Jannik Hansen may be the second Canuck going to play in Europe, but, unlike Dale Weise, his announcement didn’t get any laughs.
That’s because Hansen, who will play in Finland, is the first Vancouver player to sign on for some elite hockey overseas.
Sorry Weise, not even Daniel Sedin could hold back chortling when asked about the Dutch hockey league you’re in.
Even at two, however, the Canucks have the fewest NHL players in Europe. The league average is six to seven. Three Western Conference contenders, Detroit, St. Louis and San Jose, have at least 11.
That’s a significant core of players who will have had a month or two of professional games under their skates if hockey starts in December.
And that threatens to be something of an advantage over the Canucks, who, even with a level playing field, tend to start seasons shuffling, often like they’re in potato sacks.
“We always talk about how you can practice as much as you want, and you can spend as much time as you want in the gym, but nothing compares to game speed and nothing will prepare you for game speed except games,” Manny Malhotra said.
“Those guys playing over there, definitely have the edge, in terms of staying sharp with their skills. Their cardio will be up there. They will be sharp and in the game.”
CUP FINAL FATIGUE
There are reasons why the Canucks have so few players leaving the continent.
For one, go back to the 2010-11 run to the Stanley Cup final. Many of the regulars logged 107 games played, including playoffs. The grind left them emotionally stale and physically bankrupt. Their offseason was down to two months.
And last year, even as they continued regular season success, the Canucks never looked fresh. They had a worse-for-wear feel, playing like a team which never fully recovered, and ultimately disappointed.
So, when the lockout became a reality, many of them were more than willing to take another month off without games.
In addition, this isn’t the youngest team in the league. Their priorities have changed. They have families.
Many of them have two kids or more. Many thought it was a no-brainer when given a choice of shipping off to Europe or staying home and being a father.
“It’s funny, because things change after you spend four or five months with your kids every day,” Roberto Luongo explained. “When you leave for a couple of days, it becomes really hard. They miss you at home a lot.
“I’m at the point in my career where I’ve been in the league a long time. I have two young kids. My daughter is in preschool.
“For me, to pick up and go over there for a few months by myself is not worth leaving my family, not in the big scheme of things.”
Luongo is skating a couple days a week in Florida. Malhotra is here with a handful of Canucks who have stayed on in Vancouver.
One of them, Cory Schneider, is considering Europe. He may have an opportunity to play in Switzerland. But the Swiss league is about to take an extended break, and he’s not likely to pull the trigger on any deal until the second week of November.