Chicago Blackhawks v Vancouver Canucks

Fernando Pisani should embrace reality and accept a training camp tryout

Confidence is a funny thing. While just about any hockey player probably grapples with fears and doubts from time to time, some combination of luck, courage, talent, hard work and confidence propelled them to the NHL level. Yet as pride and confidence might help a previously obscure player gain his 15 minutes of fame, those same thought processes can also be his undoing during times of uncertain employment. (Especially when good old-fashioned greed enters the picture.)

In most peoples’ eyes, five years isn’t a long time. The reality of professional sports, however, is a lot can change in five years. Just look at the career of Jonathan Cheechoo; he scored a league-leading 56 goals in the 2005-06 season but now finds himself mired in minor league irrelevance.

Such a predicament shouldn’t be lost on one-hit wonder Fernando Pisani. The marginal winger scored 14 goals and 18 points in 24 games during the 2006 playoffs for the Edmonton Oilers, becoming something of a folk hero in the process. That outburst ended up being a mirage, as he turned in rapidly decreasing numbers* with the Oilers after signing a four-year, $10 million on the heels of that outlier of a postseason run. That contract finally expired last summer, so the Chicago Blackhawks signed him for one year at the league minimum. They got what they paid for, too, as Pisani generated just 16 points in 60 regular season games and zero in three postseason contests.

Considering how far his career has fallen, you’d think Pisani would take what he can get. The 34 year old forward told Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal that he’s not interested in a training camp tryout or a sojourn in one of the European leagues, though.

“Going to camp (without a contract) isn’t a situation I want to be in. I’ll hang tough and see what happens in the next couple of weeks or so,” said Pisani, who has had his nose pressed up against the NHL glass for months, but nobody will let him in, or sign him.

“You never know what’ll happen in the summer. Early on, there were a lot of trades and action, but there hasn’t been much activity the last two or three weeks,” he said.


When asked if he might consider Europe, Pisani said: “No door is really closed.”

It’s perfectly fine that Pisani wants to handle this situation on his own terms, I’m just not sure he’s taking the right course of action. While he showed a willingness to kill penalties last season for Chicago (1:25 shorthanded minutes per game), Second City Hockey points out that he wasn’t a very effective penalty killer. He’s also been hounded by injuries, missing 155 regular season games since his magical playoff run in 2006.

If his last few seasons are an accurate portrayal of what he brings to the table, then Pisani is an aging winger with little upside and isn’t a particularly strong defensive player. My guess would be that his best chance to stick with an NHL team would be to change some minds in training camp – or better yet, have a hot string of preseason games – but the former Oilers forward looks primed to opt to hope for a break or two.

Then again, he got really lucky during one summer just five years ago, so maybe the bounces will go his way one more time.

* – Since signing that contract, Pisani scored 28 points in 2006-07, 22 in 07-08, 15 in 08-09 and 8 in 09-10 before departing for Chicago.

Canucks spoil Ducks’ home opener via shootout

Adam Cracknell, Ryan Miller
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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Ryan Miller and the Vancouver Canucks have already found a groove just three games into the regular season. The Anaheim Ducks are still looking for a way to get their offense going.

Radim Vrbata and Alex Burrows scored in the shootout, and the Canucks spoiled Anaheim’s home opener with a 2-1 victory Monday night.

Miller made 28 saves and Adam Cracknell scored in regulation for Vancouver, which beat the Ducks for just the third time in their last 12 meetings.

Vancouver improved to 2-0 on the road in the young season, with Miller yielding just one goal in each game. That’s encouraging to the veteran, who played in only four games after Feb. 22 last season while dealing with a knee injury.

“I’m just trying to go out there and battle and compete,” said Miller, who stopped a third-period redirection by Carl Hagelin with his mask. “That was my mindset coming off an injury. That’s what it really comes down to, getting back the focus early on. I didn’t play hockey for a while. The technical stuff I worked on this summer and I pay attention to in practice.”

Even with twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin combining for just one shot, the Canucks won the new season’s first meeting between the Pacific Division’s top two teams last year. Anaheim won its third straight division title, while Vancouver finished a surprising second before losing in the opening round of the playoffs.

Sami Vatanen scored and Frederik Andersen stopped 24 shots for the Ducks, who have scored just one goal while going winless in the first two games of a season that begins with Stanley Cup aspirations.

Anaheim was shut out in San Jose on Saturday in its opener before returning to Honda Center for its first real game on home ice since Game 7 of the Western Conference finals, when Chicago advanced to win the Stanley Cup.

Kevin Bieksa played nearly 24 1/2 minutes in his second game with the Ducks. Anaheim acquired the veteran defenseman from Vancouver last summer after he played 10 years with the Canucks, who drafted him in 2001. Bieksa was reunited with Ryan Kesler, the longtime Vancouver forward who moved to Anaheim before last season.

“We fought back a lot better than we did in San Jose,” Bieksa said. “So we need to keep building on this in the rest of this homestand here. If we do that, we’re going to be all right.”

After the Ducks failed to score on a power play during their first official taste of 3-on-3 overtime hockey, Vrbata and Burrows got stuttering, halting shots past Andersen, who stopped Burrows’ shot before watching it trickle under him.

“I’ve done that move a few times against a few goalies, but I don’t think I’ve ever done it against Freddie,” Burrows said. “So I tried it, and I’m lucky it went in tonight. It hit his stick and trickled in.”

Jakob Silfverberg scored in the shootout for the Ducks, who lost their home opener for just the second time in six seasons. Anaheim’s talented offensive players aren’t clicking so far, but nobody is panicking yet.

“I think we’re doing things the right way now,” Vatanen said. “We battled hard. We got some good chances. The season is long, so we’re going the right way.”

Both teams opened at a furious pace, with end-to-end chances throughout. After a scoreless first period, Vatanen got the Ducks’ first goal of the season when his long, low shot went through Mike Santorelli‘s screen.

Cracknell evened it later in the period with a sharp-angled shot that somehow deflected off Andersen’s shoulder or stick and landed behind the goalie. The journeyman got his first regular-season NHL goal since April 4, 2013, and just the seventh of his 85-game NHL career.

“Pretty fortunate goal on their part,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said.

NOTES: A small group of vocal protesters gathered outside Honda Center to call for the suspension of Ducks D Clayton Stoner, who faces charges in Canada related to a 2013 grizzly bear hunt. … Cracknell hadn’t scored a goal in his last 49 regular-season games, although he got a postseason goal in 2014 for St. Louis.

Coming Tuesday: Dan Boyle, $4.5M healthy scratch

Brad Marchand, Dan Boyle

Few things say “Oops, bad signing” quite like putting a really expensive player in street clothes (without an injury being involved).

The Philadelphia Flyers set quite the high bar in that regard, but the New York Rangers can’t laugh too much. Not with Dan Boyle expected to be a healthy scratch against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.

The word from the Bergen Record is that Dylan McIlrath will draw into the Rangers lineup in Boyle’s space, although Kevin Klein will take over Boyle’s role on the power play.

Let’s face the facts. At 39, Boyle may still boast some zip on offense, but maybe not enough to justify an everyday role.

It’s not the first time the Rangers have decided to make the difficult, awkward season to phase a big name out as he approaches age 40.

Even if it’s just a momentary situation, one cannot help but wonder if Boyle’s career is screeching to halt much like Martin St. Louis’ did in 2014-15 (though the latter’s decline was more sudden).

On the bright side, it sounds like Boyle has a side job lined up with Faith No More.