Blue Line Battle

Saturday, 08.09.2007 / 3:55 AM / Features
Vancouver Canucks
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Blue Line Battle
A few titles are quick to spring to mind when one stops to ponder great battles: “Bulge,” “Little Horn,” “Hastings.” In a week or two there could be another wedging its way into Canucks’ fans great collective conscious: “Seventh Spot.”

No, it doesn’t have the same ring, but it’s shaping up to be every bit as fierce.

With six veteran defenders already under contract, there’s little wiggle room at the bottom end of Vancouver's blue line. Conventional wisdom says the team will likely carry one youngster into opening night.

That means there can be only one.

“I know I want to be playing here this winter, and I’m pretty sure he [Alexander Edler] wants that too, so I think it’ll be a competition to the end,” said Luc Bourdon, following Friday morning’s on-ice session at Bear Mountain Arena in Victoria.

FINDING THE LINE

If hockey scribes are to be believed, that seventh spot is a two-horse race between the Ostersund Kid and Lucky Luc. For the record, the two budding blueliners aren’t buying into the head-to-head hype, but they can do the math.

“I know they signed Aaron Miller a couple of week ago and he’s a great defenceman,” said Bourdon. “They’ve already got six, so I guess there’s only one spot left and they’ll be a lot of guys competing for that.”

Bourdon, the Canucks’ first-round pick (10th overall) in 2005, played 9 games in his NHL debut last season before returning to the QMJHL where he bagged his second consecutive world junior gold with Team Canada.

At 19, and with four years of junior experience, Bourdon is ready to move on.

“I think I feel ready this year. It’s a little bit different because one way or another, I’ll start my pro career. It’s just a matter of time to see if it works out in the NHL, and if it doesn’t, I’ll get a chance to prove myself in the AHL.”

BIGGER AND BETTER

On the other side, Edler played the minute-man in Manitoba last season. He put up 26 points in 49 games with the Moose, but more importantly, logged 22 NHL games last season in a relief role. He even managed to squeeze three playoff games for good measure.

Those big-league minutes not only kick started Edler’s development, but gave him a much-needed boost.

“It feels good for my confidence, and I know what it’s like,” said the kid from Sweden’s frozen north. He flew into Vancouver a month early to begin working with strength and conditioning coach Roger Takahashi in hopes of building on a 220-pound, slick-skating frame.

“Of course I want a spot on the team for next season, but I know it’s not going to be easy,” said Edler. “There are a lot of good defencemen fighting for the seventh spot, but that’s my goal.”

MAKING A CASE

Both defenders stood out above the rest Friday morning in the first day of on-ice workouts at the Canucks’ rookie camp.

As head coach Alain Vigneault reiterated several times in the post-practice scrum, it’s hard to read too much into day one. Having said that, there’s no question both prospects have their eye on the opening night roster.

Edler knows the challenge that faces him.

“I have to work on a bit of everything, especially getting stronger in my upper body, and maybe get a bit quicker out there. I need to play a little more physical, a little more intense, but other than that, I just have to play my game: a simple game.”

For Bourdon, the strength isn’t as much an issue. The Shippigan, New Brunswick native, has come into camp looking like slept at the gym all summer.

His challenge won’t be to elevate his physical game as much as putting some of that horsepower to more efficient use.

“I just have to play my own game. I’m not going to be a 20-goal scorer in this league. I think I’m just going to do my thing, play physical, and play safe defensively. I’m a good skater, so I’ll use my wheels and I’ll be fine.”

Whether the two-pony show materialized in the coming days, or others like Shaun Heshka, Patrick Coulombe, and Daniel Rahimi enter the fray, one thing's certain: the battle will be a good one.


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13 - Playoff points in 16 games that Bourdon scored in Cape Breton last season

11:50 - Average ice time logged by Edler in three NHL playoff games last season

17.2% - Edler's career shooting percentage in 22 regular season NHL games.  

8 - Defencemen fighting to make it to main camp



"Of course I want a spot on the team, but I kind of want ice time too, so I’d rather be in the top six. I know there are six really good defencemen there, but you can’t just be satisfied with seventh spot all season.” - Alexander Edler


“I think I want to impress right away. I’ve been trainiug hard this summer on and off the ice.” Luc Bourdon on day one