Sports talk with NHL ref Kelly Sutherland, Lions' Lineman Jesse Newman and our Nux analyst B-Dub of Q101 - http://soundcloud.com/josh-statham/epi4complete
The other day Tony Gallagher of the Province was addressing the issue of 'new blood' on the Canucks. He argued the team needed to start integrating some of the young talent in the AHL to the big club while the core veterans were still there to help bring them up. He also voiced an opinion that the fans wanted to see the fruits of the farm system in action.
I didn't know how to feel. I truly believe the game is changing faster than we realize. More and more teams are rounding out their rosters with young talent. We're already seeing veteran players tossed on the scrap heap when they would typically be considered decent second options in the free agent market. Along with being younger, cheaper options the kids coming up are also better options. I don't think the adjustment is what it used to be when there was a much stronger physical aspect to breaking in to the NHL. I typically would agree with him but after a day or two of thought I realized that there is clearly a plan in place.
The Canucks have done well to stockpile young defense prospects, a la Nashville Predators. It's crowded on the blue line with the big club and we've seen young NHL ready players like Chris Tanev sent to the minors because their contracts allow them to avoid the dangers of the waiver wire, while guys like Andrew Alberts and Aaron Rome would have to clear before being reassigned. The team may well feel that Tanev and Yann Sauve are better options than the veteran bottom-pairing players but just can't afford to lose them for nothing and can't risk shipping out veteran defense with the team's penchant for injuries.
The answer became clear when you look at the structure of the Nux contracts. Sami Salo and Aaron Rome are UFA's next year and Andrew Alberts the year after that. Alexander Sulzer is a UFA next year too but he ain't going nowhere so if you realized his omission in the previous sentence this is why. I kind of see Sulzer emerging as the new Aaron Rome; a veteran guy that realizes he might have to take the odd night off as the team breaks in the colts. As it stands Sebastian Erixon and Adam Polasek get to have a full year in the AHL to aclimatize to life in pro hockey and are probably two years away still. Tanev, Sauve and Connauton are going to be fighting for the two spots made available by Salo and Rome.
Next year the D should look like:
That's still a pretty crowded house. The way Keith Ballard is playing I wouldn't be surprised to see him moved or exiled to the AHL himself so that younger players aren't stuck in the press box too much. I'm not even considering a Shea Weber trade - I don't see it happening.
The system of succession is in place and I'm happy with the pace and the personnel. The Canucks have quietly drafted or signed a few very solid young d-men. Sure, I'm tempted to want to see what the kids can do in the NHL but for now they make a good insurance policy, if and when the injury bug hits.
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