The start of the NHL season is a magical time: hope springs eternal, as even the worst teams in the NHL can put together a couple early victories and leave their fans convinced that this is the year the turn-around begins. Speaking of the worst teams in the NHL, the Canucks were scheduled to play the Oilers on Saturday night.
It was also set to be the first Hockey Night in Canada of the year, with eager fans tuning in to see Don Cherry not mention the Canucks at all. It would also be the first Don Cherry suit of the season and, perhaps more importantly, the first Kevin Weekes suit of the season. I suspect it would have been baby blue, with a smidge of dark brown.
Fans were deprived of such glorious sights by the NHL lockout. Instead of watching the Canucks take on the Oilers, I played road hockey for hours in the pouring rain and now I have a cold. Thanks a lot, lockout. I didn’t watch this game.
Canucks 0 – 0 Oilers
There are no highlights from the first HNIC Canucks game of the season, so I instead present this video of the fever dream that was “Hockey Scores,” an entry into the HNIC anthem contest that was both the worst and most popular entry of the lot.
While this game would have been the second for the Canucks, it was the Oilers’ season opener, which means we missed the opportunity to see the first career NHL game for both Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz. Since Yakupov has been compared to Pavel Bure by some scouts, it would have been intriguing to see him make his debut in Vancouver. As for Shultz, after he spurned an offer from the Canucks to instead sign in Edmonton, it would have been nice to see what all the fuss was about. Is Schultz a hot fuss, like The Killers debut album, or a hot mess, like every other Killers album?
Losing the start of the season may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the Canucks, as the news was made official that both Jason Garrison and Alex Edler are injured. That’s both members of the Canucks’ second defence pairing gone, leaving Keith Ballard and Chris Tanev to play big minutes in their absence. In the meantime, Andrew Alberts would be relied upon to anchor the bottom pairing alongside one of Kevin Connauton, Yann Sauve, or Adam Polasek. If that prospect doesn’t terrify you, then you overrate the prospects of the Canucks’ prospects.
Another blessing: not having to hear the same Canucks fans who complained about Alain Vigneault giving Aaron Rome more ice time than Keith Ballard complaining that Gillis didn’t re-sign Rome, leaving the Canucks’ thinner than the plot of 50 Shades of Grey on defence.
With Ryan Kesler out as well, 3/5ths of the Canucks’ first-unit powerplay would be on the IR right now, assuming that Garrison and his Salo-lite slap shot were put on the first unit right away. This would leave the Sedins with Alex Burrows up front, with the reliable pairing of Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa on the point. The second unit would combine Jordan Schroeder at centre with David Booth, Chris Higgins, Keith Ballard, and Kevin Connauton. Two games into the season, the Canucks would have yet to score a powerplay goal, leading to the early murmurs of discontent that could lead to full-blown, pool-flipping panic.
With the powerplay struggling, Canucks fans would start to point fingers: is it the Sedins’ fault as the only remaining members of the first-unit? Is it Newell Brown’s fault for his stale schemes? Is it Gillis’s fault for trading away Cody Hodgson? Is it the fan’s fault for being so loyal that the Canucks take them for granted and don’t feel any pressure to score on the powerplay? The answer to all of these questions is, of course, yes.
Technically, Garrison, Edler, and Kesler are the only current members of the Vancouver Canucks as they cannot be locked out while injured and unfit to play. Makes me wonder how that trio would match up against other team’s non-lockedout players. I suspect they’d dominate, though they might need to injure one of Schneider or Luongo to shore up their goaltending situation.
The Oilers may have one of the most exciting cadres of top-six forwards in the league, what with Yakupov joining Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Ales Hemsky, and Sam Gagner, but they still have a questionable defence corps and an unproven Devan Dubnyk in net. I figure the Canucks take this one, even missing an entire pairing on defence, with Cory Schneider standing butterflying tall and allowing just one goal, while Chris Higgins and Zack Kassian score a greasy goal each in a tight, hard-fought, and entertaining game. Too bad we missed it.
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