2013-14 Division Rivals: Edmonton Oilers vs. Vancouver Canucks

Jonathan Willis
August 13 2013 09:26AM

Our stroll through Edmonton's new division continues today with a look at the Vancouver Canucks.

As with yesterday’s look at the Anaheim Ducks, I’ve included one basic statistic at each position on the depth charts below. For forwards, I’ve used points from last season projected over an 82-game schedule, for defencemen time on ice per game in 2012-13, and for goalies their 2012-13 save percentage. Players in italics did not play a significant number of games in the NHL in 2012-13; red indicates numbers come from the AHL or Europe while green indicates a previous NHL season.

And again, the same caveat: these depth charts are my best approximation of each team and the line combinations are not intended to be chisled on stone tablets.

Forwards

It’s surprising how quickly the Oilers seem to have closed the gap with Vancouver up front. With an aging core and salary concerns cutting into their depth, the Canucks don’t look especially formidable on paper.

Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin form the nucleus of a strong top line, while Alex Burrows is a strong complementary player, but it isn’t a group that particularly overshadows the Oilers’ young trio. Ryan Kesler, if healthy, is a superb second line centre; he left a major hole in Vancouver’s lineup last season but now he’s back. Vancouver has less raw offensive talent on the wings of their second line than Edmonton, but with two strong two-way players and Kesler, that’s probably a better line overall.

The bottom six doesn’t look much different. The Oilers have Boyd Gordon and question marks at centre; the Canucks have a good fourth-line guy and question marks. Nothing is particularly inspiring about Vancouver’s third and fourth line wingers – if Chris Higgins bounces back and Zack Kassian steps forward they’ll be in good shape (particularly if Kassian can move into the top-six), but on the whole there are at least as many questions as there are with Edmonton’s group.

Given Edmonton’s blend of youth and the Canucks’ shoddy depth, it seems reasonable to project this as a close matchup.

Defence and Goaltending

Defence, on the other hand, isn’t close. Look at it this way: Jeff Petry was the Oilers’ number one defenceman last year, and while he may well be eclipsed by Justin Schultz this year he’s the incumbent. Where would he slot on Vancouver’s depth chart? To me, it looks like he’d be battling with Kevin Bieksa and Chris Tanev for the number four slot. The Canucks don’t have an overpowering number one defenceman, but they have a lot of very good players and a nice mix of skillsets on the back end.

Depth-wise, the Oilers can feel good on their blue line, but given the mismatch at the top end that’s little comfort.

Goaltending is an interesting position for the Canucks. Roberto Luongo is a superb goaltender, but he’s had a troubled relationship with the team. If he comes in and plays the way he can, than Vancouver looks good – Eriksson and Lack can fight for the number two role with little chance of hurting the team.

Overall

After years as one of the West’s dominant teams, cracks are starting to show in Vancouver, particularly up front. A team that once boasted high-end talent and exceptional depth at all positions still has the former but can seemingly no longer afford the latter. It’s a team that can still contend in the here and now, but could use some re-tooling up front. Barring a Luongo collapse, however, they should be near the top of the Pacific Division.

This is a team the Oilers can only catch if there’s a significant meltdown.

Recently around the Nation Network

And here's some news directly relevant to that depth chart above: the Canucks are having a lot of trouble getting Chris Tanev under contract, and now his agent is talking about the KHL. It sounds more to me like an agent deciding he has pretty much zero leverage and had better find something to push with, but Canucks Army's Patrick Johnston suggests it won't be a huge deal if Tanev decides to leave:

So he may go, he may not. Is he replaceable? Probably? Would it be a loss? Yes, it most certainly would. Solid NHLers on cheap contracts are very valuable, and his role on the team's back-end can't be overlooked. But it wouldn't be a disaster.

Click the link above to read more, or check out some of my recent stuff:

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Matt
August 13 2013, 01:18PM
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Can someone institute a Nation Network-wide rule that anyone referring to the Sedins as "sisters" has their comment deleted or edited and gets a warning or short term (24 hour?) ban on posting?

It's sexist, childish, and has no place in intelligent discussion about hockey.

