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Small Talk

Tuesday, 05.06.2007 / 4:30 PM / Features
Vancouver Canucks
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Small Talk
By Jeff Paterson

The Canucks latest signing is great news for Taylor Pyatt.

It’s also good news for the hockey club since the big left winger could have taken himself to the open market on July 1st and shopped his services around the league. But the signing can hardly be viewed as good news for the media in this city and not because the reserved and mild-mannered Pyatt doesn’t have a lot to say.

It’s bad news because the Canucks and Pyatt have spoiled what had become an annual off-season tradition in Vancouver – three months of newspaper columns and radio talk shows trying to figure out who would be playing with the Sedins when the new hockey season started.

Two years ago Dave Nonis waited until August to sign Anson Carter. Last year it was the middle of July before he acquired Pyatt, although the deal was hardly made with the intention of finding the guy who would ultimately prove to be a pretty good fit with Daniel and Henrik.

No, if you think back to the middle of last summer, talk shows were devoting entire segments to whether Jason King or Jesse Schultz would better complement the Twins and their games. Then the Canucks went out and signed Jan Bulis and many thought he might be the guy. Of course, all along the Canucks had the pretty solid fallback option of putting Markus Naslund on the wing and creating a line of three skilled Swedes.

But it turned out that Taylor Pyatt was the right man for the job. And resigning with the hockey club rather than testing the free agent waters next month should give the 25-year-old winger peace of mind when he returns for his second season here on the West Coast. He knows the city, he knows the system and he knows exactly where he fits into Alain Vigneault’s puzzle which isn’t always easy with a coach known to mix and match his line combinations depending on who’s holding the hot hand.

And as much as a comfortable and confident Taylor Pyatt should help the Canucks next season, perhaps there’s an even greater upside in this deal for the Canucks. And that’s the impact Pyatt’s signing will have on the Sedins. For the first time since the days of Trent Klatt, these guys – now the engine of the Canucks offence – will come to camp knowing who they’ll be playing with and that their linemate understands the way they play the game.

There should be no ‘getting to know you’ period, no rolling of the dice to find a guy to skate on the team’s top line and no standing around trying to figure out where to go while the twins cycle the puck down low in the opponent’s zone.

Daniel, Henrik and Taylor Pyatt should hit the ground running when the team steps on the ice at training camp. That should give them a good month of practices and exhibition games to get their groove back so that they’re ready to roll when the regular season starts in October.

One of the Canucks’ biggest problems prior to Christmas last year was a lack of familiarity with the new coach, his style and with each other as teammates. Once they got all that figured out, they were one of the best teams in hockey over the second half of the season. A big part of the team’s second half success was Pyatt who scored 13 of his career-high 23 goals over the final 37 games of the Canucks season.

If Taylor Pyatt can stay healthy and spends an entire season – including some power play time – on the team’s top line with the twins, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be a 30-goal and 50-point player.

He’s a big man who’s tough to contain, but he’s also got plenty of skill and a solid shot, too. The knock on him has always been the inability to use his size effectively on a regular basis and that some nights he’s a harder to find than a 6’ 4” 230 pound guy should be.

But it’s clear that by resigning with the Canucks rather than taking a shot at unrestricted free agency, Taylor Pyatt understands the opportunity he has here. What he may not fully understand is the impact this deal will have on the Vancouver media for the rest of the summer.

Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight. E-mail him at jeff.paterson@team1040.ca