Snapshots: Could NHL play rest of season entirely in Canada?

Mar 26 2020, 2:09 pm

Welcome to a brand new weekly feature on Offside, something we’re calling “Snapshots.”

I know, bold move introducing a hockey feature when…well, you know.

But hey, if you’re starved for some Canucks hockey like I am, then there’s always something to talk about.

Finish the season entirely in Canada

Nobody knows what lies ahead due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and let me be clear: health and safety should be the top priority for everyone.

But let’s play a game of what if.

What if it becomes possible to safely play games in Canada with fans in attendance before the United States? Given Donald Trump’s eagerness to get people back to work before the virus has been dealt with fully — going against every medical professional’s recommendation — that’s a possibility.

Right now, the NHL says it’s keeping its options for this season open, so long as they can play a full schedule in 2020-21. That includes the possibility of games in July and August.

If it’s safe for fans to return to arenas in Canada by that time, it might make sense to move all 31 teams north of the border temporarily. Any player coming in from another country would quarantine for 14 days first.

Have each team assigned to a different Canadian city, preferably one with a medium- to large-sized arena. It would be a logistical nightmare, but at least it could provide some atmosphere for television.

Imagine the Pittsburgh Penguins playing home games in Sidney Crosby’s hometown of Halifax in a packed 10,000-seat arena. Or how about the St Louis Blues, a team with three Saskatchewan-born players, playing out of Saskatoon’s 15,000-seat arena?

Those communities would rally around those teams.

Isn’t that better than playing games in an empty arena south of the border, or being forced to cancel the remainder of the season entirely? Just an idea.

Let’s beef up the classic games on television

Maybe it’s just my search for a sense of normalcy, but I’ve found myself complaining about a lack of Canucks content with regards to classic games on television.

The Toronto Raptors and Blue Jays are well represented — but can we throw Canucks fans a bone here?

Sportsnet has the NHL rights, and they did show Game 7 between the Canucks and Flames from 1994 recently. Judging by the reaction online, fans loved it.

So why not do more of that?

They’ve got four regional channels, so you might as well load up Sportsnet Pacific with Canucks content.

Let’s see the entire 1994 Stanley Cup run. Then show me the 2011 run. Mix in some games from 1982 if they’re available. Let’s see some classic series from the West Coast Express era.

Show me the Sedins’ last home game.

I don’t have a television background, but I bet ratings would be better than the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling.

Just a thought.

Tryamkin available, but should we care?

Maybe the Nikita Tryamkin watch will provide us with some entertainment in the next few weeks.

His KHL contract expires in precisely five weeks, on April 30, at which point he is eligible to sign a deal with the Canucks.

Tryamkin’s agent, Todd Diamond, confirmed back in January that the 6-foot-8 defenceman would like to return to the NHL.

“The team that he left and the team that he would come back to are much different,” Diamond said at the time. “Things seem to be headed in the right direction. There’s a lot more talent to work with. I think that would allow Nikita to play his game and not feeling burdened by trying to do too much offensively.”

But that’s a double-edged sword.

Do the Canucks have room for Tryamkin, and if they do, at what price?

Tryamkin left the Canucks in 2017 as a 22-year-old defenceman with a ton of potential. But now? He’ll be 26 by the time next season begins (fingers crossed), so he should be a finished product.

All indications from Russia are that Tryamkin’s play dipped following an impressive first year back.

TikTok break

How great have Kevin Bieksa’s TikToks been?

 

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Canucks awards

Finally, if finishing the NHL season isn’t in the cards, here are my picks for the Canucks’ annual awards.

Most Valuable Player

Winner: Jacob Markstrom
Runners up: Elias Pettersson, JT Miller, Quinn Hughes

This one was difficult. Jacob Markstrom was sensational, posting a .918 save percentage and he belonged in the Vezina Trophy conversation. But through no fault of his own, Markstrom only started 43 of 69 games. Elias Pettersson (66 points) was probably their best forward, but JT Miller (72 points) led the team in scoring. But then again, Quinn Hughes (53 points) was important as well.

Unsung hero

Winner: Troy Stecher
Runners up: Tanner Pearson, Adam Gaudette

Troy Stecher is a fan favourite, but I think he’s overdue to win this award. He played his way up the lineup again this season, seeing time as Alex Edler’s defence partner. His ice time increases as the season goes on year after year, and that’s a testament to his importance.

Most exciting player

Winner: Elias Pettersson
Runners up: Bo Horvat, Quinn Hughes

Let’s not lose sight of the ridiculous plays Pettersson makes on a regular basis.

Best defenceman

Winner: Quinn Hughes
Runners up: Alex Edler, Chris Tanev

Easy choice.