Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day!

Here are some pictures and a short video from the fireworks in the Victoria harbour. I promised, didn’t I?

Canucks Make Moves

So far today, on the first day of free agency, the Vancouver Canucks have signed Dan Hamhuis, Manny Malhotra, Jeff Tambellini, and Joel Perrault.

Hamhuis is the big one. He gets 6 years at $4.5 million per year. He’ll be replacing Willie Mitchell, basically. The hope is for him to play a top-two role. He’s more defensive than offensive, but he has some offensive ability and he can skate and move the puck.

With Hamhuis, the Canucks’ current defensive line-up is Hamhuis, Ballard, Edler, Ehrhoff, Salo, Bieksa, Rome, O’Brien (pending a new contract), and then various prospects. That’s 8 proven NHL-ready defensemen, 6 of whom are earning $3 million or more. It’s likely one guy will be traded – the most likely is Bieksa – to save some cap space and make room for signing Mason Raymond, Tanner Glass, and Shane O’Brien. Look for Mike Gillis to pursue another third-line checking forward and a second- or third-round draft pick with that trade.

Manny Malhotra will likely be our new third-line center. He’s great at faceoffs and responsible defensively, which is exactly what’s needed for this team. That means Cody Hodgson, if he makes the team, will probably be playing the wing.

Tambellini and Perrault are depth signings to encourage competition for third- and fourth-line spots. The more players there are fighting for those spots, the better they’ll all have to play to stay there. Also, this gives the Canucks more insurance in case of injury.

Overall, I’m thrilled with the moves the Canucks have made. With a bit more cap management and continued development from our young players, we’re going to have a real shot at winning it all over the next few years, and our long-term future looks pretty bright, too.

Pre-Canada Day Fireworks

I forgot to take a picture or video, but last night there was a fireworks show at the end of the Victoria Seals baseball game, so a few friends and I went there at the end of the game so we could get in without a ticket. The fireworks were simple, but there were a lot of them. It was a pretty good show, overall.

As a bonus, it was a promo night for Subway, and they were handing out coupons for free subs on the way out. I managed to score two coupons, so hooray for free food!

I’ll get some pictures of the big-time fireworks tonight, hopefully. If it stops raining.

Cricket!?

Yesterday I went with a couple of friends to watch part of a cricket match. It was a rec league, and my friend knew some of the players, so I had the chance to learn the rules from a couple of people who actually knew what they were talking about.

I’m proud to say that I think I finally understand how cricket works. Mostly. It has to do with wearing white clothing and yelling “Howzat!?” every now and then. And hugging, apparently. Sometimes people run back and forth.

A curious people, the English.

NHL Free Agency

It’s almost July 1!

Now, Canada Day is cool and all, but I have to confess that I get more excited about NHL free agency. Player movement is always interesting, especially for someone like me: I’m a fan of just about every team in the NHL, and I love to see teams get better and try out new roster situations. In general, I think the offseason is a really optimistic time, and I love being optimistic about sports.

Keith Ballard
Keith Ballard, the newest Vancouver Canuck.

I’m primarily a Canucks fan, and my team has a lot to look forward to, with an offensive core in their prime and a handful of young forwards ready to prove themselves. The Sedins get better every single year; Kesler and Burrows are really coming into their own as Top 6 guys; Mason Raymond had a breakout year and, I think, has the ability to be even better; Mikael Samuelsson showed what he can do in an offensive system last year. Cody Hodgson should make the team this year, and Jordan Schroeder has an opportunity as well, though if we go for a more checking-oriented third line there may be less room for young playmakers.

We also have, essentially, five Top 4 defensemen going into next season. The addition of Keith Ballard, along with Sami Salo, Alex Edler, Christian Ehrhoff, and Kevin Bieksa, makes a really strong, deep blue line crew, backed up by Aaron Rome and Shane O’Brien. I still think we need a high-level shutdown guy to play with Edler or Ballard against the opposing top line, but we have lots of cap space for that if we can attract Volchenkov or maybe Hamhuis. It may be necessary to move out Bieksa to really get a Number 1 d-man, but even with the players we have now, I think we’re in solid shape.

In general free agency, Kovalchuk is the biggest question, I think. I hope he doesn’t go to the KHL: the Russian league is overpaying its players and suffering for it, and I don’t think adding a Kovalchuk-level salary to one of their teams would help that situation. I’ve heard that LA is a possibility for Kovalchuk, which I’d be really interested in. The Kings have a pretty good young core that should continue to get better; Kopitar and Kovalchuk would make a lethal combo, and Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson should continue to improve. (The question, of course, is whether they’ll improve enough to make up for the Kings’ weak goaltending… But maybe the Kings will sign Nabokov or Turco!)

Tampa Bay is another team that I think has a lot to look forward to. They keep loading up on good young players, and with Yzerman in charge, maybe they’ll start supporting those players properly and build a positive atmosphere and culture around their team again. Whether they decide to ship out Lecavalier’s massive salary or not, Stamkos, Downie, and Hedman give them an attractive future.

I can’t wait to see what Brian Burke does to get himself more media attention this summer. He’s going to end up with a first-line center, one way or another, I think, but the Maple Leafs will miss the playoffs next season and make them in 2012.

Edmonton is going to suck for two more years, but Steve Tambellini is a good GM. They’ll be a better franchise three years from now.

All in all, I’m really looking forward to July 1 and the week or so afterwards, and beyond that, October can’t come soon enough!

Giving Blood

I’m giving blood. Like right now. Seriously. As this gets posted, blood is running out of my arm and into a bag.

And I’m not even crying.

This is my second time. I should do it more, but a combination of laziness and irrationality generally conspire to keep my hemoglobin safe at home. I’m only here this time because my sister is starting a new running clinic to train for a half-marathon or some other form of craziness, and she asked me if I wanted to take her time slot.

But I’m glad I’m here.

Have you ever given blood? Do you do it often?

P.S. Lookit my arm!