Saturday, October 9, 2010

2010-2011 Vancouver Canucks Preview

Who knew God would look so tired all the time?

Last Year's Results

49 wins, 28 losses, 5 OTL, 103 points, 5th overall in the league

Team Analysis

The Vancouver Canucks emerged from a dark ages of bust prospects and illogical hockey decisions to enter the realm of the elite under the guise of GM Mike Gillis who's instituted several innovations brand new not just to hockey but in pro sports at large. Gillis has also made a number of key moneypuck decisions to supplement the depth of this team and address the weaknesses. The Vancouver Canucks have been the pick by a lot of the hockey media to be the Stanley Cup winner this season. However after choking dramatically in two straight post-seasons to the Chicago Blackhawks the Canucks are at the tipping point of whether or not they're worthy of the hype. The question for the Canucks this season will be can they finally make it the promised land on their 40th anniversary as a team?

The Canucks are led up front by two of the most talented players in the league who also happen to be twins. Daniel and Henrik Sedin have a freaky hockey IQ and ESP for one another that enables them to have perhaps the finest chemistry of any duo in hockey. Henrik Sedin emerged last season as perhaps the top player in the world becoming the first Canuck to ever win the Art Ross and Hart trophies. Henrik is a brilliant playmaking center who's dangerous every time the puck is on his stick. Henrik also developed a decent shot last season setting a career mark in goals with 29 while dominating the passing game with 83 assists. Daniel is a scoring winger who also has a freaky ability to distribute the puck and is the shooter of the two possessing a deadly wrist shot while developing an impressive slap shot over the off-season. Daniel still managed to score 85 points despite missing 19 games last year. The Sedins are arguably the best hockey duo in the world looking more like magicians than hockey players when they're on the ice and the scary thing is they've gotten incrementally better each season. Look for both to shatter the 100 point barrier if they can remain healthy. Complimenting the Sedins will be agitating grinder Alex Burrows who's been the foretold triplet after a lot of failed experiments trying to find the right compliment to the Sedins. Burrows is a gritty winger who's made his career on an insane work ethic working his way from the ECHL to play on arguably the best line in the NHL. Burrows has developed quite a wrist shot and has the intelligence to get himself into scoring position while thriving in the Sedins cycling game. Burrows eclipsed the 30 goal plateau last season for the first time in his career and he routinely notches over 100 penalty minutes but Burrows will sadly miss the first two to three months of the season.

Ryan Kesler has gone from whipping boy to fan favorite in his time in Vancouver resulting in his signing of a fat five year contract last year. Kesler has made his career on hard work and bravado which resulted in his exploding offensively last year with 75 points and eclipsing the 100 penalty minute mark. The perennial Selke candidate will once again be relied upon to carry the second line and contribute his gritty two-way game. It might be a little optimistic to expect him to repeat his offensive totals from last season but Kesler is the type of player you go to war with and he'll be relied upon to play in virtually every situation this season for the Canucks. 25-year old Mason Raymond has had a surprising pro career so far going from relative unknown draftee to crafty scoring winger. The progression of Mason Raymond has been impressive as he broke in as a fast unpolished kid who didn't look like he belonged in the league. However Raymond has quietly blossomed into one of the fastest skaters in the league and a very shifty goal scorer. Raymond announced his presence to the league last year with a 25 goal 53 point campaign and will look to improve on those numbers this year. Keep an eye on this kid because he has the potential to break 30 goals. Mikael Samuelsson was one of GM Mike Gillis' moneypuck signings coming to the Canucks from the Red Wings with the promise of an expanded role. Samuelsson didn't disappoint scoring 30 goals in a complimentary role for a thrifty 2.5 million cap hit. Samuelsson believes in scoring by volume of shots as he's one of the most potent triggermen on this team. Samuelsson also offers a respectable two-way game and can play on the dark side if the need arises. The 33-year old Swede also has clicked with the Sedins in the past and will look to fill in for Alex Burrows on the top line until he returns from injury on.

The Canucks got an entire new third line this off-season. Probably the most impactful of these will be the signing of Manny Malhotra who'll aid a penalty kill that had some issues last season. Malhotra is a capable defensive center who is adept at locking down a defensive zone and can play a physical game. Malhotra also is one of the better face-off men in the league while contributing a respectable amount of points for a bottom sixer and is also quite versatile being able to shift to either wing. Raffi Torres was another moneypuck signing by GM Mike Gillis coming to Vancouver in hopes of a bounce back season after playing for some miserable teams the last few years. Torres is a capable grinder who plays a straight forward gritty game that involves his crashing the net and getting his nose dirty in the corners. Torres also has a respectable amount of offensive pop having eclipsed the 20 goal mark three times in his career. Torres will be bouncing between the second and third line this year and will be relied upon to add a physical element to the bottom six that was lacking last year. Likely playing the opposite wing will be the great Dane Jannik Hansen who's developed into a toolbox player for the Canucks. The 24-year old Hansen has an impressive set of wheels and is one of the best forecheckers in the league. While Hansen has hockey IQ in spades the offensive side of his game hasn't quite developed yet. Look for him to bounce between the third and fourth line this year.

