It’s been a whirlwind of a past few weeks, but finally some questions have been answered. The Canucks made a coaching change on November 27th, officially naming Brad Moran the new head coach of the Calgary Canucks. Not only is there a new face behind the bench, but the Canucks have made a flurry of moves since the changes behind the bench. The rebuild has pressed forward over recent weeks, and a lot of times teams who are not in position to really compete in the spring will look to move veteran players to allow young players more ice time. The Canucks parted ways with a couple of long term member of the team and community. In 3 deals involving 4 teams, the Canucks parted ways with Max Struss, Tyler Petrie and now former captain, Cooper Johnson. It’s always tough to say goodbye to guys who have given the organization a lot, and worn letters for a proud organization, but the junior hockey cycle demands these moves.
The Canucks got a good return in a tough situation, and moved players to competitive team, conveniently in the North Division. Korbyn Chabot joins the blue and green via Drayton Valley, the 19-year-old has a year of AJHL experience and joins a growing group of players. The Fort McMurray Oil Barons parted ways with 2 young players in exchange for Struss. Sean McCloskey plays a gritty style that’s tough to play against and can drive opponents crazy by the looks of things early in Calgary, and he already has 2 seasons of experience as a 18 year old. You can’t teach experience, look for him to play a pivotal role down the stretch. The second player coming south, is Jackson Verstraete. A member of the Canucks staff mentioned him specifically standing out prior to our broadcast vs Whitecourt, and he did not disappoint. Verstraete picked up 2 assists in that 3-1 win at home, including a beautiful feed to Scott McKenzie for the game winner. He couldn’t find his offensive touch in Fort McMurray, but you have to feel like more minutes and more opportunity will help this player.
Since the coaching change things have leveled off for the Canucks. Gone are the days of consistent blow outs, which plagued the team early on. That has a lot to do with the players developing and learning the pace of junior A hockey, credit both staffs for that. Brad Moran has made some changes though, I notice more of an offensive push and more aggressive fore-checking. Effort has never been an issue in this group, even through early season woes, but execution has failed them from time to time. On Friday at the Ken Bracko the game seemed simplified, and the Canucks held the opponent to just 24 shots. When you play a safe game like that, you give your goalie a good chance to win you a game and that’s what Brett Balas did once again. The goaltending situation has been interesting all year, we’ve yet to see which way Moran leans in terms of a definitive starter.
The Canucks play a hand full of games at home before Christmas, and the world famous Macs Midget Tournament takes over the Ken Bracko Arena. This next stretch will be fun to watch, the team is in every game they play right now. They still might be one of the youngest groups in the AJHL, but they are learning and developing quickly. In each game there are good signs, scores are lower, shot clock is more in check and most importantly, the team is out working the opposition. The lead up to Christmas will be fun, so tune in to the games on My Hockey TV, or come on down to the Ken Bracko Arena.