6 reasons to look forward to Canucks hockey

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Image: Vancouver Canucks / Facebook

Most Canucks fans weren’t overly enthused by the moves the team made this summer.

First, many were upset to see one of their favourite players, Eddie Lack, traded at the draft for a third round pick.

Second, they realized their team will be undergoing some form of a rebuild and won’t be contending for the Stanley Cup in the next couple of years.

Third, things really got out of hand when they had to turn to “Tanbir from Surrey” to be their fearless leader.

(If you don’t get the reference, it hit the fan at this year’s Canucks Summer Summit)

But with the NHL season about to begin, you should realize it’s not all doom and gloom… and guess what? There are even some things for Canucks fans to get excited about (aside from the craft beer selections and poutine at Rogers Arena).

Well, six things anyway.

1. Virtanen will be a fan favourite

Canucks fans have a lot to look forward to in Jake Virtanen.

Now, this optimistic comment is bound to elicit responses such as:

Can we at least let him play an NHL game first?

And

Can you guys stop putting so much pressure on him?

Let’s be serious. Virtanen has earned the attention and the hype with his aggressive style of play, his work in the summer to become more physically fit, and his hit on Connor McDavid that was felt in Vancouver.

Virtanen was on TSN 1040 Wednesday, and he was asked if he knew it was McDavid as he made the hit.

“Oh yeah. I was completely aware… When you get a chance to hit a guy like that, you definitely take the opportunity… I’d hope I’d get the better of him – I’ve got some pounds on him.”

The radio guys followed up by asking if Virtanen enjoys making big hits as much as he enjoys scoring goals.

“Absolutely. I like being physical. It’s definitely a huge asset of my game. When I make a big hit or something, I feel like I energize the guys quite a bit. I saw after that McDavid hit the boys were into it – they were pretty excited about it.”

Virtanen ended the young stars tournament on a high note, scoring the overtime winner against Calgary.

So he’s a guy who can score and he enjoys hitting… sounds good, doesn’t it?

Just in case you’re not convinced yet, Virtanen described his celebration after scoring a goal against Moose Jaw last January.

“I did pretty much a whole lap – I went in, scored, think I pretty much high-fived their whole bench, then went by our bench, hit our goalie, then went back to the (penalty) box. Sometimes I guess I don’t think out there.”

2. The other young guys

The Canucks finally have some truly exciting young players in the system. (Sorry to throw shade at Darren Archibald)

That’s what happens when a team switches from a Cup contender trading away draft picks for players that’ll help potentially long playoff runs to one building up its prospect pool.

Below Jake Virtanen and Frankie Corrado – who have a good possibility of making the cut and starting the season with the Canucks – are Brendan Gaunce, Nicklas Jensen, Hunter Shinkaruk, Jared McCann, Ben Hutton and Jordan Subban amongst others.

Will any of them make the opening night roster? There’s no room, so probably not, but if and when a regular Canuck gets injured, fans will have something to look forward to as Utica’s young guns take their turns in the bigs.

3. Burrows set the bar high for Sutter

Alex Burrows, speaking on TSN 1040 about one of the newest Canucks – Brandon Sutter – said he played a bit “like a young Ryan Kesler” at the informal skates this summer.

That’s a lot to live up to.

If he does – you read it here first.

If not, blame Burr for saying something so ridiculous

4. 3-on-3 is here

Don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see the Sedins play 3-on-3 overtime.

The NHL’s new rules will see the old five minutes of 4-on-4 replaced by five minutes of 3-on-3 if the game’s tied after regulation. If it’s still tied after that, it’s back to relying on Radim Vrbata as Vancouver’s last hope in the shootout.

Jacob Markstrom, at the Canucks media availability day, said from what he saw last year in the AHL, 3-on-3 hockey is a bit of a gong show.

Not sure how you interpret that, but I’m pretty sure what looks like a “gong show” to a goalie is pure entertainment for everyone else watching.

5. Grit is fun

After losing forwards Shawn Matthias, Nick Bonino and Zack Kassian and replacing them with Brandon Prust, Brandon Sutter, Sven Baertschi, many concluded the Canucks downgraded their skill level this summer.

They might be right, but one thing we can be sure of is the team upgraded its toughness.

Say what you will about fights – and some people just love beating that anti-fighting drum – everyone gets excited when players drop the gloves. Yes, even the anti-fighting crew.

Here’s Brandon Prust speaking to TSN 1040 Wednesday about sharing the role with Derek Dorsett.

“I’ve been on teams before where it’s just me (in the fighting role) and it’s a tough job, so it’s good to have someone else that’s going to share that role with you and even kind of feed off each other.”

If you are anti-fighting, fear not, the league is cutting it out of the game more and more every year. Prust talked about how his role has changed too:

“Last year was the first year I felt like I could play hockey first and fight second and it really helped… I feel it’s more hockey driven now. The fighting is more of a reaction – maybe halfway through the game if you need a spark or if there’s a big hit or if someone takes out your top players, it’s more of a reaction.”

6. It’ll come down to the wire

Didn’t know whether to frame this as a negative or a positive, but since this is an article about things to look forward to, the call was already made.

As it says earlier in this post, it’s not all doom and gloom for the Canucks.

Will they be better than last year? Who knows. But they’re also not going to be the worst team in the NHL.

Chances are they’ll be in the mix for a playoff spot, and they’ll be fighting for one of the wild cards all season long. While it’s a long way from that team that had Presidents’ Trophies tied up in March a few years ago, it’ll definitely keep the die hard fans engaged.

And being engaged is fun.

Right?

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Omar A has worked for 24 hours, the Canadian Press and TSN. He graduated from the Journalism program at the University of King's College
@omarcanuck

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