Hockey starts today! Hockey starts today! Hockey starts today!
I've kind of let myself ignore it, but this mornign when I woke up there was just one thought on my mind - the NHL is back!
Game One tonight has every team in the league playing on one night. Here in Vancouver, Gretzky will coach his first game in what could be the hockey hat-trick of all time - the greatest player of all time; the administrator who brought the olympic gold back to Canada; and if things go well, an All-Star coach. Could be - pretty exciting if it does work that way.
As for the Canucks... well they are very nearly the same team that was iced two years ago - not many teams can claim that. Anson Carter is buoying up the Sedins and seem to be giving us a really strong second line - at least in the pre-season that is what appeared. Recall that in Spring 2004 the Canucks when to game seven O.T. with the team that came within a goal of winning the Stanely Cup in Game seven - and the Canucks didn't have Bertuzzi, Naslund had no wrist-shot thanks to a bone-spur, and we were dressing our third-string goal-tender. So many 'what-ifs.' But as any die-hard Canuck will point out, it's finally YEAR 12. I can't believe it's here already. If 'Year 12' means nothing to you, you aren't a Canucks fan. If you want to know, I'm not telling, but I will give you a hint to do some detective work: 70, 82, 94. It really seems like it COULD happen this time.
Bertuzzi - oh how we missed him. I'm curious how life in Colorado is for Brad May. But here in Vancouver, Bertuzzi did little wrong - or at least the wrongs he did were seen as somewhat justified & the lead up to it was hypocritical when compared to the outcome. He did the wrong thing for the right reason and it got blown out of proportion - or at the very least any previous similar incidents were not blown INTO proportion simply because they didn't lead to an injury of equivalent gravity. But he's back and has something to prove. If he proves it, we could be a totally fearsome team. Naslund, Bertuzzi, plus a second line that will do the scoring when the oposing defense is expending itself trying to shut down the deadliest line in the NHL... ahhhh 'tis good.
Goaltending. Apart from Bertuzzi, the other big Q is in goal. We've got three goaltenders who could step it up. If one of them does - and I DO hope it's cloutier, but I'm not fussy - the Canucks are nearly unstoppable, if not they'll have to fight for superiority.
No one really knows. This year was the big reset button. The Canucks got lucky and kept their core - unlike, say Anaheim. This season will be a career maker for someone(s) - a coach (maybe Gretzky - I'd prefer Crawford) who has the vision to capitalize on the new rules; a General manager who most quickly sees how to exploit the new business rules; a player who breaks out with the new restrictions on obstruction, or one who conversely re-invents himself as he is otherwise obsolete.
Previously it was relatively easy to expect things to be similar from season to season, with team quality shifting, but not significantly shaking up (in any given year a team or two might climb or drop a long ways up the league ladder, but generally a good team this year will be a decent team or better, next year and a bad team can only build so much in the off-season.) But with a big shake up of personel, new rules for business and play and a year off for many players (or a reduced season for the others) there are simply too many x-factors to truly say "Team-X is a real contender." Best guesses are the most we can hope for.
I'm crossing my fingers for a Vancouver/Ottawa Cup final. That's a no-lose situation, especially if Ottawa crushes Philadelphia in round one and the Canucks face Detroit in the Conference final. If the Canucks hoisted the hardware when all was said and done, THAT would be hockey nirvana.