by desert dawg
I have finally emerged from my post Stanley Cup (post-draft, post-free agent frenzy) slumber to offer some thoughts on hockey.
Now, be forewarned, much of this commentary is based on stuff you already know because you have been searching the internet daily for any nugget pertaining to this most glorious of sports.
And there hasn’t been much for the last couple of weeks, has there? Even the respected Spector’s Hockey site has been reduced to reporting what lunatics like Larry Brooks and Bruce Garrioch have “reported.”
By the way, can we be sued for calling lunatics…uhhh, lunatics?
No matter, the truth is, this is a tough time of year for hockey fans. The draft is over, the signings have slowed to a trickle and even GMs are taking holidays. So here’s what I think about what just happened and here’s what I think will happen. And remember, the recent past is easy to comment on. But predictions are for suckers.
First the draft and free agency signings.
The Canucks picked a gem in Schroeder. I have the Fox College Sports Channel and got to watch the US college game quite a bit this year. Patrick White remains a long term project and the truth is, he may never play a game in the NHL. He’s fast on his feet, but he’s not quick with his head or his hands. Goals do not come easy for him. Nor face offs, body checks or seeing plays develop.
Jordan Shroeder seems, in so many ways, just the opposite. He is incredibly quick, both head and hands, has great “ice” vision and has a pure goal scoring talent. No matter what quality of shot he takes, it seems to find the back of the net. He reminds me of a young Theo Fleury without the excessive attitude problems. He has a future in the show.
Secondly, Mike Samuelson was one of the best free agent signings of the frenzy. He is the prototypical Gillis signing. Under-rated, under utilized (on a very deep Red Wing squad) and signed by us to a very reasonable contract. He’ll get some PP time with the Sedins and if he works hard, coach AV will reward him with lots of ice time. He improves our offence significantly.
Third, will Mats Sundin be back? The truth is, almost no one cares. And it’s not because Mats failed to deliver. Once he rounded into game shape, he was more than fine. It’s just that the Canuck fans are developing a real hunger to see our young players step up. So Hodgson will certainly get his chance. And Grabner will either force his way onto the team or be an early call up once the inevitable injuries start. The other questions are: will young Schneider also force his way onto the line up…and be tutored by Big Bob. Or will Raycroft deliver on his early promise and take up semi-permanent residence on the bench?
There is so much promise in this year’s version of the Canucks that we are like prisoners marking off the days off the calender until the September training camps begin. Out of all the questions, I am only certain of one more signing and that will be taken care of when Gillis inks the sixth defenseman. Whether it’s for the number two spot or the number five spot, I have no idea, but I do trust the guy.
And it must be tough for Gillis. You can see it when he looks at the ink-stained wretches reporting his every move. It’s not arrogance exactly…but it does border on that. It’s actually just a calm assurance that he truly is a smart and patient guy and he really does have a plan.
As for the rest of the NW division…well everyone is handing the title to Calgary after they signed JayBo. Of course it’s human nature to say that he is over-rated now…especially after we were dying to see him on the ‘Nucks since about February. But JayBo will get huge minutes on the Flames and he will allow Phaneuf to develop. Keenan over-used the kid and his game regressed. Easy to criticize Dion because he’s such an arrogant prick, but make no mistake, he has some very fine skills and he’ll be very comfortable in the Sutter regime.
Edmonton is the kid with the pork chop around his neck. I used to hate them so much when Gretz & Co. were just kicking our candy ass around the ice. And now…well when Head Case Heatley said no thanks, you could just hear another stake being hammered into the Oiltown heart. Quinn and Renny will help, sure. And Penner is liable to be better. But really, if it’s another season of watching Hemsky skate circles around everyone before dumping the puck into the corner, then I fear fan violence on the frozen shores of the Saskatchewan river.
But Edmonton’s problems pale in comparison to Minnesota. The cupboard is bare and they are hoping to replace Gaborik with Havlat? Good luck on that one folks. The only reason Minney stays out of the division basement this year is because Colorado will finally be forced to rebuild. After years of cashing in on the Nordique draft picks (and Lindros trade) and then more years of buying their way into cup contention with free agent signings, the Avs are going to experience a couple of miserable years stocking the pantry. Let’s see how their fan base handles it.
So the predictions? Well certainly we’ll fight it out with the Flames for the division crown the way we did this past season. And if the Oil manage to land Heatley, (and Crabibuhlin doesn’t pull an old groin tear) then they could find their way to the post season as well.
I can hardly wait.
* * *
It’s been one year since the Crashing the Goalie web site appeared, set up by my friend and colleague Ron Spence. And this is not Ron’s first set up, by the way. Years ago, he started an entertainment magazine from scratch and made it work in such a curious and Quixotic way that it found a hard core, loyal audience for many years. Similarly, Ron rescued a software newsletter from near obscurity and helped turn it into a glossy high tech rag that was long on smart attitude though a bit short on advertising. I count them amongst the best days of my life. Ron is a thinker and a doer, a rare combination these days. Lots of people talk a good game. Ron has always taken the extra step, the risk. It’s made for a colourful life. So whether he’s wandered around the neighbourhood with a jug of Strawberry Margaritas or around the globe (Thailand now; San Miguel de Allende before it became fashionable) with a laptop and a digital recorder, my friend Ron Spence does things. Just one of those guys that has lived life on his terms. And as we all age, we realize how truly rare that is.
So, Happy Anniversary, my friend. Just keeps getting more interesting, doesn’t it?