Some quick impressions on free agency so far:

  1. Major, obvious mistakes don’t seem to be as common as three or four years ago.
  2. Even though the Coyotes got Goligoski, I expected their aggressive young general manager to do more today.
  3. Did anyone tell Columbus what day it was?
  4. Marc Bergevin seems dead set on proving that the most important part of being the Canadiens General Manager is to speak French because I can’t see how his moves would match up with his stated opinions on players, attitude, and the rest.
  5. The Sharks made a shrewd move in picking up Mikkel Boedker that adds much needed fleetness of foot and a guy who stands and delivers in the post season. Kudos!
  6. My instant winner for worst move for worst move of the day would have been Vanek getting two or more years of term, but the Red Wings short circuited that by getting him inked for one year.
  7. Familiarity breeds good deal? Lucic signed with his former general manager, Eriksson signed to play with his international linemates, Khudobin signed in a city he played in before, Campbell went home to Chicago and Radulov was reunited with Shea Weber in Montreal.
  8. If Connor McDavid really does end up playing with Milan Lucic he should enjoy the hell out of it, Marc Savard enjoyed the hell out of it, David Kreci road him to a Stanley Cup, and playing with a living breathing bulldozer with a 30 goal, Stanley cup pedigree can’t hurt his career at all.
  9. While there have been some really interesting trades lately, and the UFA class had a good number of middle tier players, the RFA class this year is probably where the value is.
  10. Kyle Okposo has traded playing second fiddle to John Tavares to doing the same for Jack Eichel. arguably he falls behind Evander Kane, and Ryan O’Reily too. I’m not convinced he went to a better team now or in three years.
  11. The Oilers are clearly happy to spend money, one wonders however if the current General Manager will be any more successful there than the last half dozen.
  12. Speaking of RFA’s, does anyone else have the sneaking suspicion Monahan and Gaudreau to end up playing with the gritty, big bodied Troy Brouwer?
  13. Unless he stopped answering his agent’s phone calls, Kris Versteeg may just have run out of places to sign.
  14. Yannick Weber signing in Nashville probably spawned a ton of snarky tweets, posts, and headlines… and I have declined to look for them.
  15. New Jersey Devils fans who got all tingly over the trade for Taylor Hall can return to hating their ownership and management as the sexiest signing of the day was Devante Smith-Pelly.
  16. Jonathan Marchessault is clearly a warm weather boy having traded his Bolt in for a Panther.
  17. The twitter poll says Jason Demers is the best available free agent, and he is arguably the best defenseman available, I’m not sure he gets to the $6m plateau he is rumored to want.
  18. I don’t think I understand the goaltending choices made today. Zatkoff was a good get for the Kings, and another familiar face in a familiar place, but Montoya signed while Enroth waits? And Reimer going to play the role of Schnieder in the two goalie mess the Panther’s crease has become as Luongo reprises his waning years in Vancouver. What gives?
  19. Jimmy Vesey is likely to be the bludgeon teams use to negotiate deals with young RFA’s for the next six weeks, but he might just be best off signing in Nashville after all.

The Vancouver Canucks are one of the teams that should be a perennial contender. They have everything. They are in a hockey market in British Columbia. They have an owner that allows them to spend to the cap. They have a strong fan base. They even have an arena that is in good shape and has solid ice.

The one thing they don’t have is leadership. Roll the clock back a little bit to the Canucks Stanley cup final appearance against the Boston Bruins. They had a post season run that included more than their fair share of luck, which is true of any team that isn’t a juggernaut. They played their best when they had a gentlemanly game against an opponent who was playing a soft game. As a team, they could not play with both skill and grit. If they got grimy they lost and lost big. When Brad Marchand used Daniel Sedin as a living speedbag, and neither Sedin nor anyone else did a damn thing. In the final game, two skaters showed up for the game. he hobbled Kesler and exhausted Bieksa.

Having seen that game, and that series, Gillis did nothing. Same coach, same roster next year and they get run from the playoffs even earlier. And then Gillis went looking for tough guys who can’t play, and traded guys like Hodgson that can play top six minutes and contribute. It was obvious two years ago that the Sedin’s were on the decline, age, on ice performance, and the general history of offensive production from forwards told you they were at or past peak. What happened? The Sedin’s were given a raise and no movement clauses.

