Yesterday, the Canucks announced that they had signed Owen Nolan to a tryout contract. What’s more: people are excited. It’s sort of funny… Nolan’s potential acquisition got people more worked up than Marco Sturm’s actual acquisition. Why?
It’s possible that this is because Nolan’s got some real glory days in his past. Probably, though, this is because Canucks fans expected a lot more to happen on July 1st but had no expectations for August 4th. Forgive me for tempering my expectations.
The most common comparison I’ve heard is Mark Recchi — an aged veteran ready to go for one last hurrah, and ready to ground the team and help them to focus on the prize. It’s an interesting comparison. Both used to be star power forwards and have some very glorious days in the rear-view mirror. Both have been batted around the league a bit. Both… well, actually, that’s mostly it.
Recchi had already won a Cup as recently as 2006. Nolan never won one. That’s a big difference, when you think about it. A guy like Mark Recchi isn’t under as much pressure, and can help alleviate it for others. He’s been there, he knows how. Someone who hasn’t won the Cup is racing against the retirement clock. His next chance could be his last one. That’s more pressure.
That’s not to say Nolan can’t be an asset to the team, but it’s not a certainty by any means. Nolan couldn’t find an NHL home last season — he’s trying to break back into the league, and the Canucks have offered to give him a shot, since there’s plenty of uncertainty at the forward position, anyway. Try-out contracts don’t always lead to roster spots, even when there’s a lot of people rooting for the player in question. Just ask Theoren Fleury or Brendan Morrison.
The truth of the matter is that, while Nolan may still have something in the tank, he’s still a longshot to make the team. The Canucks, when they’re healthy, are a complete team. The Bruins had plenty of room at wing for the likes of Recchi, but the Canucks have Hansen, Samuelsson, Raymond, Higgins, Sturm, and Hodgson all pushing for 2nd-line jobs… the wings could get awfully crowded. Nolan would have to really impress in order to even have a shot.
With all that said, I hope he makes it. He had five points in seven games through his last playoff round, and that shows that he’s still got some postseason game, and that’s important. He would be a calming veteran presence, just because he’s got a lot of experience. Plus, he’s a power forward, and the Canucks need one of those. I’d like to see him make the team, but it’s a good idea to temper expectations.
Fighters Don’t Play Hockey
The tryout contract for Todd Fedoruk is interesting, too, for a completely different reason. There’s no denying that Shawn Thornton had an impact on the Canucks-Bruins series, but his game is part of the Bruins’ identity. The Canucks are all about character and team effort, and it’s hard to imagine them supporting a goon.
Fighters in general present a paradox. The Canucks want someone who can fight, but they don’t want someone who can’t play hockey. If they get a fighter who can play hockey well, then he’d probably be more productive playing hockey than fighting. Where does that leave a guy like Todd Fedoruk, whose playing skills are questionable at best?
While the Canucks had a problem with toughness at times last season, they also had a problem with the fourth line getting hemmed into their own end, and Fedoruk isn’t exactly Breakout McGainsthezone. Gillis is always looking to improve the team, but carrying dead weight doesn’t help. The only way Fedoruk makes the team is if he proves he’s not dead weight. His playing skills might actually be a downgrade from Darcy Hordichuk.
Ryan Kesler and Cody Hodgson
As has been pointed out, Kesler’s surgery means a bit of a break for Cody Hodgson. I hope he’s up to it. He’ll probably do an adequate job, but the problem for him is that in Vancouver, it’s not adequate to just be adequate. Hodgson would be taking the job of a 40 goal-scorer and will probably project to be a 40 point-scorer. Here’s hoping the dark times have truly passed for him, and he can handle the pressure of already disappointing fans by not being Ryan Kesler.
MacTavish Coaches the Wolves
It’s an interesting choice, putting Craig MacTavish in charge of the Canucks’ prospects. It’s a good one, too. I will miss his fawning over the Canucks during the TSN Quiz, though.
One of the things the move suggests to me is that Alain Vigneault might be on a terribly short leash. He’s probably got another shot at the Cup with the Canucks, but if he fails, Gillis may decide a shakeup is all it takes to get his star players performing up to expectations. Vigneault’s window for a Cup win may just be closing at a slightly faster rate than the playing roster’s.
If having a coach like MacTavish in the system helps light a fire under Vigneault, so much the better. MacTavish knows as well as anyone how to take a Canadian team to Game 7 of the Cup Final only to be embarrassed and watch Mark Recchi hoist the Cup.Tags: featured, MacTavish, Nolan, Off-Season Blues, Third Man In, We Need Lovers Not Fighters