December 29 2016 08:00AM
Disclaimer: Matthew Tkachuk's chances of winning the Calder are probably about as likely as your chances of finding a picture of him with his mouthguard actually in his mouth. In other words, not likely.
He'll get some consideration, I'm sure. Maybe a particularly strong back half could see him end up a finalist, but aiming to be top five in voting may be more realistic.
Whether or not Tkachuk does get a trophy at the end of the year, though, keep in mind that approaching the 40-game mark of the season - the very one that will determine Tkachuk hitting unrestricted free agent status a year earlier - he is, without a doubt, one of the best rookies in the NHL this season.
I'm going to go so far as to say you could make a case he's actually the best one.
December 28 2016 03:00PM
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski - USA TODAY Sports
Troy Stecher could have spent this entire season in the AHL, and I'm sure the Canucks wouldn't have batted an eye. So his emergence as a staple on the first pair must feel like something akin to stumbling upon a winning lottery ticket at Pat Quinn Way.
With Stecher, as with any first-year pro, injuries above him helped pave the way for his ascendancy. That much is certain. This didn't happen by accident, though. Stecher did everything in training camp to put himself atop the Canucks recall list, and he's done everything since to keep him from it in perpetuity.
Part of that is opportunity, and Canucks Head Coach Willie Desjardins deserves a fair amount of credit for not shying from offering Stecher more than his fair share. It's not often a player jumps straight from the AHL to the parent team's first pair, but the comfort Stecher displayed with Alexander Edler in the pre-season made clear that was the best position for him to succeed in immediately.
December 28 2016 11:00AM
Photo Credit: Anthony Grupposo - USA TODAY Sports
If the Canucks are going to make a surge to save their season, they'll be doing it without Jannik Hansen.
Speaking to the media after Tuesday's practice, Canucks Head Coach Willie Desjardins revealed Hansen suffered a severe knee injury on December 22nd, and it will keep him from Vancouver's lineup for four-to-six weeks. This after Hansen just returned to the Canucks two weeks prior from a broken collarbone.
The Canucks' first line was supposed to be an area of relative strength. At the very least, one couldn't count it among the multitude question marks hanging over the roster. Whether Loui Eriksson worked out or not, the Sedins moulded Hansen as a safety blanket in their image for the club's cover.
Desjardins has been hesitant to play Eriksson with the twins since October, and Hansen's injury has forced him from the trios refuge for much of the time since. Generally, the club's leaned on Brandon Sutter to fill the void whenever necessary, and suffered that decision accordingly.
The hope in mid-December was Hansen's health would keep Desjardins from having to tussle with this question again. Here we are two weeks later, and it's paramount on the embattled coach's mind as he prepares to face the Los Angeles Kings.
December 28 2016 10:00AM
With the new year fast approaching, the conversation is going to start picking up on potential contract extensions for players like Chad Johnson. That's because players on one-year deals are eligible to sign extensions starting Jan. 1.
Is it too early for the Flames to start going down that road with Johnson? And what might a new deal look like for one of Calgary's most pleasant surprises this season?
December 27 2016 08:38PM
Not sure if Team Canada is for real this year? Well, there you go. The Canadians laid an absolute beating on Slovakia Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre. They won 5-0, peppering the Slovaks with 44 shots for while surrendering only six against en route to their second win of the tournament.