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#2 DSF
August 13 2013, 10:39AM
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The lineup out of training camp will likely look a a lot more like this:

Sedin-Sedin-Kassian

Booth-Kesler-Burrows

Higgins-Richardson-Hansen

Sestito-Gaunce/Horvat-Weise

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#3 DSF
August 13 2013, 11:56AM
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Supernova wrote:

they will what?

sign short term low money deals?

or

explore the market?

Sign short term for less.

I wouldn't be surprised at all if they now sign a series of 1 year contracts.

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#4 DSF
August 13 2013, 11:47AM
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Czar wrote:

My point was Van isn't as attractive a destination as it once was and you can thank Mr. Gillis for that.

What evidence do you have to support that notion?

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#5 DSF
August 13 2013, 11:48AM
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@Supernova

They will.

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#6 DSF
August 13 2013, 10:49AM
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Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate wrote:

I wonder how long before the "cracks in the hull" of the SS Canucks turn into a full fledged sinking. The sisters are a year older, Kessler is always injured, and Lou's not the goalie he once was. The D might be the saving grace, but if one of the top 2 get hurt...look out.

It may not be this year, but that ship is taking on water.

In a cap world...it's very difficult to create a linear projection of how teams will fare two or three years from now.

For example, the Sedins are UFA's after this season and the thinking is they will come back to Vancouver on cheaper, short term contracts.

That frees up cap space for the Canucks to sign free agents or bring in salary to create a new #1 line while the Sedins might well end up playing second line minutes.

If the cap next season is, say, $70 million, the Canucks have $28 million in free cap space to retool their roster and they also have some promising young players on cheap ELC's in Horvat, Gaunce, Shinkaruk, Jensen, Corrado.

It's not a straight line.

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#7 DSF
August 13 2013, 11:28AM
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Czar wrote:

For example, the Sedins are UFA's after this season and the thinking is they will come back to Vancouver on cheaper, short term contracts.

Or the sister's don't like Tort's and fly home after the season. Maybe they see that they could get more money and take their bunk beds to another team? Do you really think after the way Gillis has handled Luongo and the trashing of Hogson after the trade that anyone is feeling as loyal as they once did in van?

I'm not ready to "book it" just yet dude.

Those are all possibilities but, in any event, the Canucks will have a lot of coin available to sign free agents or make trades.

I would think Booth would have been bought out if he wasn't injured and that is likely to occur next off season as well freeing up another $4.25M.

Given that Vancouver is an attractive destination for free agents (Hamhuis, Garrison, Higgins, Richardson, Tanev, Weise) they could re-make their team pretty quickly.

That makes it very difficult to predict "the ship is sinking".

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#8 DSF
August 13 2013, 11:47AM
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madjam wrote:

And you think that means anything why? Fellow swede Daniel Alfredsson also said the same regarding Ottawa, look what happened. He headed to greener pastures for more money, and we can expect the same thing to happen with the Sedin Sisters.

We can?

Based on what?

And, even if they did, using your Ottawa example, the Canucks could acquire two players like Bobby Ryan to replace them with the freed up cap space.

I would think Ottawa, replacing a 40 year old Alfredsson with a 26 year old Ryan is ahead of the game.

Don't you?

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#9 DSF
August 13 2013, 12:51PM
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cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan wrote:
In a cap world...it's very difficult to create a linear projection of how teams will fare two or three years from now.

yet it seems like only yesterday you laid out a 10 year projection for the Minnesota Wild

Big difference between "the ship is sinking" and positioning a team to be a playoff contender for a long time.

Minnesota is in great shape with a very solid core and one of the best prospect pipeline's in the NHL.

Like all good teams they are built from the back end out with solid goaltending, a stud #1D and great centre depth.

Still need some tweaks on D but otherwise a solid, solid team.

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#10 DSF
August 13 2013, 11:33AM
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Will wrote:

That is true, the Sedins are UFA's after this season. I can imagine a situation where Vancouver, especially in the new division, makes the playoffs, but receives a quick first round exit. I wonder then if the Sedins look to a team like Detroit (who would love their high skill puck possession style) or god forbid break up and head to different teams.

They've indicated repeatedly they want to stay in Vancouver.

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#11 DSF
August 13 2013, 12:09PM
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Supernova wrote:

we are on a polar opposites then.

