by Bill Heintz
I have not wanted to say much during the pre-season because, well, it’s the pre-season. I’ve seen too many of them to get excited about performances by rooks who shine against the AHL competition only to flounder once the regular season begins. No need to name names. You know who they are.
And there’s no sense commenting on tonight’s game: it was a pre season tilt with line-ups that will not completely reflect our opening night roster. Suffice to say, after seeing all the crowd shots tonight, I didn’t realize how important Wal Mart was to the Edmonton fashion sense.
As for the season that starts this coming week, let’s not get too caught up in the pre-season hype. Two seasons ago Roberto Luongo spoke about the possibility of bring a Cup to Vancouver…and then he folded down the stretch. And we missed the playoffs.
Last season the experts picked Edmonton to win the division and our Nucks to finish on the outside looking in. They got it absolutely right…except for a couple of small details.
So dismiss the hype that is virtually screaming from the morning headlines. I hope the players do. Because it’s a long season and we still have to make the playoffs.
But I am looking forward to seeing more than a couple of questions answered. To wit:
Will we have another elite goal scorer to compliment Daniel Sedin? DS has been pushing the 40 goal number for a couple of years now and I suspect he could finally break through this year. But to be a true contender you need more than one guy lighting the lamp on a regular basis. BTW, my nominee is not going to be Burrows. Alex will be hard pressed to hit 20 goals this year. And I think Kesler will have to play too much shut-down to really poke big numbers.
My candidate for goal scoring breakthrough is Kyle Wellwood. Excellent hands, a year older and in the best shape of his life. Thirty goals is not of reach.
Another big question mark for me is that no true contender can exist without a power forward. Our only possibility is Steve Bernier. Big guys take longer to develop. But if Bernier is truly going to be considered a power forward then he’ll have to hit the twenty goal mark. His success to some extent will depend on Wellwood delivering from his 2nd/3rd line center position. But to a greater degree it will depend on Bernier’s work ethic on a consistent basis. He’s shown flashes…enough to make us all hope. Time for Steve to make us all believers.
Depth throughout the line-up has been hyped to death throughout the pre-season. Even TSN has climbed aboard. But much like granny getting a tattoo, you know that once the word is out, that ubiquitous concept is probably over…as in over-rated. I think we have some depth at every position except the big one…at goaltender. It’s the one position the we are thin at. Yes, Roberto is world class…but after that we are still relying on smoke…the kind of smoke you can get at a medical marijuana clinic.
Also, I was worried about us having a true heavyweight fighter. Rypien will still surprise a few people in the middleweight division and Darcy is always game but I really questioned whether we had a guy that had the big Rocky hands.
Well, worried until I saw Hansen dispose of Brule. Jeeze, Gilbert way to lead with your nose…your chin…your cheekbone. So the Viking Hansen seems to have edged his way onto the line-up as our DG (designated goon).
So after this successful pre-season I still have most of the questions that I had before the pre-season…with a few notable exceptions. Like, does our D hold up to the harsh light of competition? Yep, seems to.
Should Hodgson make the team? Nope not this year. But he will one day.
Do we have a contending team? Certainly.
But further predictions can be left to the ignoranuses (you know, stupid and an asshole). Because the big questions…like, do we make the playoffs and do we make a deep run?…can only be answered by the marathons that make up the regular and post-seasons.
Truth is, not much gets answered until those play out.
Fasten your seatbelts.