Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/5/2009 (4476 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
AT times, these days, watching the Manitoba Moose is kinda like witnessing metamorphosis at work.
Call it biology on ice.
Indeed, if Darwin had been a puckhead, he'd have those hand-drawn examples of evolution in a book called The Origin of an
And at no time is this natural selection more prevalent than the ongoing post-season, the professional game's version of the Galapagos Islands.
Out in Vancouver, there are the butterflies; an Alex Burrows or Ryan Kesler or Kevin Bieksa, who have each evolved into front-line NHL mainstays with the parent Canucks, fast becoming Stanley Cup playoff darlings out on the West Coast.
In Winnipeg, meanwhile, there are the pupae, if you will, the likes of Moose bluechip prospects Michael Grabner, Cory Schneider or Alex Bolduc; cocooned in the AHL, where they either emerge with wings or not.
Then there's the caterpillars, of course, who go by the names of Guillaume Desbiens, Dusty Collins or Matt Pope, to name just a few; the front end of the Darwinian drawing board who are only taking the first steps of their professional journey.
You see, in watching the Canucks' and Manitoba's post-seasons unfold, you can actually see the threads of evolution running between the two organizations. In Burrows, you have the once unknown and unheralded Moose of a few years back now on a line with the Sedin twins in Vancouver, where the former just earned himself a four-year, $8-million contract extension. That's one wealthy butterfly, folks.
But then the next night back in Winnipeg you see the equally unheralded Collins, Desbiens and Pope -- AHL rookies all -- making their first pro steps, while Schneider, Grabner and Bolduc continue the career cycle in chrysalis.
And that's not even counting the far-off players in the Moose sights -- toiling in college, junior or the ECHL -- that are yet to be discovered larvae.
From places unknown to Winnipeg to Vancouver, the metamorphosis continues unabated.
So just what goes through the mind of the creator (small 'c') these days, whose fingerprints are all over the entire process?
"You watch the Canucks game based on it's the Canucks game," Moose GM Craig Heisinger began, prior to Friday night's series opener against the Grand Rapids Griffins.
"I can't tell you that I watch based on the progress of those players (former Moose players). Those guys have come through here and moved on and they're Vancouver Canucks now."
That's why even as the Moose chase their Calder Cup aspirations, Heisinger never loses sight of the bigger picture, where every butterfly out requires at least 10 larvae in. The evolution never stops. It cannot, or extinction is assured.
"We're constantly talking about maybe that guy can play (in the NHL) someday, that's playing for us now," Heisinger noted.
"Or you used good examples with Desbiens and Pope and Dusty Collins (entering the system). But it's correct to say there are other guys who haven't even been here yet who we think are progressing in the ECHL.
"Who knows? It's all about opportunity and guys taking advantage of the opportunity. For every Matt Pope and Guillaume Desbiens and Dusty Collins there's probably 50 guys who haven't taken advantage of their opportunity; whether it's lack of ability, or not working hard enough."
Of course, that's the survival of the fittest, as Darwin concluded. But let's face it, some players, like first-rounders such as Schneider and Kesler, have the good fortune of skipping the larva stage altogether. Natural selection has its quirks, too.
Still, the Origin of an NHL Player can often remain a mysterious study of evolution.
Perhaps that's why when the metamorphosis is complete, it's the true caterpillars like Burrows and hardnosed Canucks' teammate Rick Rypien who inched along in the minors who seem to grow into the most colourful butterflies of all.
Yet it can be fascinating to watch regardless.
After all, maybe one day a 23-yearold kid like Collins, the 163rd overall draft pick (Tampa Bay) in 2004, will be skating with the likes of the Sedins. It could happen because it has happened.
And for the record, Collins scored his first AHL goal just last December, but not with the Moose.
You see, Collins at the time was a member of the Manchester Monarchs.
Hmmm, a hockey team named after a species of butterfly.
Perhaps. As always, it ultimately depends on what emerges from the cocoon.