If you were 33 and had a chance at term why wouldn't you take it.

you can sign one year deals at late 30's.

sign for 4 years and then go year to year

Based on their verbal, I don't think they want to play anywhere else in the NHL.

An option, of course is a longer extension but I would wager it'll be for less than $6M/per

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#12 DSF
August 13 2013, 11:39AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Less than $6.1 million for the Sedins?

Gillis' main strength as a general manager has probably been his contract work, so there's a chance I suppose. But short-term and cheap? I can't see why the Sedins would agree to that kind of deal - no money, no long-term security. What's the upside for them?

Sure, I can see them signing for less as they age.

They signed for below market value on their current contracts.

As per your earlier question about Richardson/Gaunce/ Horvat...here are some tweets from the Vancouver Sun's beat reporter,

Iain MacIntyre ‏@imacVanSun 5 Jul Canuck add speed/grit to third line with Kings C Brad Richardson. 2 years, $1.15M per.

Iain MacIntyre ‏@imacVanSun 6 Jul For all asking, it's #Canucks saying Richardson gets chance as 3C. Me, I think it will be Schroeder or Horvat.

Iain MacIntyre ‏@imacVanSun 6 Jul @DJSkead Brendan Gaunce has a chance, too. So does Lain on the 4th line, which could bump Richardson to wing.

Iain MacIntyre ‏@imacVanSun 6 Jul Re Gaunce v Horvat, 1+ year is significant, but Gaunce was 26 pick, Horvat 9 in epic class. Canucks really, really like new guy.

Iain MacIntyre ‏@imacVanSun 6 Jul @JLattBatt Yes, they really like Shinkaruk, too. But 1 18yo in NHL lineup is a lot, let alone 2. But he will push Horvat, Gaunce.

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#13 DSF
August 13 2013, 12:02PM
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Supernova wrote:

Agreed, but they have the money and the need for top line players.

How often does 2/3 of a first line hit free agency?

I don't think it is likely that they will be free agents but would be extremely shocked to see them sign for less $$ than they earn right now. The only way that happens is if they get a 8 year deal.

They won't get an 8 year deal from Vancouver.

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#14 DSF
August 13 2013, 12:46PM
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Supernova wrote:

DSF,

how do you feel Gillis handled the Schneider/ Loungo issue?

your thoughts on the Kassian trade

Gillis painted himself into a corner.

Apparently he was offered Nazem Kadri + for Luongo by the Leafs but thought he could get more if he was patient.

He gambled and lost although I always thought trading Schneider made more sense.

As for the Kassian trade, I think the Canucks were just tired of dealing with Hodgson's "issues" as the Sabres are now finding out and took the chance to acquire a big power forward.

People tend to forget that Kassian is only 22 and power forwards generally take a little longer to develop.

He scored 5 goals in his first 7 games last season, with little help from the Sedins, and then AV moved him down to try and get the Sedins going. That worked out for the Sedins but Kassian floundered.

Based On Tortorella's track record playing young players, I think you'll see Kassian once again on the top line and he has the potential to have a break out year.

My thinking is 5 years from now the Canucks will have easily won the trade.

We'll see.

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#15 DSF
August 13 2013, 05:26PM
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French Toast Mafia wrote:

You actually think Bo Horvat can play in the NHL?

Always hard to tell with rookies but Horvat has a very well developed two way game and the size, 210 pounds, to maybe pull it it off.

Here's a scouting report from Corey Pronman:

Horvat is one of the most complete forwards in this draft. He is tough, hard working, and defensively skilled, with enough offensive ability to project as a scoring line player. He was a top player for one of the best teams in the CHL.

He is a good skater, with a technically sound stride, as he picks up speed quickly and easily. He is a strong, physical center who will lay the body, displaying the two-way work ethic NHL teams want to see. He is an aware penalty killer, good at faceoffs, and overall projects as a center who will start his shift in the defensive zone more often than not.

His creativity progressed throughout this season, and his puck skills, hand-eye coordination, and playmaking vision all rank as above average; he can flash high-end offensive skill. It is difficult to find a weakness in his game.

Submitted by: Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus.

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#16 DSF
August 13 2013, 11:03AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Basically the key difference is how much faith you have in Gaunce/Horvat.

