<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>Louie’s back in town and apparently, more determined that ever. Woo-hoo! Bring on the season.
The puppy boys are battling it out for a chance to show off at the main camp, with Coach Vigneault delightfully playing them like little violins – praising them one day, slapping them upside the head the next. From all reports, Mason Raymond is indeed a lad to watch. Of course, the crazed desire to see a bonafide sniper emerge from the ranks of the draft picks may be rose-colouring the vision of observers.
<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/08/sweater27_082907_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/08/sweater27_082907_t.jpg border=0 align=right vspace=1 hspace=4></a>Yeah, the kids are always fun to watch but I wanted to take a moment to sing the praises of a veteran - Mattias Ohlund. Once upon a time, he was our hopeful young first round draft pick, one of the relatively rare occasions when the powers that be got it completely right. But familiarity apparently breeds contempt, as Matty’s name was frequently tossed out this summer, by fans and pundits alike, as trade bait - a guy we would be happy to send packing.
Now, I have to admit, years ago I ran into Mattias away from the rink, and I was so utterly dazzled by the breadth of his sweater-clad chest (yeah, women do that too) that it took me several moments to recognize him. You could tell it would definitely be difficult to give him the slip while driving to the net.
<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/dice03_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/dice03_t.jpg border=0 align=left vspace=1 hspace=4></a>A couple of my hockey buddies claim Mattias “lost a step” last season. What is it with guys always saying other guys have lost a step? Personally, I think it’s a hangover from our earliest days, when the beta males hung around just waiting for the alpha male to show some sign of weakness, so they could challenge him for supremacy. As it turns out, our stalwart defenseman quietly played injured, according to The Hockey News Yearbook, unbeknownst even to his own teammates: “What did he have?” asked a stunned Luongo. “A sports hernia? I didn’t even know he was hurt.”
Mattias is Gary Cooper in “High Noon” – the strong, silent type just doing his job, which in his case means slogging it up and down the ice, game after game for the last decade, often leading the team in ice-time, sometimes popping in timely goals, but mostly merely thwarting the scoring ambitions of the best forwards in the League. Matty has never been the showiest of players nor the flashiest of personalities. But he has been reliable and dedicated. I mean, the guy nearly lost an eye to the cause. In fact, if he had been born in Penticton instead of Pitea, his qualities would likely see him described as a good Canadian kid (well, he might have to throw a few more punches).
<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/images/wire/ap/2007/04/1e82403f-dee5-40a9-b5ab-d6e433cdc601.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/images/wire/ap/2007/04/1e82403f-dee5-40a9-b5ab-d6e433cdc601_178x138.jpg border=0 width=120 height=90 align=right vspace=1 hspace=4></a>I always like to have one loose-cannon defenseman on the squad, a Jovo or a Bieksa, to make things a bit exciting. But I’d like a lot more like Mattias. I’m looking forward to the emergence of an Edler or a Bourdon. I have no idea what Mr. Nonis has in store for the team as the season progresses, but I sincerely hope he keeps Number 2 in blue for a while longer.</td></tr></table>