<table width=90% align=center border=0><tr><td><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/henderson_headshot.jpg align=left hspace=4>Am I the only one who felt a little sad when Dan Cloutier was placed on waivers by the Los Angeles Kings? Probably. Poor old Dan had a pretty rough ride on the message boards of this website. Dan’s only real crime during his time in Vancouver was that he, like almost all goalies in the NHL, was never great.
He was often good in the regular season, but always a disappointment in the playoffs when it mattered. In a hockey-crazed market like ours, that truly is a crime for which a netminder will never be forgiven. And the glass groin didn’t help either. But Dan always seemed to accept criticism in stride and apparently remained, throughout his time here, a good teammate and an intense presence in the locker room.
<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/Sep2607_CloutierClose_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/Sep2607_CloutierClose_t.jpg border=0 align=right vspace=1 hspace=4></a>
In the end, despite my frustration with his play in the post season, I could never manage to loathe the guy. I still like to remember a classic Dan moment which occured in a January 2003 game against the Senators. When Markus scored his famous, jaw-dropping coast to coast goal, Dan actually had an assist. But then, not uncommonly, he was caught out of position, misplaying the puck in the corner and watching helplessly as Ottawa accepted the gift and deposited the puck in the unguarded cage.
Hapless Dan stood stoically, isolated at his end of the ice, bowing only a little under the weight of ignominy as the boos from the crowd and a powerful string of expletives from the coach rained down upon him. But after that Dan settled down, made some decent stops and the Canucks won the game. Which was often the case when Clouts was in net. So, I hope Dan survives his exile with the Manchester Monarchs and lives to play another day in the NHL.
<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/jul2707_gameseven10_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/jul2707_gameseven10_t.jpg border=0 align=left vspace=1 hspace=4></a>Meanwhile Roberto, our bright and shiny new goaltender, appears to have lost none of his sheen for the start of his sophomore season in Vancouver. Man, it was great to finally see a televised pre-season game on the weekend, even if our puppy boys were looking pretty outclassed on the ice.
I was yelling for a while until I calmed down and finally accepted the fact that inexperienced players, especially defensemen, are going to make rookie mistakes. You just have to sit back, try to relax and observe the painful learning process. For added agony, you could spend a little time imagining what might have been if King Louie was the man between the pipes during the 2003 playoffs, when the Westcoast Express was in full flight, and the Canucks were an offensive juggernaut.
Coach Vigneault recently managed a sly jab of his veteran players by suggesting it was time for them to “get interested”. I’m sure they’re interested. I think they're interested in avoiding the ranks of the walking wounded. I also imagine Markus is looking forward to the end of pre-season speed dating with potential partners and finally going steady. Mason Raymond is one of the speedier of the speed date linemates. It was good to finally clap eyes on this young prospect - the lad is definitely demonstrating some promising moves.
<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/Sep2007_Vigneault_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/Sep2007_Vigneault_t.jpg border=0 align=right vspace=1 hspace=4></a>
Yeah, the kids are alright, but until the real line-up is out there on the ice, it is going to be difficult to see where we stand. So this is me, not panicking, withholding judgement and longing for the first real, two-point test of the season.