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To play or not to play? Results due soon, Horvat's back & Canucks awards

July 10, 2020, 2:39 PM ET [630 Comments]
Carol Schram
Vancouver Canucks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The big day is here. The voting window ends Friday for NHL players, and the Board of Governors will also be convening to vote on Friday from their side.

If both sides pass the agreement — the return-to-play plan, plus the extension to the CBA — then hockey is back for real and training camps will open on Monday.

If the agreement is rejected — then what? I guess the two sides go back to the virtual negotiating table, as they do when the teachers or the auto workers or the garbage collectors say no.

Players are voting electronically, by secret ballot. But there does seem to be a strong sense of optimism that the deal will go through.

Obviously, that whole situation serves as a very important background for the rest of the news surrounding the Canucks and the hockey world.

Bo Horvat is now back in town, following the birth of his son Gunnar, and took some time to chat with the media from his quarantine hotel room on Thursday.

He got back to Vancouver on Sunday, then went through the testing protocols and hit the ice on Tuesday with a group that could be identified as "the Canadians who flew in from out east."

That includes Tanner Pearson, Zack MacEwen and another new dad, Antoine Roussel, along with goalies Louis Domingue and Michael DiPietro and a couple of the blueline Black Aces — Ashton Sautner and Guillaume Brisebois.

The interview is well worth watching in its entirety. Horvat goes into lots of detail about the stress he felt surrounding the timing of Gunnar's birth — and thankfully, baby took it into his own hands to make things easier with his early arrival. He also says that even with the issue of his wife's pregnancy, he never thought for a second about opting out of playing — and that the time apart from his new son will all be made worthwhile when he gets to put him in the Stanley Cup in a few months' time.

Horvat also said that he was skating three or four days a week while he was home in Ontario, so he feels fit and ready to go.

Also, the Canucks announced the winners of their team awards on Wednesday:

Jacob Markstrom won MVP and the Three Stars Award. J.T. Miller won Unsung Hero and Leading Scorer. Elias Pettersson won Most Exciting Player, Quinn Hughes won Best Defenseman and Alex Edler was named the first winner of the Daniel & Henrik Sedin Award for community service.

I did my award voting back in April. Click here for a reminder.

I agreed on three out of four, picking Markstrom for MVP, Pettersson for Most Exciting and Quinn for Best Defenseman. But I had Adam Gaudette as my Unsung Hero, with Tyler Motte and Tanner Pearson as my runners-up.

Nary a mention of J.T. Miller — and yet, I don't mind him as Unsung Hero at all, even if he did end up leading the team in scoring.

Given the outcry around the hockey world when Jim Benning traded for him at the draft, there's no doubt that he performed above expectations. Perhaps an "Overachiever" award would have been more apt — even in a year when many Canucks players exceeded expectations.

And while some will argue that the main complaint about Benning's deal was that he overpaid to a cap-strapped Lightning team that needed to unload a salary like Miller's, I feel like Miller's own career arc took a downward turn in Tampa during 2018-19. Capped off, of course, by that horrible first-round sweep at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

I'll take the voting results to mean that fans had zero expectation, when Miller was acquired, that he'd turn into the stud that he has been for Vancouver.

And while I'm on the topic of unsung heroes, props to Tyler Motte for using his quarantine time productively and figuring out how to make a video montage of his own return-to-play journey.

And one final note to wrap up today — it took Judd Brackett all of nine days to find a new job.

A scout doesn't exactly change the fabric of the play-in series, but I'm sure it adds a little extra zip to the sense of rivalry in some fans' minds, long before the games actually begin.

We're in a unique time period now, where players' contracts have been extended to cover the summer/fall playoffs but lots of front-office deals expired on June 30. The Carolina Hurricanes chose not to renew the contract of their Senior VP of Hockey Operations, Rick Dudley, at a time when there has to be a lot of work to do, getting ready for their play-in series against the New York Rangers.

And the Rangers themselves are now one assistant short after Lindy Ruff joined the New Jersey Devils on Thursday. As I wrote in this article, it's not clear if Ruff's contract was up or if he got permission from the Rangers to interview in Jersey. Either way, it's a strange turn of events with the Rangers due to play in a few weeks and the Devils off the ice until, probably, December.

I wonder if we'll see more moves at the NHL coach/executive level, although I feel like the window is now quite brief. Teams are required to submit their 52-person 'bubble' list to the league not long after the CBA is ratified, and that includes players, coaches and team staff. Once you're in, you're in, I imagine, though once teams start getting eliminated, the game of music chairs can start up again.
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