Chicago, My Kind Of Town
If you’re starved for hockey, and you will now with winter approaching, your best bet for a fleeting taste of the game you once remembered is in the AHL.
There, the usual career minor leaguers and promising prospects have been joined by some young blue chip talent that still isn’t waiver eligible, creating a league that is now slightly more exciting than previous incarnations.
Still, it’s no NHL but let’s face it….don’t hold your breath for that to come back. If you want to follow hockey in Vancouver you need to look towards the Chicago Wolves, especially considering the Giants are looking very tiny right now.
In the windy city, Scott Arniel is hot off an unsuccessful coaching stint in Columbus and back in his familar position of heading up the Canucks‘ minor league team.
Whether the Chicago Wolves could beat the Columbus Blue Jackets is another story all together.
The team is off to a respectable 7-4-1 start, tied for first in the Midwest Divison, yet have somehow allowed three more goals than they’ve scored.
In Wyatt Arndt’s fake season, Eddie Lack has already made the big club and become the new hotness. In the real world, he’s still in Chicago and putting up decent, but not great, numbers. His GAA stands at 2.93 and his save pct is .903.
That’s alright, I guess, but let’s not pretend The Stork hasn’t had a Luongoian start to the year.
He can pick it up, and I’d bet he does.
The Wolves are benefitting from Chris Tanev being back in town thanks to the lockout. The cerebral blueliner has four points in his first 10 games.
Kevin Connauton was last year’s breakout star under Craig MacTavish and the steamboat defenceman has two goals and four points on the year. His offensive abilities are NHL level, but this year has robbed him of a chance so far to prove that his defensive game has progressed to the point where he won’t be embarrassed in the big leagues.
Playing with Tanev should show him how smooth and steady wins the defensive races.
Yann Sauve has had a steady and consistent season as he continues to progress and hint he may one day be an NHLer, while Peter Andersson, a fifth round pick in 2009, is making his North American debut this year.
Speaking of debuts, summer signee Derek Joslin is experiencing his first taste of the Canucks system in Chicago.
Discussion of Chicago Wolves forwards has to begin with Zack Kassian, who is perhaps the player poised to benefit the most from his forced relegation to the minors. Kassian has four goals and seven points in 11 games and has looked beastly. He’s pretty much the only reason to get excited as a Canuck fan right now. Let’s hope it translates whenever the season starts.
Instead, Schroeder has eight points on the year after just one in his first five games. It’s probably a make or break year for Schroeder, and the answer hasn’t been seen just yet.
Steve Pinizzotto may have made the Canucks out of training camp last year if not for year-ending shoulder surgery. He may have made the team out of camp this year if not for the whole lockout thing. Instead, he’s making best with seven points to begin the year and making sure he’s on the Canucks’ radar when things do get underway. He may well be a Canuck yet.
Anton Rodin is another player facing a make or break year of sorts and no goals and just two assists doesn’t seem like he’s making the most of his opportunities.
He’s in danger of falling off the map, never to be seen again. (Or, in the Gillis era, more likely traded for a useful NHL player a la Evan Oberg or Patrick White.)
The real star of the Chicago show is Brett Sterling, the 28-year-old AHL superstar leading the Wolves in scoring with nine points, but somehow I doubt you’ll ever see him in a Canucks uniform.