Schroeder lit up the AHL after getting demoted - 14 points in 12 games, easily his best stretch of the season - and I think he gets another chance this year. That's just my guess and I could be wrong, of course.

Yeah, he actually came a long way last season.

Problem is he is 5'9" 180 and Gillis has been saying he wants more size in his bottom 6.

I think Shroeder, Gaunce and Horvat will be fighting for that final C spot and, of course, there is Kellan Lain who will likely start in the AHL.

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#17 DSF
August 13 2013, 11:55AM
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Supernova wrote:

Sorry my post above was written a bit ago but forgot to hit the post button.

Calgary and Buffalo are 2 teams that could throw bigger money and term at Sedins for different reasons.

Calgary could throw 4 years and 8 million at them per year, just to mess with Vancouver.

I am not saying the ship is sinking but this is a very key year for Gillis. Contract year for Sedins, new coach that tends to be very good out of the gate with a new team, Loungo situation, lack of depth on the offence.

It will be very interesting to see how Gillis steers the ship.

Calgary and Buffalo would be killing themselves throwing that money and term at 33 year old players.

I agree it'll be an interesting year to watch what Gillis does.

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#18 Todd
August 13 2013, 10:05AM
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Man I hate the Canucks... I'm so glad they appear to be on a steady decline. I hope Torts runs them into the the ground.

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#19 Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate
August 13 2013, 10:12AM
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I wonder how long before the "cracks in the hull" of the SS Canucks turn into a full fledged sinking. The sisters are a year older, Kessler is always injured, and Lou's not the goalie he once was. The D might be the saving grace, but if one of the top 2 get hurt...look out.

It may not be this year, but that ship is taking on water.

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#20 Rama Lama
August 13 2013, 10:55AM
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@Jonathan Willis

As an example they have Travis Ewanyk at 6 ' and 175 lbs.........that makes him way smaller than RNH at 6'1 and 185 lbs.

RNH to my eye does not even make 160 lbs? Too many inconsistencies to mention, especially on the prospect side.

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#21 steelymac
August 13 2013, 08:17PM
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@Matt

Christ O Mighy if that offends you leave or put on your big girl panties and suck it up buttercup.Matt your a friggin bedwetter.

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#22 Alsker
August 13 2013, 09:51PM
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Matt wrote:

Can someone institute a Nation Network-wide rule that anyone referring to the Sedins as "sisters" has their comment deleted or edited and gets a warning or short term (24 hour?) ban on posting?

It's sexist, childish, and has no place in intelligent discussion about hockey.

Well just in case this happens(Ill chew on my jock if it does)here goes for Oct. sisters this,sisters that,sisters this,sisters that,sisters this,sisters that, sisters suck,sisters hurt aaaawww,sisters suck,...whew glad i got that off my chest prior to you imposing none sexist,childish, unintelligent comments rule.

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#23 MessyEH!
August 13 2013, 10:28PM
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Matt wrote:

Can someone institute a Nation Network-wide rule that anyone referring to the Sedins as "sisters" has their comment deleted or edited and gets a warning or short term (24 hour?) ban on posting?

It's sexist, childish, and has no place in intelligent discussion about hockey.

I wholeheartedly agree. This is the most derogatory, sexist, and offensive remark, I have seen on the interweb. Who out there, being serious now,

Who out there has this low of an opinion of women? Sedin Sissies would be much more politically correct.

*with the exception of sisters on a world class diving team.

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#24 madjam
August 13 2013, 11:39AM
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We can throw stats out the window this season , as club finally ready to brake out for banner year . The last three seasons will not be anywhere near this years stats , and it would be ridiculous to presume they would .

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#25 Supernova
August 13 2013, 10:06AM
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Jeff wrote:

Considering how much trouble Buf is having getting Hodgson signed, I think Van is happy with the trade. With that being said, I think Hodgson is the better player but his not yet as good as his contract demands show.

These are great articles, don't stop!

these second contracts seem to be big contention around the league. Some teams will do a long term second contract, others want the "bridge" contract. To me its not a concern until the season starts. Its August after all.

That being said I do think Vancouver was in a Rocky relationship with Hodgson over the conditioning/training/Gagner things.

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#26 Czar
August 13 2013, 11:09AM
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@DSF

For example, the Sedins are UFA's after this season and the thinking is they will come back to Vancouver on cheaper, short term contracts.

