Preseason Lessons

The Canucks organization has found itself dealing with an unfamiliar ‘problem’, a lot of depth players.  Conversely, compared to years past, they’ve rarely had to decide what to do with so many cusp players they cannot use.

O'Brien had 8 points, and trimmed his penalty minutes from 196 in '08/'09 to 79 in '09/'10

For example, after re-signing a fortuitous contract July 12th with the Vancouver Canucks, it seemed very likely that Shane O’Brien would continue to play a role on their blue line.  Of note, Tanner Glass (who has just survived the final cut for the fourth line) and Alex Bolduc also signed contracts that day.   But he, along with Darcy Hordichuk, found himself being put on waivers this past week.  Is he that far removed from the 15 or so minutes a night he was filling during the playoffs?  There could even be combination of reasons why Mike Gillis doesn’t foresee O’Brien ($1.6 million) staying in the fold.   But Andrew Alberts ($1.05 million) stepping up and finding his steady game again certainly couldn’t have helped, nor being $1.82 million over cap (according to Capgeek.com).

Tanner Glass blends grit, energy, and a sense of urgency

Tanner Glass seems to have won over enough fans in the stands and management to find a regular gig on the fourth line.  While he perhaps didn’t outclass other competitors during the pre-season, he showed enough grit and determination to get the job done.  If Darcy Hordichuk could’ve done anything different to change this outcome, he wasn’t aware of it.  This years’ pre-season lesson was in economics, and the reality for an NHL club: You can only afford to have so much depth.  The rest you’ll probably lose for nothing, if not cover up to half of the remaining contract.

That lends itself to another somewhat challenging contract – the pro tryout contract.  Brendan Morrison, whom I had the pleasure of watching live twice in the pre-season, seemed to be a great fit for the club.  Several times in the pre-season coach Alain Vigneault has referenced “Doing what’s in the best interests of the team, then the best interests of the player”.  Interestingly, the Calgary Flames announced signing him to a $725,000 1-way contract.  TSN reported that Morrison turned down a 2-way contract, where he could be sent to the farm club.

Morrison: "The wierdest thing will be pulling that jersey over my head. Seeing that Flame down there."

The Calgary Flames, who went a perfect 7-0 in the pre-season, suffered injuries to Olli Jokinen, Daymond Lankow, and Matt Stajan.  “Calgary was a team that we had been speaking to all summer and over the course of the last weeks it just accelerated,” said Morrison’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.  “It’s a good opportunity to prove himself.”   Suddenly, a 42 point, versatile center that can be streaky doesn’t look so bad…  Perhaps the media ‘fishbowl’ effect does have some positive spin-offs.  Morrison confessed: “We had so many games over the years, so many battles.  Coming out of that other side of the [Saddledome] tunnel – that will be strange.”

Aug.26 - Cody Hodgson joins PK Subban (Canadiens) and Eric Tangradi (Penguins) at the NHL Upper Deck Rookie Debut

Cody Hodgson got healthy enough to clear last-minute for duties, and it’s still unclear whether he’s done enough to stay with the big club.  He still might get the maximum 9 games played, before they have to decide one way or the other.  Vigneault voiced that he’s uncertain that 7 or 8 minutes a night in the NHL will serve him properly.  Cody obviously desperately wants to remain with the team, but might have to withstand some seasoning with the Moose, putting further distance between injury/consistency concerns.

The fourth line story continues to unfold, as 25 year old Gillaume Desbiens looks to have earned a spot on the opening night roster.  With Rick Rypien injured, and the team vowing to be grittier, Vigneault witnessed enough in pre-season from his 11 hits.  “He’s a big body who brings a physical presence and he’s smart.  So far, he’s been good and continues to improve.”  Desbiens Quebec junior teammate Alex Bolduc will pivot between him and Tanner Glass.  At 6’3, 216 lbs, he hasn’t been afraid to mix it up at every level he’s been at.  “They want the fourth line to create a lot of energy and momentum and being physical, but also being reliable defensively…  If I need to step up and fight somebody here, I’ll do it and that’s what I’m going to do.”   It appears the pre-season lesson Desbiens learned here was from line-mate Tanner Glass, -what you need to do to stick.  It wasn’t so long ago that he was called up to cover an injury on the fourth line.

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