<img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/mikeblog.gif border=0 align=left hspace=4 vspace=1>Hockey never feels further away then it does when the calendar is stuck in the middle of July. Making matters worse, we fans didn’t get a huge trade to keep us fat, happy and talking until the first leaf drops in the fall either. That's not to say Sir Dave Nonis, while his counterparts drunkenly emptied their wallets at the start of free agency, hasn’t been a busy guy this offseason. Let's take a look at the newest Canucks and see what they'll offer the team when the regular season rolls around:
Brad Isbister – This is the biggest UFA that has come to town all summer (hold your applause). Stands to reason because Isbister's a big boy. A rather big boy; in fact, he's bigger then anyone on the 2006-07 Vancouver roster except Taylor Pyatt. Even with that size, some folks may raise an eyebrow at a guy who couldn't use that size to the best of his ability on the Coyotes, Islanders, Oilers, Bruins and Rangers. Then again, those teams didn't have Jack Adams...ahem...Alain Vigneault at their helm. If Vigneault can tap into some of the raw talent that this 3rd round pick from the 1995 draft has, then he should be a welcome addition to the club.
Byron Ritchie – Last year it was Willie Mitchell's turn to make a triumphant return home and this time it's Ritchie's. In addition, anytime you can pry away a guy from a competitor in your own division, it is a good move. No one is going to mistake Ritchie for Iginla or Tanguay, but like half of the Cup-hoarding Duck roster, he brings a good deal of needed grit and scrappiness. He is also coming off a career year (although it’s just 14 points, but hey, it’s 14 more then I have!). If he can earn some ice time on the third or fourth line, he could turn into a mini-Matt Cooke, and since we have Cooke anyway, just imagine how many teams will LOVE to see the Canucks across the ice?!
<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/jul1707shannon01_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/shannoncup_tt.jpg width=120 border=0 align=right hspace=4 vspace=1></a>Ryan Shannon – Funny to think Shannon is the lone Cup veteran on this team at the rusty old age of 24. Shannon is a lot like Ritchie: a guy who has been fighting to keep his slot at the NHL level and will now get a great chance with Vancouver. The knock against Shannon is his height (5'9'') but he overcame that during last year's preseason with Anaheim when he notched six goals and 13 shots in five games. The previous year Shannon scored 86 points in the AHL which was second amongst rookies. You get the gut feeling Shannon has a lot more he wants to prove and one can only imagine what lies ahead if he gets some quality ice time on a team that desperately needs some clutch goals.
Curtis Sanford - The unenviable job of backing up a workhorse like Roberto Luongo this year falls to Sanford, formerly of the St. Louis Blues and the "I always beat the Canucks when I play them" syndrome (5-0-0-2 lifetime against Vancouver). You likely won't see much of Sanford (and if you see too much of him then the Canucks have a whole host of new problems) but he's an upgrade to Sabourin in terms of sheer experience (64 games played and an even-steven 26W, 26L, 2.79GAA, .901SV%) and shouldn't have too much of a problem keeping the team afloat if Luongo needs some rest.
<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/pyatt04_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/07/pyatt04_tt.jpg width=120 border=0 align=left hspace=4 vspace=1></a>Don't forget that Nonis also brought back Pyatt after his career year along while locking up Jeff Cowan (ahh, the bras...), Lukas Krajicek and Ryan Kesler and also extending Kevin Bieksa’s deal. Moreover, Nonis has locked up many of the younger prospects. Take your pick between Cory Schneider, Jason Jaffray, and Juraj Simek who are now joining a youth corp alongside. In a season or two, we'll all know these names by heart.
So sure, the summer is boring for hockey, so I guess we’ll just have to take heart in that the core of the NW Division champions remains predominantly intact, they have some new blood coming who are eager to prove their worth, they have more experience in net and have signed some top prospects ready to showcase their stuff.
Now take a deep breath, be happy and go outside and enjoy it. Besides, you'll be spending all of your fall and winter indoors staring at the computer anyway, right? That's right, we all will.