Canadian Corner – October 5, 2011.

In today’s compilation of notable NHL Canadian team news: Leafs coach Ron Wilson’s job could be on the line…Blake Wheeler hoping for a big season with the Jets…Oilers Tom Gilbert hopes to add grit to his game…Flames lose Mikael Backlund for six weeks…Wondering who’ll score for the Senators…The inspiring story of Vancouver’s Aaron Volpatti…Alexei Yemelin could be the odd man out on the Canadiens defense.

TORONTO SUN: This could be the make-or-break season for Ron Wilson’s tenure as Maple Leafs head coach.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s the final season of his contract with the Leafs, and if they miss the playoffs again, management will have little choice but to make a coaching change.

Wheeler looking for a big season in Winnipeg.

WINNIPEG SUN: Jets forward Blake Wheeler is hoping to build on his strong finish from last season, when he had 17 points in 23 games with the Thrashers after he was dealt to the club near the trade deadline in February from Boston.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wheeler looked good in preseason play, and could be poised for a breakout performance.

EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers defenseman Tom Gilbert will try to add a more physical edge to his game this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given how thin the Oilers blueline is, and with Ryan Whitney sidelined to start the season, Gilbert will be under pressure to step up his performance.

CALGARY SUN: The Flames have lost center Mikael Backlund for the next six weeks with a broken finger on his left hand.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s a significant setback for Backlund, who was expected to start this season on the Flames top line. He’s expected to be replaced for the time being by David Moss.

OTTAWA CITIZEN: Wayne Scanlan looks at the Senators lineup and wonders where the offense will be coming from this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Unless some of the young Senators can cash in this season, the Senators will essentially be a one-line team, looking toward the Spezza line for the bulk of their offense.

VANCOUVER PROVINCE: Ben Kuzma chronicles the inspirational story of Canucks winger Aaron Volpatti, who overcame serious burns to 35 percent of his body back in 2005, but overcame the odds to play his way into the NHL.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It remains to be seen how long Volpatti’s NHL career lasts, but the fact he’s made it this far is a tremendous achievement.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: Raphael Diaz has outplayed Alexei Yemelin for one of the final spots on the Canadiens blueline, leaving Yemelin for now their seventh defenseman.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Yemelin was the highly touted defenseman the Canadiens were expecting to crack their lineup this season, but Diaz’s solid play with Jaroslav Spacek in preseason could see the Russian’s NHL dreams perhaps put on hold for this season.


  1. Training camp for the Canucks was all about auditioning and putting together a 4th line and getting veterans rested/healed and ready for the regular season. Volpatti, Steven Pinizzotto,Victor Oreskovich, and Mike Duco have all looked okay to good playing the wing with Maxim Lapierre. I wonder if Dale Weise is the answer to the Canuck’s need for grit, at least he seems a bit more willing do drop the gloves if needed- even though he isn’t really known as a good scrapper.

  2. I realize the Diaz outplayed Yemelin but when you look at the Habs blueline, it is a pretty passive and small group. We will see how the season unfolds but the lost some size with Hamrlik and grit with Wizniewsky. It doesn’t leave me feeling confident.