by Joel Smart (Sports Editor)
For the last two preseasons, the Canucks didn’t lose a single game in regulation time. They certainly lost a few this time around. While it doesn’t mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, the truth is that not a lot of the Canuck’s prospects looked all that great out there.
That isn’t to say it wasn’t a valuable bunch of games. We now know that the highly anticipated Cody Hodgson needs to spend some time with the Manitoba Moose to get himself back into peak form after his long recovery period.
The preseason also led general manager Mike Gillis to dump the salary of Shane O’Brian and Darcy Hordichuk by placing them on waivers – neither made much impact in the preseason. Though having Andrew Alberts to replace Shane O’Brian doesn’t seem like much of an improvement, if any at all, the reduced salary makes it a smart choice by Gillis. We will certainly do better without the dumb penalties that both players were known for taking. I hope we will survive without the toughness of Hordichuk.
The Canucks did win a key battle in their last preseason game against the Anaheim Ducks. Though the 4-2 win seems like an easy one on paper, the final Canucks goal was on an empty net in the last 14 seconds of the game. It did come off of a brilliant pass by Alex Bolduc, who hung onto the puck against four Duck players before a sweet pass onto the stick of Ryan Kessler. Oh, and that shorthanded deke goal by Mason Raymond to open the scoring, I hope we can expect more of that from him this year!
The Canucks lost prospect Brendan Morrison to the Calgary Flames recently as well. I have to say, I am disappointed by the news. Not only do I think we’ll miss having him on our team this year, I think it will be doubly painful to watch one of our old Canuck favourites dressed in enemy colors. Gillis did offer him a deal, but it was a two-way deal which offered Morrison less security than he needed. I think he is worth at least the $750,000 that the Flames signed him for though. It is true that we are struggling to fit under the cap, so perhaps it was just wishful thinking on my part. I do think he would have been a great veteran in the locker room, even if his point production wasn’t up where it used to be.
I am a little worried for the beginning of the season as both of our goaltenders, Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider, attempt to take on a new goaltending style, playing closer in to the net. I don’t doubt that it will pay off near the end of the season, but I can sense some frustration on the behalf of both the players and the fans as the goalies become accustomed to staying in close. No doubt a few soft goals will be the result.
We have several new players this year, including the now possibly over-hyped defensemen Dan Hamhuis and third-line center Manny Malhotra. The two could be enormous difference makers, but I am not ready to declare this the best team in Canuck’s history as some have already done. This year, the 40th season of the Canucks, has serious potential, though, if things go as planned. If Alex Burrows and Sami Salo can return on schedule and return to their potential, that could be a great boost to the team as well. Hope for the best, but don’t put too much stock in the result of the first game, at 7 p.m. against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, October 9. This team might take a little while to gel.