Farm Puzzle Pieces
The return of the Winnipeg Jets was this year’s feel-good story, but in Vancouver it meant being forced to sever ties with the Manitoba Moose and True North Sports & Entertainment. Affiliates since 2001, the partnership produced four current NHL coaches and eight current Canucks roster regulars.
The Moose were shuttled to St Johns and swore allegiance to the Jets, forcing Vancouver to sign a deal with Atlanta’s old AHL team. The fact that the one team available was based in Chicago was cruel irony with a silver lining of localizing within one of the largest hubs of the North American transportation network.
As the song goes ‘Old Mac-T had a farm, C-H-I-C-A-G-O
And on these farm he had some kids, with a snipesnipe here and a snipesnipe there’.
The Canucks then took a look at the situation and decided to hire ex-Oilers coach Craig Mactavish to guide the Chicago Wolves and their prospects, creating a level of surrealness that could only be topped by say Jaromir Jagr playing for Philadelphia or something crazy like that.
Somehow all this change hasn’t lent itself to early season stability. The team is just one game above .500.
Their standout American centre has just a few points, as does the Swedish winger, while the blueline is a bit of mess. The two standout goaltenders have done their best to keep them in games, but the goal support just isn’t there.
It’s hard to criticize a coach who came within one game of returning the Stanley Cup to Canada, but the results just haven’t been there this season.
We take a look at the bubble boys, the two-ways, the guys fighting for their cup of coffee in the NHL.
‘The Stork’ was a revelation last year. Undrafted in his class, Lack was named to the AHL’s all-rookie team and was sensational in the playoffs.
This year, he’s splitting duties with Matt Climie, and based on this week call-ups as well.
Up front, Mark Mancari and Mike Duco have put up respectable numbers while putting up plus/minuses that would look at home on a first round leaderboard.
Both were off-season acquisitions who failed to impress at camp, and moved further down with the depth chart with the waiver pickup of Dale Weise.
Still, if injuries necessitate a call-up for the bottom six, these two will be at the top of the list.
Bill Sweatt has also yet to make his NHL debut, and a 46 point campaign last season combined with his strong start this year should open that door at some point this season.
We’ve already seen Victor Oreskovich in spurts and stretches last year, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him again at some point this year. When he was acquired in the Ballard trade, the Canucks were opening he’d be a roster fixture by this point, but the big man has only proved he has hands of stone and a frustrating ability to not use his natural size.
Continuing on the disappointment train, it’s hard to tell who’s currently winning in the race to the bottom between Jordan Schroeder and Anton Rodin. Both are one-dimensional offensive players who aren’t putting up points, aka the most useless of hockey players.
They are still young and have shown flashes of the potential they’re known for but don’t expect them to make their NHL debuts this year.
The Blueline is an interesting mix of prospects, fallen prospects, and veterans. Kevin Connauton leads blueliners in scoring, not surprising for the offensive steamboat.
Connauton had a good camp this year and seems close to being NHL-ready, he just needs to tighten his defensive game a bit more. The easy comparable here is Bieksa-lite.
Young defencemen Yann Sauve and Chris Tanev saw time with the big club last year. The late blooming Tanev showed incredible poise in 29 regular season games and 5 playoff games and even managed to bring out the best in Keith Ballard.
Kevin Bieksa remarked after game 5 of the finals that Tanev could have played the entire game with a cigarette in his mouth.
Injuries have plagued his start this year, but it won’t be long before Tanev becomes a full-time Canuck.
Sauve meanwhile bounced back from a car crash induced concussion during last years training camp to split the back of the year between the Salmon Kings, Moose, and the Canucks. He didn’t look out of place in his 5 games with the big club and will probably see some time again this year when the blueline enters it’s annual blue cross phase.
There was a time when Ryan Parent was a prospect to watch. After Parent was drafted 18th overall by the Nashville Predators in the 2005, he went out and won back-to-back World Junior gold medals.
But like fellow Wolf teammate Nolan Baumgartner, Parent will exist in the history of hockey as a burn out bust, unable to translate his game to the NHL.
Currently buried in Chicago, his high salary and waiver eligibility hinder his chances of being called up. At the same time, he did manage to suit up for four Canucks games last year.
The final possible call-up in Chicago is Craig Mactavish. There’s no question he’s a NHL-calibre coach and many speculated that his hiring was a back-up in case Alain Vigneault faltered out of the gate to start the year.
Well, Alain Vigneault has faltered out of the gate to start the year, and the rumblings have begun.
It’s hard to say what Gillis’ true intent was with the hiring of Mactavish, but who wouldn’t want to see all those heads in Edmonton explode?