrate a guy for being an irascible douche nugget one minute, and then turn around and impugn him for it the very next.
Kesler is who and what he is, an excellent hockey player who helps his team win games and carries himself like Dwyane Wade but without the marketing muscle or the rings. Or like Philip Rivers but with way fewer children. Which is to say that Ryan Kesler is super obnoxious.
“But he was OUR a-hole” cry Canucks fans, the obvious implication being that now he’s a Duck and we’re free to be honest about who and what he is. “He wasn’t liked in the room!” Well, maybe it’s because he was the only guy who showed up in the playoffs and carried himself like it. “He wasn’t a very honest player and dove a lot!” Yeah he did, and it was great for pageviews and fun to argue about, also helped Vancouver win games.
“He boxed Jim Benning into a corner!” For sure, but so what? He’s 30 years old, is desperate to win, and he had a no-trade clause. He managed to get himself out of Vancouver and onto a promising young team and he helped that young team retain a maximum amount of their young assets in the process. Kudos to you, Mr. Kesler.
There is more to it than that though. For nearly a decade, Kesler was one of the most committed and exciting athletes I’ve had the pleasure of watching play hockey. He came into the league as a fast winger with defensive value but hands of stone, and through sheer determination and hours and hours of practice, developed his shot into an elite finishing weapon. He willed himself to be an elite two-way center, a Selke trophy winner, and a 40 goal scorer.
Along the way he got injured, a lot, and often played through it. He once asked team doctors to amputate one of his digits so he could return to a playoff game.
At the end of the day what are we, the fans, owed by the athletes we pay good money to watch play? I figure we’re reasonably owed their best effort every night, we’re owed them showing up to training camp in good shape and working on their game all year round, we’re owed a bit of community work, and ideally we’re owed a few memorable moments by the players good enough to qualify, even if just for a brief fleeting moment, as great. Kesler lived up to his part of the bargain, and did so every damn night for nearly 10 years.
And one more thing: what we’re not owed as fans is for Kesler to agree to go live in Missouri for the next two years because we would’ve much preferred Patrick Berglund and Dmitrij Jaskins to Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa. Kesler put Benning in a vice, for sure, but you know what Roberto Luongo did the same to Mike Gillis and Jarome Iginla arguably did worse to Jay Feaster (and by extension Aaron Ward), and their legacies are still intact. As they should be, since all of the players I listed were well within their rights to behave the way they did.
Anyone else you think deserves a cheer and/or a jeer this week? Let us know in the comments!