By Josh Plummer
Rumours about Bryan Smolinski being moved to Vancouver were swirling for a few days prior to yesterday's announcement...or announcements.
The deal broke all over the internet in the early afternoon but there wasn't confirmation from the Canucks or the NHL until hours later. In the race to break the trade - some sites were almost left with egg on their faces while the NHL confirmed Vancouver had enough cap space to swing the deal after placing Ryan Kesler
on long term injury.
But in the end, everything worked out for everybody - especially the Canucks.
The loss of Kesler has left a glaring hole at center ice. It might even be argued the penalty-kill has fallen off it's stringent pace of consistent kills because Vancouver have given up power-play goals in four straight games.
We all know how important special teams will be coming down the stretch and hopefully into the playoffs. Smolinski (Smoke) can play in every situation and will add much needed versatility in whichever role coach Alain Vigneault chooses to use him.
An interesting tidbit about Smolinski is that he's played with Roberto Luongo
on the New York Islanders and Markus Naslund with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the mid 90's.
"Vancouver has a fantastic goaltender," said Smolinski. "I watched Roberto come in when we were on the Island together. I knew there was something special there and to watch him blossom, I'm sure it's been great for him - but especially for Vancouver."
Roger that, Bryan.
The addition of Smolinski gives the Canucks a lot more flexibility with their forward lines - especially when it comes to who plays with Naslund.
What does Smoke think about getting the chance to play with Nazzy?
"Pretty cool - Markus is a world class player," Smolinski said yesterday. "He's a guy who makes the players around him very good and that's why he's at an elite level. I played with Markus in Pittsburgh and I could see the greatness that he had back then."
Smolinski endeared himself to almost every Canuck fan on the West Coast when he was asked about leaving the Blackhawks to join Vancouver in their hunt to return to the playoffs - a hunt he was used to with his previous club, the Ottawa Senators.
"We all know Vancouver is a more beautiful city than Ottawa," he said with a smile. "To be in the heart of it all in the West excites me very much."
Now there's a player who I'll have no trouble cheering for.