Antoine Roussel out with concussion as Vancouver Canucks camp gets underway
Training Camp: Day 1 - Injury 1
Who had Antoine Roussel in the pool?
Concussion symptoms can be unpredictable, but one man's hardship could be another one's opportunity. Travis Green made it clear when he met with the media on Thursday that he doesn't have many preconceived ideas about how the Vancouver Canucks' opening-night roster will look this year. He wants players to prove themselves in camp.
The team hit the ice at Meadow Park Sports Centre for the first time on Friday morning. Here are the first two groups:
The Canucks brought 59 players to camp. These two main groups, plus Roussel, add up to 45. The third group, with the remaining 14 players, will hit the ice at 1:30 p.m.
On Thursday, Green said that he doesn't want to wait until preseason begins to see his players in game situations. Departing from the usual routine, he'll run three days of scrimmages this year, starting on Saturday.
Green said it's possible that we could see two or three rookies in the opening-night lineup, and that he's planning to start Elias Pettersson at centre—hoping he'll pick up relatively quickly on the differences in his defensive responsibilities on the smaller ice. Jim Benning emphatically added that "Yes," he's open to the possibility of putting veteran players on waivers if that's what it takes to get the kids who have earned it onto the roster.
Most years, it seems like the idea of players earning jobs is a bit of a pipe-dream, no matter what is said as camp begins. This season, I feel like it's a real possibility. Green pointed out, rightly, that every player on a team that finished with 73 points last season should feel pressure to do better coming into this year.
Among the players who spoke on Thursday, two general themes emerged: hopefully, the team will be healthier, and everybody is going to need to do a little bit more if the Canucks hope to improve their offensive output. That goes for forwards and defense.
No longer in a group with the Sedins, who took almost all the questions in past years, we probably heard more for Alex Edler on Thursday we did in his previous 12 years in Vancouver combined. I think he took about six questions in a row!
Tanev still has gaping holes in his smile from that puck-to-the-face that he took last year. He talked a bit about hoping to reduce his time on the injured list this year, but was also emphatic that he's not going to change the way he plays.
Once the questions did start to come, I thought Edler made a legitimate effort to shoulder his share of the media load, perhaps trying to show his commitment to the team. Not surprisingly, he danced around the question of whether he'd be willing to waive his no-trade clause at some point this season, now that he's into the final year of his contract. Instead, he talked about how he has grown up in Vancouver, how the organization has treated him well and how much he likes it here. Jim Benning said he'd circle back on the issue later this season but that for now, the team needs Edler and hopes he can play as well as he did last year, when he led the defense in points (34) and average ice time (24:17 per game).
Ben Hutton came in with some swagger, talking about all the good work he did this summer while training with Claude Giroux. He said his body fat was down and that he'd dropped some weight, now coming in at 203 pounds. That's actually a pretty small change from the 207 pounds he was listed at last year, so let's hope this is about body composition—muscle weighs more than fat and all that good stuff.
Speaking of muscle...
Did Bo get smaller, or did Brock get bigger?
It's a surprise to see Boeser looking so jacked, especially considering he spent a good chunk of the summer recovering from that back injury. Did somebody accidentally ship him Elias Pettersson's supply of protein shakes?
As for Pettersson, he did not take part in Thursday's media panel, which was limited to 16 returning players. No rookies and no new guys—I was disappointed that we didn't get to hear from Beagle, Schaller and Roussel.
I wonder how much we can read into which of the returning players didn't take to the podium on Thursday? Markus Granlund was there—and looked about as excited as if he was getting ready for a root canal. But Brendan Gaunce, Brandon Leipsic, Nikolay Goldobin, Reid Boucher, Derrick Pouliot and Anders Nilsson were among the missing — though it sounds like there was some time for one-on-one chats after the main press conference was completed.
Other topics that came up on Thursday:
• The organization is in no rush to name its next captain. If anything, it sounds like the team will probably go without. Bo Horvat said all the right things about how it doesn't matter and that there's lots of leadership in the room, but couldn't avoid saying that it would be "a dream come true" if he did eventually get the C. Meanwhile, Brock Boeser just laughed when asked whether he thought he'd be in contention for the captaincy, saying he'd honestly never even considered it.
• Boeser also confirmed that contract talks are now on hold until the end of the year. I can see why both sides want this: the Canucks would like to know that Boeser can keep producing to the standard that he laid down last season, while Boeser's camp is banking on the fact that he can—and that these days, NHL salaries are rising almost as quickly as Vancouver housing prices were a couple of years ago. If the cap goes up again next year, Boeser's comparables will also increase, setting him up for an even nicer eventual payday.
Finally, a couple of quick thoughts on the Erik Karlsson trade:
I'm excited that he landed in the Pacific Division. He's a player that I love to watch, and we've seen him so rarely out here in Vancouver over the years.
I still think his tenure as a Shark will be short-lived, however. His refusal to sign an extension fuels my hunch that his long-term plan is to land in Tampa Bay. The return isn't great for Ottawa, but it's a heckuva lot better than what the Islanders got for John Tavares...
The Sharks are banking heavily on their team culture and lifestyle being enough to convince Karlsson that he'll want to stay for the long term. It's worked for them in the past, but they've got a big challenge ahead, just keeping pace with Nashville, Winnipeg and Vegas in the West. And they've now given up their next two first-round draft picks—the other one went to Buffalo as part of the Evander Kane package after he re-signed.
The package that San Jose gave up is going to look a lot less trivial if Karlsson is gone before Josh Norris even turns pro and the first-round pick the Senators receive is made—either in 2019 or 2020. Depending on whether or not the Sharks make the playoffs this year, Buffalo will get one pick while Ottawa gets the other.
Even if the Canucks could have beaten the Sharks' offer, it's not like one year of Karlsson, now, would have really served any useful long-term purpose. And don't forget about Karlsson's 15-team no-trade list. I doubt Vancouver was ever a possibility.