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Linden Vey vs. a bunch of friggin' kids

If another young centre makes the Canucks, Vey is going to LOSE IT. (His job.)
Linden Vey skates
Linden Vey skates

They say whenever God closes a door he opens a window, and that's exactly what happened for Linden Vey when the door slammed on his dream of making Los Angeles Kings, and he found himself traded to the Canucks. (For a draft pick, which is like being traded for a lottery ticket. If my parents traded me for a lottery ticket, I'd be choked.)

Vey arrived in Vancouver to discover that God had cracked him a pretty big window. In the fall of 2014, an unproven Linden Vey joined the Canucks to find a depth chart so thin that he was already being considered for the second-line centre job out of training camp. That's thinner than this guy. Henrik Sedin's spot on the first line was written in ink, but after that? Vey's competition for one of three centre spots was the duo of Nick Bonino and Brad Richardson. 

It was pretty much perfect. First of all, those are very two beatable guys. Second of all, Vey didn't even have to beat either of them. There were three spots.

But a lot can change in a year. (It's why I always find those fan projections of what the Canucks will look like in, say, four years, where all the recent draftees eventually make the team, and no players are added through trades of free agency, such a waste of time.) 12 months later, Vey is back to win another training camp job. Neither Nick Bonino nor Brad Richardson are with the Canucks anymore. And yet, despite these subtractions, the depth chart is much more crowded. Crowded enough that a mediocre camp could, conceivably, slam the window shut for Vey.

Between Bo Horvat's surprise rookie season and the acquisition of Brandon Sutter, the second- and third-line spots appear to be off the table. This should leave the fourth-line job for Vey. But after Jim Benning's recent observations following the Young Stars tournament in Penticton, it's hardly a done deal. As Thomas Drance notes:

This is exciting news for the fans. The Canucks finally have a decent crop of young forward prospects. (We should probably give Benning some credit for that. But only some. He didn't draft Horvat or Cassels.) It's probably less exciting for Linden Vey, however, the guy now tasked with fending off an onslaught of talented children, most of whom happen to play his position. 

And specifically his position. Horvat and Sutter's jobs are in no present danger. The Canucks have pinned their hopes to both, and once you've become a corkboard for hope, you get a little bit of job security. But if either Cole Cassels or Jared McCann impresses enough to make the team out of camp, Vey will be the odd man out. 

(Sidenote: "odd man out" is the perfect phrase there. Thirteen being an odd number, the thirteenth forward is literally the odd man out. Isn't that neat?)

It really is amazing how quickly hockey ages a man. Linden Vey is 24. That's no longer young. Heck, it's almost "get those friggin' kids off my lawn" old. As an NHLer, it's about the age at which one has to start worrying about the generation coming up behind him. That is terrifying. I'm 30. I only started worrying about kids stealing my job, like, a few months ago. (And honestly, I still feel way more threatened by robots, especially since so much hockey writing already seems mindlessly programmed.) A year ago, Vey was staring at a depth chart so wide open he couldn't miss. Heck, he began last year on the first-unit powerplay. But only a year later, he runs the risk of being squeezed out. 

Vey knows the stakes are high. And as he explained to Ben Kuzma, he knew headed into the offseason. From The Province:

“It was basically, you’ve got your four months and it’s kind of do or die for me,” Vey admitted Monday following an an informal skate at the Britannia rink in Vancouver.

“This is the year I’ve got to prove to myself and everyone that I belong, and be a guy that the organization needs going forward. You only get so many opportunities and this has been my best summer in working on my fitness.

You only get so many opportunities. Vey knows a move could be swift. After all, Nick Bonino had a bad postseason -- six whole games' worth -- and that was enough for Jim Benning to decide it was time for him to go, after only 13 months as a Canuck.

But it gets worse for Vey. The fourth-line job he's trying to hold down isn't one he's particularly suited-for. “I think everybody will agree that I don’t lack the skills to play in the NHL," he told Kuzma, "but it’s the physical side of the game. I put in the time [building strength] because I have to be able to do a job against big centres.”

Still, don't think Vey is cracking under the added pressure. In fact, the way he spins it, this year is a better situation for him.

“This is the kind of a year I like going into and I feel confident,” said Vey. “Last year, there were a lot of expectations and this year it’s more myself putting expectations on me, and I think I can go about my business.

“Maybe last year I got too much opportunity at the start. Sometimes when you get it too quick, you can’t find your game and I was focusing more on who I was playing with and where I was playing rather than focusing on what you can control — and that’s how hard you’re playing.

Charming, but I'm gonna suggest this is little more than advanced hockeyspeak, which is nonsense. I have never once, ever, enjoyed the feeling of less job security. But whatever Vey needs to tell himself is fine by me. After all, he can't waste emotional energy worrying about losing his job. He needs that energy to fight for his job.