The Vancouver Canucks practice Tuesday morning and then fly to Denver to await Wednesday night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche, the team with the most points in the National Hockey League. Their 95 points puts them atop the Central Division, 17 ahead of the 2nd-place Minnesota Wild.
The Vancouver Canucks own 68 points, good for just fifth place in the Pacific Division, but only four points back of the Western Conference’s 2nd wild-card position presently held by the Vegas Golden Knights. Vancouver has a game in-hand.
Dallas sits between them at 71 points while Winnipeg also has 68. It drops off from there.
Let’s Skate! …
Arguably the three biggest names that changed places ahead of the NHL trade deadline were Claude Giroux going from the Philadelphia Flyers to the Florida Panthers, Mark Giordano leaving the Seattle Kraken for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Marc-Andre Fleury jumping from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Minnesota Wild.
Giroux, now the ex-captain of the Flyers who played exactly 1,000 regular season games for the franchise, joins a loaded Panthers line-up that many consider the team to beat in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Two thoughts on that:
One, someone might want to remind the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning of that concept. What a playoff series that would be with full houses. Last May the Sunshine State finally saw the post-season match-up of its dreams, but only with half-crowds because of Covid. It was a high-scoring, chippy series and a repeat would be great for hockey down south if we saw it with full buildings.
Two, anyone notice the Eastern Conference playoff race has been over for awhile? Aside from jockeying for position the teams advancing to the postseason really haven’t had to worry about it for awhile. There’s a 13-point gap between the 2nd wild-card position, held by the Washington Capitals, and the next closest competitor. The difference is even bigger between the top three teams in each division and those ‘giving chase’. There is no chase.
The Maple Leafs would also like to consider themselves Cup contenders, especially after adding the Kraken’s outgoing captain, defenceman Giordano. Seattle seems to have purged a lot of its roster after just six months in business and stocked up on draft picks. Having your inaugural captain for just part of one season isn’t weird, is it? Uh, yeah.
That said, the Vancouver Canucks 1970 expansion brethren Buffalo Sabres only had their first captain, Floyd Smith, for one full season. He retired at age 36, six games into the next campaign. The Canucks had Orland Kurtenbach wearing the ‘C’ for four years.
The most recent other expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights, utilized multiple alternates for three years until naming Mark Stone its first time captain prior to the 2020-’21 season.
The final name on the trade list above is Fleury, giving the Wild a solid one-two punch in net with Cam Talbot. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner, Fleury obviously brings championship pedigree and plenty of playoff experience to a solid Western Conference dark-horse, but in ‘going-for-it’ Wild GM Bill Guerin moved on from potential goalie of the future Kaapo Kahkonen, who he shipped to the San Jose Sharks for defenceman Jacob Middleton.
Fleury is 37-years-old, Talbot 34, Kahkonen 25.
The Wild have 19-year-old Jesper Wallstedt in their pipeline, the 20th-overall pick in the 2021 draft is playing back home in the Swedish Hockey League for Luleå this season, the second seed in the SHL playoffs.
Enjoy the Hockey Action !!