Optimism is growing with the likelihood of a potential agreement for a new CBA to end the NHL lockout, and with it the hopes for real NHL action. Of course, this is just optimism. The owners and the PA met for a second consecutive day on Wednesday in another meeting that went late into the night. Both sides swapped proposals and after tensions began to boil over, the NHL has given the players their best option to date. With the two sides meeting again Thursday, progress is a good sign and the players and owners do not seem nearly as far apart as they have been in the past. So if there is a deal to be made, several NHL teams could be off to rough starts in the season. One of these teams is the Vancouver Canucks.
The Canucks are one of the few teams who do not have several veteran players and starters from last season who have gone to hone their skills and keep in game form by way of playing in Europe.
Yes, Vancouver does have the likes of Zack Kassian and Chris Tanev playing down with the Wolves, but apart from them, the Canucks have just four players across the pond. The rest of the team is practicing in Vancouver with the UBC Thunderbirds, or with a local club in their hometowns, or not at all.
The four players overseas are Cory Schneider with HC Ambri-Piotta of the Swiss League, Jannik Hansen to Tappara in Finland in SM-liiga, Sami Pahlsson to the Swedish Elite League team MODO, and Dale Weise with the Destil Trappers of the Dutch National League.
All four are getting significant playing time, improving their skills, and trying to keep pace with the NHL game. Other than these four, the Canucks top players including Ryan Kesler, Captain Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Kevin Bieksa, and Chris Higgins are all just practicing.
Practicing is great, if you want to stay in shape, but nothing simulates game action like – well playing in games. Several of Vancouver’s division rivals have more than four players overseas, and while the Canucks are sitting at home getting rusty, the opposition’s players are ready to go as soon as the first puck drops.
It seems to be too little too late for the Canucks in terms of going overseas with most leagues already at mid-season, and with the progress the league and PA are making with the CBA negotiations. Vancouver is used to slow starts, but should a season be a resurrected it could be an even longer slow start for the Canucks.
The Presidents Trophy winners a season ago will struggle to match that mark in 2013.