Botchford: Will the Canucks' gambles pay off long-term?

 

The cards came up aces — re: Ben Hutton — in Wednesday’s win over Calgary; now it’s a long-term game

 
 
 
 
Six months ago, Ben Hutton couldn’t even make the Utica Comets. On Wednesday, he had a solid outing in his first NHL game with the Vancouver Canucks.
 

Six months ago, Ben Hutton couldn’t even make the Utica Comets. On Wednesday, he had a solid outing in his first NHL game with the Vancouver Canucks.

Photograph by: Derek Leung, Getty Images

More on This Story

 

Ben Hutton was trying to play it cool.

It was at the end of the exhibition season when he was called in for a meeting with the coach and general manager.

He knew what it could mean. He strained to muzzle that billboard smile of his, and managed to do it just long enough to get out of there with the exhilarating news.

“But when I got out, I pumped my fist and yelled ‘yes,’” Hutton recalled.

For Hutton, it was Step 1. Step 2 was Wednesday, the opening of the regular season.

When that one was over, a 5-1 Canucks win, an amped-up Alex Burrows shouted to the young rookie.

“Thataway, Hutt — that was one helluva game.”

It was. There were flubs. Hutton was the one who was out of position on Calgary’s only goal, which forced Luca Sbisa into trouble. There were anxious moments too, especially at the start.

“I was trying to keep the nerves out of the way, but I can’t lie,” Hutton said. “I was really quiet before the game.

“And when I got out there, it was the first or second shift, I kind of fumbled the puck behind the net and I was like ‘Oh (crap).’

“But the nerves, they slowly went away.”

You could say the same for many of the fans watching this team.

To be real, no one had a clue what the Canucks would do this regular season. No one.

Now, we know they are capable of going into Calgary, gut-punching the Flames and stealing their lunch money, because they did all of that in a 5-1 stampede Wednesday.

It won’t be that easy Saturday. Disgusted is not too strong a word for the way Bob Hartley looked after the game. He is going to cattle prod these guys leading up to the rematch.

Despite the win, heading into this home opener, the Canucks are still a team splattered in question marks. They are literally everywhere.

The one spot they thought they had solid was in net. But now Jacob Markstrom is out for at least three weeks with a hamstring injury, meaning the unheralded Richard Bachman is the backup. Great, just in time for back-to-back games Monday and Tuesday.

Signing Bachman as the third goalie was just one of many gambles the Canucks took in the summer.

This is a team that came into this season betting Sven Baertschi is a top-six winger.

This is a team that, for now, is banking on Brandon Sutter not only being a top-six forward, but a productive a first-line winger.

There’s Bo Horvat, who the team is hoping can take a huge leap in deployment responsibilities while putting up big-boy points.

There’s Adam Cracknell, who the Canucks need to be much more than just a journeyman and fringe NHL player

Then, there’s Jared McCann, armed with a fantastic shot and 185 pounds, who the Canucks are counting on to navigate the bruising Western Conference for a least a couple of weeks.

And there’s Hutton, who the Canucks are betting is ready for big time, just six months after he couldn’t crack the Utica Comets.

All of those gambles looked promising in Calgary, and that was a pretty important test.

“It’s different when the games matter,” Jannik Hansen said. “I think we’ve seen a few times in Vancouver when guys have extremely good pre-seasons, then as soon as the regular season starts, they falter.

“But the young guys (this year) are continuing on the same path they were on.”

People will say we won’t know what the Canucks are until 20 games into the season.

I’m pretty sure you’ll get the biggest clue next week when they go to California to play the L.A. Kings and Anaheim Ducks in back-to-back games.

“It’s different once you start playing the big teams in the West,” Alex Burrows said. “There’s the Flames, but there’s also the Kings, Anaheim and St. Louis.

“That’s when you’ll get a good feel for what these players can bring to our team.

“In pre-season, there are a lot of young guys. The systems are off. It’s scrambly. It’s not as systematic as it is once you start playing those California teams and the top teams in the West.”

jbotchford@theprovince.com

twitter.com/@botchford

 
 
 
Font:
 
 
 
 
Six months ago, Ben Hutton couldn’t even make the Utica Comets. On Wednesday, he had a solid outing in his first NHL game with the Vancouver Canucks.
 

Six months ago, Ben Hutton couldn’t even make the Utica Comets. On Wednesday, he had a solid outing in his first NHL game with the Vancouver Canucks.

Photograph by: Derek Leung, Getty Images

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We encourage all readers to share their views on our articles and blog posts. We are committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion, so we ask you to avoid personal attacks, and please keep your comments relevant and respectful. If you encounter a comment that is abusive, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment box to report spam or abuse. We are using Facebook commenting. Visit our FAQ page for more information.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Your voice