Or the sister's don't like Tort's and fly home after the season. Maybe they see that they could get more money and take their bunk beds to another team? Do you really think after the way Gillis has handled Luongo and the trashing of Hogson after the trade that anyone is feeling as loyal as they once did in van?

I'm not ready to "book it" just yet dude.

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#27 BorjeSalming-IanTurnbull
August 13 2013, 07:52PM
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Until the management of the Oilers has the guts to move one of our top five young players for a little more size and grit this is team will continue to stay on the outside looking in. The silver lining to me is I think MacT has the vision to pull the trigger on a deal if it's the right fit.

The ebb and flow of the NHL off season is a great chance for all of us to play arm chair manager. I like change. There's nothing more exciting to me then seeing a new player in Oilers silk. I think as MacT's tenure gets into full swing we will at least get some player movement that "rolls the dice" instead of being scared to fail. This will be interesting

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#28 Jeff
August 13 2013, 10:01AM
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Supernova wrote:

The Canucks have a great top 4 D, I can see the Oilers aspiring to build a Top 4 like this. There is no clear highly touted #1 but a couple you could argue that are right there.

I wonder how badly Canucks would want to re-do the Kassian trade. These type of players take awhile but a RH skilled centre who could play wing as well, would change the looks of the forward group.

Considering how much trouble Buf is having getting Hodgson signed, I think Van is happy with the trade. With that being said, I think Hodgson is the better player but his not yet as good as his contract demands show.

These are great articles, don't stop!

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#29 Will
August 13 2013, 10:15AM
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I still have my fingers crossed Luongo doesn't report. It seems unlikely since he'll be looked to for the starting position for Sochi, but even still it would spell disaster for the Canucks.

Speaking of Canucks, any idea on why we wouldn't invite Malhotra to training camp and see if he can make a go of it. Maybe put him on a line with Jones and Brown and call it the pirate line.

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#30 Rama Lama
August 13 2013, 10:36AM
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This may be a little off topic........I was trying to do an asessment on an individual Oiler player and went to the Oilers website.

It seems to me that all the weights atributed to players are grossly incorrect. In fact I'm starting to suspect that they do this intentionally. Am I missing something?

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#31 madjam
August 13 2013, 11:39AM
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DSF wrote:

They've indicated repeatedly they want to stay in Vancouver.

And you think that means anything why? Fellow swede Daniel Alfredsson also said the same regarding Ottawa, look what happened. He headed to greener pastures for more money, and we can expect the same thing to happen with the Sedin Sisters.

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#32 OilClog
August 13 2013, 01:05PM
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DSF, you're on some super awesome Meds today if you think for a chance the Sedins will sign 1 year deals with the Canucks until retirement.. Probably the biggest homer comment I've ever seen you make.. There is not a chance in any world the Sedins take 1 year contracts.. ZERO!

They'll land in Toronto, New York, San Jose, wherever is offering them the term and money they want. This is their last chance at a big pay day, they're not going to take one year discounts because they "like" Vancouver. Millions of millions of dollars will be lost, they have families to keep happy.. that isn't the Vancouver Canucks.

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#33 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
August 13 2013, 04:17PM
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Matt wrote:

Can someone institute a Nation Network-wide rule that anyone referring to the Sedins as "sisters" has their comment deleted or edited and gets a warning or short term (24 hour?) ban on posting?

It's sexist, childish, and has no place in intelligent discussion about hockey.

you must be new here

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#34 Supernova
August 13 2013, 11:41AM
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@DSF

"For example, the Sedins are UFA's after this season and the thinking is they will come back to Vancouver on cheaper, short term contracts."

DSF,

why would the Sedins sign cheaper, short term contracts when all their comparable colleagues are signing for more $$ and more term. They are 33 this season, and they will be councilled that this is likely their last crack at a longer term and high dollar deal.

Lets just use our imagination. If Vancouver goes out early in the playoffs. Sedins will look around. there are a few teams out there that can make a grab for them, especially if the cap goes up. Some team will for likely offer at least 4 years at 7 million per. The arguement Vancouver will have will be loyalty and how good the supporting cast is without them.