Two years ago, the Vancouver Canucks had two number one goaltenders. The juggling and indecision turned them, at least temporarily, into number two goalies. Then they were both traded. Both were traded for far below their market value. The young, athletic and level headed Cory Schneider was flipped for a single first round draft pick. Roberto Luongo was just dealt for pocket change.

How does Mike Gillis still have a job? Do the owners just consider the Canucks a really expensive hobby? Is there no one above Gillis with a lick of hockey sense? It simply isn’t possible to look at the moves made by Gillis lately and say “Yeah, that makes the team better.” John Tortorella is a great coach. He’s also an awful fit for the roster that was in place when he was hired. David Booth, Tom Sestito, Zach Kassian, Yannick Weber, and Zach Hamill are not the acquisitions that are going to put a team over the top. Not with the wrong coach, not with the declining top scorers.

The longer I live and the more of the world i see, the harder it becomes for me to disbelieve in magic. But since I can’t think of any rational reason for Mike Gillis to still have a job; magic it is. Your move Aquilini’s, your move.

Last year the Vancouver  Canucks once again marched through the Northwest Division, and claimed its crown for the regular season. The main event for the shortened 48 game season was not the on ice product, but the circus surrounding Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo the teams “1A” and “1B” starting goaltenders. A shortened year was spent with neither able to wrest the job firmly from the other, and no trade to save the media beating the story to death.

At the NHL entry draft an amazing thing happened, Schneider ended up getting traded. Mike Gillis sold out his best crease man not for thirty silvers but for just one first round pick, which was used for Bo Hovart. Alain Vigneault was discarded and John Tortorella brought in. Mike Santorelli the former Nashville Predator and Florida Panther were brought in to deepen the pool at center on the cheap. Keith Ballard was paid to go away.

This year the team will open the season with two players suspended, and David Booth on injured reserve. Former Montreal Canadien Yannick Weber will be looking for a blueline job, and both Bo Hovart and Hunter Shinkaruk continue their fight for a roster spot. The young guns may get their shot with the temporary openings, but whether they cross the 10 game threshold is anyone’s guess. The opening fistful of games see’s the Canucks kickoff their season visiting the San Jose Sharks. With just one night rest they will head home to square off with the Edmonton Oilers, before scurrying off to face the Calgary Flames less than 24 hours later. Finally they’ll have a short home stand with a pair of games against the New Jersey Devils and San Jose Sharks.

Number of days 1-5: 7

Number of cities: 3

Best opponent: San Jose Sharks (twice)

Weakest opponent:  Calgary Flames

Home games: 3

Projected points:  5

The pace of the first five games, and the unfamiliarity with the new system mixed with the possible inclusion of two rookies makes the opening handful of games really rough. With just one proven NHL goaltender, the question will loom all season long over how much they can afford to rest Roberto Luongo. The Canucks are actually in a competitive division for the first time in the career of any of their core players. It is probable they are a better than .500 team, but that depends on their goaltending and the Sedin’s staying the entire season and bouncing back to something like  the level they played at leading to their run to the Stanley Cup finals.

In two months the division standings will tell you which teams are good, which are bad and which are bubble teams. With the Bruins, Sabres and Canadiens picked preseason to make the playoffs, right now all the division standings tell us is which teams are off to a  poor start.

Senators:

  • The Senators have a surprisingly bright future for a team with such a dismal roster. Yes Alfredsson and Spezza are capable of amazing hockey play, but take the two out and you’d be hard pressed to be a good ECHL team.  Eleven of the teams 20 goals through seven games have been scored by Spezza, Alfredsson or Michalek. Butler and Filatov, two of their most highly skilled prospects have only played two games each, Filatov as a +1 with an assist in nearly fifteen minutes against the still undefeated Detroit Red Wings.  At 2-5-0 they are unlikely to get higher in the standings than they are now.

Canadiens:

  • If you ask some hockey fans they might say the injury bug has developed an unnatural love for the boys of the Bell Centre, others might say its years of karma over diving, faking injuries and encouraging malicious prosecution coming home to roost. Either way, the Habs have been dinged and damned from the word go. Markov is out, Gomez left the game the other night for an MRI, their leading goal scorer from last year missed time with a skate cut, P.K. Subban’s ability to produce points is broken, and on and on. The bright spots in Habsville arepretty limited, but Max Pacioretty has emerged to climb within one goal of the total he had in two of his previous three seasons with the team, and Yannick Weber who is playing more minutes in all situations this year is currently leading the team in +/- at +3, an impressive number when you realize the team has given up 19 goals and only scored 13 through six games.

