The Sunday Crease

The Sunday Crease: Roussel’s injury, training camp and how a tougher Pacific Division means a brighter Canucks future

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Let’s be honest with ourselves; even though the Canucks opened training camp in Whistler on Thursday, the hockey talk in Vancouver has been focused elsewhere.

It’s not very often that two faces of their respective franchises are shipped off in the same week, but when it does happen you can bet the Canadiens are involved somehow. With the Habs moving Max Pacioretty to Sin City and the Sharks robbing the Senators blind in the long awaited trade for Erik Karlsson, the Canucks are staring at a far more terrifying Pacific Division than they left in April.

The last time Vancouver faced such all-star competition from their rivals, they were playing names like Gretzky, Kurri, Robitaille, Selanne and Fleury. Now, the Canucks are up against the likes of McDavid, Gaudreau, Karlsson(s), Kovalchuk and…another Fleury.

There’s actually a lot of similarities between the current Canucks and the teams of the late ‘80s and early 90’s. Those Vancouver clubs fell to the bottom of the standings and slowly built their way back up through a few good draft choices, solid trades and, eventually, learning to beat the titans that sentenced them to the basement.

The Canucks probably have few more tough seasons ahead of them before they’re able to compete for division titles again. But there’s reason to believe that while the amount of star power they’ll take on five or six times a year is sure to hand them their fair share of losses now, it’ll make Vancouver far better down the line.

Now to be fair, as Vancouver’s young guns get older and better, the currently peak-form competition will similarly pass their prime and become an easier opponent. But the way I see it, the more Boeser, Horvat and Company face off against talented players, the more quickly they’ll figure out how to play up to that same level of competition and beat them.

There’s no getting around the fact that Travis Green’s squad is going to have their hands full this season and take a lot of lumps from better teams like the Sharks, Golden Knights and Oilers (assuming they don’t keep wasting Connor’s talent, of course). But as we prepare ourselves for the tough season ahead, keep in mind that the “Stars of Today” passing through Rogers Arena in 2018-19 just might be turning these Canucks into the “Stars of Tomorrow.”

Roussel’s Rough Summer

We might only be three days into the new Canucks campaign but the injury bug is already in midseason form.

Roussel is only expected to be sidelined for rest of training camp, but it raises questions on how management will handle the crowded left wing. Missing training camp obviously won’t ruin a guy’s season, but coupled with any concussion symptoms he’s picked up, it could end up putting Roussel quite a few steps behind his new teammates in the conditioning department.

If he’s cleared to go before opening night, I’d expect Green to give Roussel the benefit of the doubt and leave him a slot regardless. If he isn’t available for October 3, then it leaves a spot open for a Nikolay Goldobin, Brendan Gaunce or maybe even Jonathan Dahlen to make their own. Whatever happens, this new wrinkle will add a lot more intrigue when the preseason starts up against the Oilers on Tuesday.

Around the Rinks

First off, I have a serious bone to pick with Marc Bergevin for making one of the biggest trades of the year just hours after I posted last week’s Crease. I put a lot of effort into this column and it’s really hurtful that Marc didn’t take that into consideration when he pulled the trigger on it at 10:30 pm.

Nonetheless, the return for Patches is better than it looks at first glance. Tomas Tatar might’ve struggled in Vegas, but he’s good for at least 30 points a year and helps fill out a depleted Habs top six. Nick Suzuki is a talented 19 year-old who cracked 100 points with the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack last season after Vegas picked him 13th overall in 2017. With Suzuki the Canadiens get the young centre they’ve desperately needed who’s likely closer to being NHL ready than recent 3rd overall choice Jesperi Kotkaniemi.

For Vegas, adding Pacioretty is just further proof that the Knights are going all in again, and frankly is a solid upgrade on both Tatar and the outgoing James Neal. George McPhee may have had to eat the losses on all those picks he gave to the Red Wings to get Tatar at the deadline, but considering how rich in draft picks the Knights still are I doubt he’ll lose much sleep over it this season.

Since I need to save all my hottest Sharks takes for my other job, I’ll be brief on the Karlsson trade; Doug Wilson absolutely fleeced Pierre Dorion for the second time this summer.

Considering the Sharks owe the Sens a conditional pick if they flip Karlsson to the Eastern Conference before 2019-20, it’s safe to say that Dorion likely got better offers from Eastern teams, but let his stupid “No inner-conference trades” rule get in the way. You do understand how tanking works, right Pierre?

All I know is the Sharks are going “Win or Bust” for the next few seasons, the biggest winner of the Karlsson sweepstakes is probably Joe Sakic and the Sens are a neverending carnival of hilarity and sadness. Ottawa deserves better.

Nobody expected Steve Yzerman to step down from his post as GM of the Lightning, especially since they’re still so close to winning a Cup. But his explanation of wanting to spend less time travelling and more time at home in Detroit with his family is a perfectly good reason to call it a day. Hopefully the Bolts, under newly-promoted Julien BriseBois, can give Stevie Y one last playoff run before his contract expires in the offseason.

Game Time
NHL 19 made its debut this week, and because I’m a sucker who bought the Legends Edition I got a three day head start with it. So far I’ve absolutely loved the game, and I’m not just saying that because I got a Gretzky card for my Hockey Ultimate Team.

The speed of play is way faster and more lifelike than last year’s version, and new “World of Chel” modes like Ones and Pro-Am are super casual and fun, especially for people like me who generally suck at video games. If you haven’t bought an NHL game in a while I highly recommend this version.

The Lighter Side?

Travis Green notoriously runs a tight ship where fitness is the big key to success, and training camp is a great chance for him to put the players through their paces. But sometimes, pushing players to their limits can end in a…less than ideal way.

Yuck. Hopefully this doesn’t become a metaphor for the season in front of us.

Thanks for reading! What’re your thoughts on the recent blockbuster trades in the NHL? Leave a comment below!

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