I am not sure how a canucks fan could expect them to sign for less than $6 million on a short term deal, when they know how important they are.

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#35 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
August 13 2013, 12:15PM
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@DSF

In a cap world...it's very difficult to create a linear projection of how teams will fare two or three years from now.

yet it seems like only yesterday you laid out a 10 year projection for the Minnesota Wild

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#36 Supernova
August 13 2013, 12:20PM
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DSF,

how do you feel Gillis handled the Schneider/ Loungo issue?

your thoughts on the Kassian trade

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#37 Mantastic
August 13 2013, 01:00PM
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really enjoying the series. i think it will be a lot scarier once we start comparing ourselves to SJ or LA.

what will kill the canucks will be their really really bad depth in all areas.

also #eatsh*tcanucks

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#38 nunyour
August 13 2013, 02:12PM
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I think the Sedins will move somewhere next year where they have a chance to win the cup.

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#39 JOE
August 13 2013, 04:41PM
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DSF wrote:

We can?

Based on what?

And, even if they did, using your Ottawa example, the Canucks could acquire two players like Bobby Ryan to replace them with the freed up cap space.

I would think Ottawa, replacing a 40 year old Alfredsson with a 26 year old Ryan is ahead of the game.

Don't you?

Not if they didn't get anything for Alfie at the deadline and let him leave for nothing. That's not being ahead of the game, that's just being stupid.

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#40 Czar
August 13 2013, 10:48PM
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Matt wrote:

Can someone institute a Nation Network-wide rule that anyone referring to the Sedins as "sisters" has their comment deleted or edited and gets a warning or short term (24 hour?) ban on posting?

It's sexist, childish, and has no place in intelligent discussion about hockey.

I might refer to the sisters as the Sedins after they leave Vancouver but I doubt it.

@Alsker

I'll arm wrestle ya for the top bunk.

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#41 Reg Dunlop
August 14 2013, 03:05AM
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Matt wrote:

Can someone institute a Nation Network-wide rule that anyone referring to the Sedins as "sisters" has their comment deleted or edited and gets a warning or short term (24 hour?) ban on posting?

It's sexist, childish, and has no place in intelligent discussion about hockey.

What do you tell a woman with 2 black eyes?

What do you call a man with no arms or legs laying by the door?

Matt, the first is sexist, the second is childish. Calling the Sedins 'sisters' is merely gamesmanship.

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#42 Supernova
August 13 2013, 09:57AM
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The Canucks have a great top 4 D, I can see the Oilers aspiring to build a Top 4 like this. There is no clear highly touted #1 but a couple you could argue that are right there.

I wonder how badly Canucks would want to re-do the Kassian trade. These type of players take awhile but a RH skilled centre who could play wing as well, would change the looks of the forward group.

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#44 Czar
August 13 2013, 11:41AM
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@DSF

My point was Van isn't as attractive a destination as it once was and you can thank Mr. Gillis for that.

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#45 Supernova
August 13 2013, 11:59AM
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DSF wrote:

Calgary and Buffalo would be killing themselves throwing that money and term at 33 year old players.

I agree it'll be an interesting year to watch what Gillis does.

Agreed, but they have the money and the need for top line players.

How often does 2/3 of a first line hit free agency?

I don't think it is likely that they will be free agents but would be extremely shocked to see them sign for less $$ than they earn right now. The only way that happens is if they get a 8 year deal.

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#46 A-Mc
August 13 2013, 12:35PM
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Has the season started yet??? *groan* I'm bored and all this speculation gets us no where!

We need more HOCKEY! PVR'd games are getting old now.

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#47 French Toast Mafia
August 13 2013, 04:51PM
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DSF wrote:

The lineup out of training camp will likely look a a lot more like this:

Sedin-Sedin-Kassian

Booth-Kesler-Burrows

Higgins-Richardson-Hansen

Sestito-Gaunce/Horvat-Weise

You actually think Bo Horvat can play in the NHL?

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#49 Will
August 13 2013, 11:16AM
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That is true, the Sedins are UFA's after this season. I can imagine a situation where Vancouver, especially in the new division, makes the playoffs, but receives a quick first round exit. I wonder then if the Sedins look to a team like Detroit (who would love their high skill puck possession style) or god forbid break up and head to different teams.

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