John Garrett: Finally
The lockout is finally over.
We no longer have to listen the lawyers arguing over pensions, and making whole and disclaimers of interest and the best of all HRR. Now the game can get back on the ice and the business side of the game can take a rest.
Was there a winner in this head to head? I think not, but I am ready to move on and I think the majority of Canadian hockey fans are of the same opinion. Of the 120,000 season ticket holders in the Canadian markets only 200 canceled their tickets and those will be quickly snapped up by those on the waiting lists.
The Canucks are in an enviable position, even though there are fans out there who think their playoff demise was a sign of vulnerability. I firmly believe that Vancouver is the team to beat even in a shortened season and quite likely they will be able to use that to their advantage. The Canucks are coming off back-to-back Presidents' Trophies. Two years ago they led the league in scoring and last year they led the Western Conference. Two years ago they won the Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals against in the league. Last year they were fourth. The 2011-2012 season marked the fourth straight year they earned more than 100 points and the fifth in the last six years.
The schedule in the shortened season will be in the Western Conference only. The Canucks had the best record against their own conference. The Division games, so I have heard, could account for almost 40% of the schedule. The Canucks went 18-5-1 in the Northwest division. The Minnesota Wild will be better with the signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, but they finished 30 points behind the Canucks. Calgary finished second in the division, but has signed only Jiri Hudler and Dennis Wideman as upgrades. The Flames best prospect Sven Baertschi is hurt and has been out since November with the dreaded upper body injury. The Oilers will be better, but are still a couple of years away and they, like the Avalanche, had real problems in their own division. Both these teams managed just eight wins in their 24 games.
The Canucks will have depth even with Ryan Kesler not around for the start of the season. Herik and Daniel Sedin will be with Alex Burrows. Andrew Ebbett has earned a shot at center with Mayson Raymond and David Booth. Jordan Schroeder could also get a look at center on the second line. Max Lapierre will be with Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen and Manny Malhotra and Zach Kassian will play with either Aaron Volpatti, Dale Weise or Steve Pinnizzotto.
The defence will have Dan Hamhuis with Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler with Jason Garrison and Keith Ballard with Chris Tanev. Andrew Alberts is a more than capable fill in and Cory Schneider will be able to play 40 of the 48 games. I have not forgotten Roberto Luongo, but feel he will be moved before the season starts so any assets coming back will be a bonus.
Can you tell I am excited?
Well I am, and soooo glad it is over!