Maple Leafs

  • Until the teams visit to Boston in which he was held to just one shot and no points, Phil Kessel had to feel like he was on top of the world. He was the leader in points and goals, the team was undefeated and the Bruins were to put it mildly, struggling mightily. Then the game started. The Leafs were not only routed, Tyler Seguin, the first return on the three draft picks Toronto gave up to get him had a three point night. The Thank You Kessel chants reigned down and the Leafs bench had no answer. The Leafs faceoff with the Canadiens tonight for the second time this season and have a chance at regaining the division lead.

Sabres

  • If there is a more popular man in Buffalo right now than Terry Pegula you’re gonna have to point them out to me. Unless that is, it’s Ryan Miller. Through five games teams biggest star and arguably the worlds best goalie has a GAA of 1.61 and a Sv% of .950 which helps explain why the team leads the division. The other end of the ice isn’t anything to complain about either. In the teams six games they’ve scored twenty goals, all of this without Boyes, Leino or Ennis showing any signs of life. Anyone who is surprised if this team is still playing in May just isn’t paying attention.

Bruins

  • The bad news is what with Krejci, Mcquaid, and Kampfer all missing time already the team has had to ice some players for whom the value has yet to be determined. This has been part of a sluggish start has them looking up at both the powerhouse Sabres and the unproven Leafs. The good news is that Kampfer and Krejci have both made returns and contributed in them. The team finally found both its focus and emotion, sadly not in that order and managed to derail the spunky Toronto team. The question of how well they can and will play in front of Tuukka Rask has yet to be answered in a satisfactory way, leading many fans to question if the players know something about the backup goalie the rest of us don’t.

Today’s schedule:

The Boston Bruins host 1997 number one draft pick Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks.

The Montreal Canadiens will look to even up the season series against the visiting Maple Leafs.

The Ottawa Senators are hosting the Columbus Blue Jackets in what is probably the only game of the month in which the odds makers will favor Daniel Alfredssons team.

The Buffalo Sabres will charge into Lightning territory tonight where for the first time in a long time Lecavalier is making fantasy hockey owners are just as happy to have him on their team as Stephen Stamkos.

Some people will look at the recent fight filled hockey games by the Bruins against the Dallas Stars and the Montreal Canadiens and conclude that the Boston Bruins are just a bunch of goons. This is a bit hard to support since few teams composed of goons manage to be near the top of the goals for and against categories. Both require discipline and the Bruins possess both.

What separates the Dallas game and the Montreal game is pretty simple. The Dallas game comes from how similar the two teams are, and how similar their positions were, plus a general dislike. The Montreal game is as much about the rivalry as it is about the difference between the teams. The Habs have traditionally been fast moving, smooth skating team with small forwards. The Bruins have been built with punishing forwards and defense for decades.

In the Dallas game, the guys to drop the gloves were, for lack of a more convenient cliche, the usual suspects. Shawn Thornton, Adam McQuaid, and Gregory Campbell have the lions share of Boston’s fighting majors this season. Combined the three have 31 fighting majors. I’d be willing to bet that Thornton has more points than anyone else with as many fighting majors, and both Campbell and McQuaid spend a healthy chunk of time on the Bruins effective penalty kill, so labeling any of them pure goons demonstrates a slight lack of information. In the Dallas game, the fighting also started from the word go as each team, then both were division leaders set out to show they would not be run out of the building.

The Montreal game is simply the continuation of North America’s greatest sports rivalry. The two teams had played three times previously, and there had been a lot of chippy play and big hits. The two teams as a rule bring out the best and worst in each other, PJ Axellson had two fights in one night against the Canadiens which I think were two thirds of his career total. David Krejci has both of his NHL fights against Montreal this year, both times with guys who were having their first NHL fights Michael Cammaleri and David Desharnais.

In last nights game, the fighting was up and down the roster. the goalies had a “fight”, the Moen, Pyatt, Pouliot, Hamrlik for the Canadiens, and Thornton, Mcquaid, Ference,  Boychuck, for the Bruins. One should not lose sight of who started the nastiness. Price repeatedly cross-checked Lucic including leaving the crease to do so. Pacioretty went after the still healing nose of Kampfer, and Weber tossed Marchand into his own goalie. If Canadiens fans, and certain national journalists are upset by the game (in which the Bruins had less penalty minutes) they should look no further than the bench, or possibly behind the bench of the bleu, blanc, and rouge. They walked into a cave and slapped a bear in the face.