As the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton gains it's full stride, several mini-dramas continue to unfold within the Vancouver Canucks organization.
With another disappointing second round ousting behind them, the Canucks organization has rallied resources to ensure a better outcome. With additions such as Keith Ballard, Dan Hamhuis, Manny Malholtra and others, expectations for the club have never been higher (which, even by Vancouver standards is quite lofty). Though an unfair measuring tool, several publications, including the Hockey News, have the Canucks pegged to take the Western Conference crown, and others, to win the Holy Grail. Before I add my own diagnostics, let's consider some of the issues behind the scenes.
"C" or no, Roberto Luongo is the consummate professional, always leading by example, a welcome presence in any dressing room
The hot topic right now is surrounding the meeting on Monday that saw Roberto Luongo stepping aside from the Captaincy. Personally, I like this decision, but mostly because of the limitations it removes from the Canucks. Having your goaltender as captain is a novel idea, if mostly ceremonial in nature. But functionality is always a concern, and not having a captain that can talk to the refs during every event, call, or dispute is a handicap. For the most part, goalies are limited to their crease areas, save for during TV timeouts. They cannot be in and around all of the action, where most of the penalties, infractions and otherwise, occur. For that reason, it's difficult to say "I object" to something that you either a) didn't see or weren't close enough to hold an objective viewpoint. There's a reason Roberto was the first goaltender in over 40 years to hold the distinction: It's not very practical. For all the OTHER reasons, he was a good choice, and at the time, probably the best man available. Ryan Kesler would be a good choice for captain, but perhaps with one or two more seasons under his belt. Currently, Henrik Sedin is the selfless, team-first, lead by example professional that should take the reins. Watch for him to be named as such soon.
The Young Stars Tournament in Penticton is quite a hit, with a number of stories being generated even as you read this. The freshly stocked Edmonton Oilers, who won't look much different on opening night than the way they do at this tournament, have their own drama unfolding.
Disgruntled Sheldon Souray has been asked not to report to training camp. The Edmonton crew were too much for the Canucks to handle in their opening game on Sunday, which, given the situation, isn't a big surprise. With Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi all accounted for, they're sporting a good chunk of their regular season roster. One has to believe now that this Souray debacle will grow even more unattractive, with all efforts focused on moving Souray and his big cap hit. He's owed $9 M dollars over the next two years, and comes with a $5.4 M dollar cap hit in each... Best case scenario, the Oil find a trading partner with someone else with a large cap hit and a player that just needs "a better situation". Historically, most big-name players that find themselves in Edmonton either have a wife that doesn't like it there, or outgrow the city within a couple of seasons. Worst case scenario, Edmonton doesn't find a suitor, and are stuck this year and next with a useless salary. Unlike Chicago and Cristobal Huet, they can't just ship him off to the KHL (or CAN they?) and avoid the financial headache.
"Hey Brandon, what do you do to beat the long Alberta winters?" '"-Meh, not much. Usually just fight..."' (photo by Yardbarker)
So far in the tournament, Jordan Schroeder, unfortunately, has been underwhelming. Not to worry, though, as everything that he's done so far indicated a steady, upward incline, and the work ethic is definitely there. Perhaps part of the problem is that many Canuck supporters are starting to panic in the absence of Cody Hodgson from the camp. Schroeder's time is coming, but I truly believe it'll be after another year of conditioning as a pro with Manitoba. He'll more than likely get a cup of coffee with the big club at some point this season, but I'd be uber surprised to see him play more than 12 games this season.
Aaron Volpatti might be this camps Sergei Shirokov, scoring two second period goals and adding a scrap during Vancouver's 5-3 win over the San Jose Sharks squad. " (Kellan) Tochkin made a great play, took a hit to make a play and I went in 2-on-1 and saw an opening on the near side and just shot," said Volpatti of his game-winner.
Aaron Volpatti warms up for his two-goal 2nd period with a 1st period scrap with San Jose's Joe Loprieno
Canucks fans are sure hoping that Cody Hodgson is like the first big-box Christmas present that gets put under the tree. It seems to take forever before you can open it, but it's potential entices you. It seems to make all the other presents appear like consolation prizes. Open it too early, and the surprise is ruined. In Hodgson's case, though, I don't understand why so many are expecting him to show up to camp and play soon. He was misdiagnosed by physicians early, and Canucks doctors finally caught the real problem. Let's allow the lad some time to heal, then see how he plays hockey after that. I don't know what Alain Vigneault was thinking when he downplayed Hodgson's injury early on, saying it was just a "teenager's reaction to a less than stellar performance at training camp" (last season). It would just be Vancouver's luck to have the best prospect in 15 years leave the organization because he doesn't feel appreciated by management or the coaching staff. I'm not saying Vigneault needs to walk on eggshells with him, but he should leave words like that up to the GM to voice. Cody will be fine, great even, he only needs time to heal properly. That Christmas present will be worth the wait.
Cody Hodgson during 'better back days' playing in the CHL Top Prospects game (photo courtesy of Yardbarker)