Camp Insider - Day Two
| There are a few things you can count on after the Labour Day long weekend: school starting, days getting shorter, and speculation over a linemate for the Twins.
Alain Vigneault had Danny and Hank skating in separate groups for the second straight day. Could be a calculated move to defuse – or at least delay - conjecture, but it’s a futile gesture all the same.
“It’s fun for you [the media], but it doesn’t really matter to us,” said Daniel, when asked if the constant badgering about possible line combinations was distracting.
“We’re probably going to try a few different options, but we were great with [Taylor] Pyatt last year, so hopefully we get a chance with him.”
After successful campaigns with Taylor Pyatt last season, and a variety of other wingers before that, the Twins are fast building a reputation as hockey’s gravy train. Drop anyone on their right flank and they’ll produce.
Not so says Daniel. You can’t pull a left shoe onto a right foot.
“It’s easy for us too if you find the right guy,” said Daniel. “But I think for a line, you each have to understand the other one. If you find the right guy you’re going to notice right away.”
It’s hard to read too much into drills – and that’s all the public has seen through two days of camp – but if the Xeroxed lineup sheet is any indication, Jannik Hansen and Brad Isbister are the two leading candidates. Of course, that means absolutely nothing, but it won’t stop the speculation.
REACHING FOR THE TOP
There was a time when training camp consisted of icing two lines, tossing a puck out there, and watching a band of soft, but well-tanned men skate themselves into near cardiac arrest. The vets tried to get in shape and the rookies fought everything in the opposite colour.
Times have changed. Players train all summer to hit camp at fighting weight, though they almost never drop the mitts, though that doesn’t mean there aren’t battles.
The crowd at Bear Mountain is being treated to one of the most compelling scraps in years as a handful of forwards attempt to carve out third or fourth line roster spots.
With 11, or possibly 12 positions all but spoken for, competition is tight on a well-established Canucks bench.
“I think we have our own identity,” said Markus Naslund. “That being said, you need guys to push for spots. There’s more than one up for grabs. I think this year we’ve got more guys that are way better than what it’s been in the past. I think it’ll be interested and tough for the coaches to pick the team.”
Rick Rypien is an obvious candidate. Rookie Jannik Hansen is another. One of the less talked about guys is Ryan Shannon, a 5’9”, 180-pound winger picked up from Anaheim early in the summer in exchange for Jason King.
He’s got speed to burn and the hands of a pickpocket. The only drawback is his size – though that’s nothing new for the forward from Darien, CT.
“Who hasn’t been doubted,” said Shannon. “That only makes you stronger and motivates you.”
Shannon has always managed to overcome his critics, including those who said he’d never make the jump to the NHL. He stuck it to them last season when he logged 53 games for the Stanley Cup winning Ducks.
Now the question is: can he do it in Vancouver where the focus appears to be on grit and tenacity?
“Of course. If I said ‘No,’ then I really shouldn’t be here. Any way I can scratch and claw my way to the top, I’ll do it.”
Shannon knows a demotion at the end of camp doesn’t mean the end of his NHL hopes in Canucks’ blue. He spent parts of two seasons proving himself at the AHL level before injuries in Anaheim gave him a chance, but he’s not looking at coming through the back door in Vancouver.
“I’m only thinking about making the Canucks; that’s my goal. If it doesn’t happen, well, there are setbacks in life and you have to find a way to overcome them, but I’m not even looking at Manitoba.”
Vigneault, who doesn’t hide his affinity for the rough-and-tumble, says size won’t factor in when it comes time to make a decision.
“Last year I remember Anaheim having two small players on their top line who were racking up points on a consistent basis. So size for me is not an issue. If you compete and skate, and are willing to go to the tough areas, in today’s game you can perform and contribute.”
BIG ON THE BLUELINE
Two years ago at least half of Vancouver pronounced Kevin Bieksa’s name like Harry Neale. This year he’s being asked to help anchor one of the top blue lines in the NHL.
It’s a lot of ground to cover in a short span.
“I don’t feel the pressure,” said Bieksa. “I have high expectations for myself, and maybe inner pressure is the greatest because I want to do well and contribute, but mostly I just want to help the team win.”
Bieksa will undoubtedly do that if he can repeat his 12-goal, 42-point season. Points a great, but his pointers could prove just as valuable.
The Canucks lost 55 man-games to injury on the back end last season. Call-ups were frequent. If Vigneault is going get through a second NHL campaign with a stingy 2.40 goals against average, he’ll need help in the form of young talented replacements.
Alexander Elder, who last season logged flight time like most people rack up cell minutes, acted as the Canucks’ primary emergency replacement. This year he’d like to land an address in Vancouver.
“Of course I want a spot on the team for next season, but I know it’s not going to be easy. There are a lot of good defencemen fighting for the seventh spot, but that’s my goal.”
“It’s been good so far. The tempo is a little higher compared to [prospects] camp. Yesterday was pretty hard, but today I felt a little bit better because it’s day two. I’m just trying to have fun out there.”
So far, Bieksa likes what he sees in part-time teammate from last season.
“It’s tough to really watch them when you’re out there because you’re just trying to survive yourself. The first two days have been pretty tough, but I’ve seen Alex a bit and he’s looking pretty good out there.”
“I thought he was pretty poised for a young guy when he came up last year, and he looks like he’s another year mature, so he’s looking better for sure.”
Nobody was running the goalie Friday morning, but the coach still had his eye firmly fixed on the goal. Vigneault said he’s pleased with the way Juraj Simek has matched up against the veterans through two days. “He seems to be able to put the puck areas to score goals and obviously it’s one of the things we’re looking at this year.”… AV hasn’t been quite as impressed with Mason Raymond who tore through rookie camp. “He’s been okay,” said Vigneault. “Obviously the competition here is much more intense. He hasn’t stood out as much as he did in prospects camp, but we’re working more on putting systems in place.”… Vigneault on Vancouver Giant Mario Bliznak: “He’s on the bubble right now as far as what we’re trying to do. He was alright during prospect camp, but so far he hasn’t done anything to disappoint us, but he hasn’t done anything really for us to notice him.”
Training Camp 2007
"He seems to be releasing the puck with a lot more authority and a lot more zip on the ice." - Vigneault on captain Markus Naslund
"If I was a betting man I’d think about it - but it depends who I bet and for what." -Vigneault when asked if Juraj Simek would see any pre-season action
"We expect offense from all our players and we talked yesterday about secondary scoring. Whether you’re playing on third fourth or second, or whatever line, you need to contribute. " -Coach on what he expects out of depth forwards like Alex Burrows.
70 – Power-play goals scored by the Canucks last season.
12 - Goals by Jannik Hansen in 72 games with the Moose last season.
19 - NHL training camps for Trevor Linden.
2 - Times Jason Jaffray has been released from Canucks training camp.
81 - Points for Jason Jaffray last season in Manitoba.