Rounding out the Canucks forwards will be surprise grinder Alex Bolduc who won the fourth line center job out of camp and looks to be an Alex Burrows clone with a similar hard work ethic and journey to the NHL. Training camp invitee Peter Schaefer won a contract and will look to be a tool box player for the Canucks while helping out on the penalty kill. A Canuck retread, Schaefer can also pop a few points from the bottom six and will likely compete with Jannik Hansen for third line minutes when Burrows returns from injury. Tanner Glass is the prototypical grinder in that he does everything you want in a fourth liner. Glass plays a fearless kamikaze style while offering protection for his linemates as evidenced by the 15 fights he was a participant in last season. Rick Rypien is arguably the best pound for pound fighter in the league having destroyed players a good 10 inches bigger and 60 pounds heavier than himself in fisticuffs. Rypien also plays a respectable defensive game and is decent on the forecheck. Look for Rypien to be a fixture on the fourth line if he can maintain his health. Gritty power forward Guillaume Desbiens has worked his way up through the organization making the team out of training camp and will look to fill in as a depth forward when needed.

The Canucks have arguably the deepest defense in the league having signed one of the most coveted free agent defensemen this off-season and trading for a premiere physical defenseman. Hometown boy Dan Hamhuis signed with the Canucks this off-season after being phased out of Nashville's plans. Hamhuis shows the potential to be an excellent top pairing defenseman and should enjoy a bigger role on the Canucks as he'll be relied upon to carry the first pairing while playing a shutdown role in key defensive situations. Hamhuis plays an intelligent three zone game that's marked with an occasional big hip check. Keith Ballard was brought to the Canucks in an off-season trade with the Florida Panthers to add a physical element to the blue line that had been lacking since the departures of a few key Canuck defensemen. Ballard is one of the better hitting defensemen in the game and plays a big man game on the blue line despite his 5-11 stature. The 27-year old American defender also offers a decent puck moving game and can play offensive minutes if the need arises.

Alex Edler quietly bloomed into a legit number one defenseman in the second half and post-season last year without anyone really noticing. The 24-year old Edler has been a pleasant surprise since arriving in the Canucks organization four years ago. Edler has shown steady improvement every season playing the very distinct Swedish defensive style while also finding a surprising physical element to his game last year. Edler also has steadily gotten better in the offensive zone turning in sequentially better offensive performances each season. Last year was no exception with the Swedish blueliner turning in a 42 point performance and offering a much improved cannon of a slap shot on the powerplay. The Canucks will look to Edler to continue to develop and lead their blueline for the next decade. Sami Salo has quietly been one of the better defenseman in the league since his arrival in Vancouver. The dependable 36-year old defenseman offers an excellent shutdown game in the defensive zone while being accomplished in the offensive zone with one of the best slap shots in the league. The only problem with Salo is that he's literally made out of glass and has become so injury prone as to be unreliable. Even at the time of this writing Salo is facing a career threatening Achilles' tendon injury and there's doubt about whether or not he will return this season.

Rounding out the defensive group will be home town punching bag Kevin Bieksa who's completely fallen off the map from his impressive first few years in the league. When Bieksa is at his best he offers a strong offensive game with quite a bit of sand paper. However Bieksa has become something of a boat anchor for the Canucks as his defensive acumen has dropped off the charts and he makes the Canucks faithful facepalm on a nightly basis. Bieksa will start this season on the top pairing with Hamhuis because Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault is something of a sadist. Competing for the sixth spot will be two depth defensemen who offer different games. Andrew Alberts was being burned in effigy with regularity on the streets of Vancouver last post-season. The 6-5 gritty depth defenseman was acquired in a deadline deal with the Carolina Hurricanes and has reasonable settled into the Canucks lineup with a simple defensive oriented game. Alberts also is a physical defenseman who is able to lay the body and drop the gloves. Competing with Alberts for ice time will be Aaron Rome who's a versatile depth defender than can play just about any role asked of him. While Rome doesn't necessarily excel at any one facet of the game, he can quietly eat minutes while thriving in a physical game. Also in the mix this season might be depth defender Ryan Parent who was recently acquired from the Nashville Predators. The 23-year old Parent was a former 18th overall pick and entered the league with much hype from a distinguished international juniors career but has had injuries derail his progress. Parent is a big bodied defensive defenseman who could get a significant look from the Canucks before being sent to their AHL affiliate.

In net the Canucks have franchise netminder Roberto Luongo who was the backstop for the Canadian gold medal winning Olympic team last season. Luongo has been somewhat shaky in the last two years seeing his numbers dip a bit and his choking in big games. However the Canucks have done all they can to relieve the pressure off of Luongo's shoulders by asking him to relinquish the Captaincy. The Canucks have also brought in top goaltending coach Roland Melanson to work with Luongo on a daily basis, something that was missing in his entire stay in Vancouver. It's certainly within the realm of possibility for Luongo to have a bounce back season with so many positive things being instituted around him on this team. Backing up Luongo will be Cory Schneider who will finally see the NHL after developing for three years in the AHL. The 24-year old is a big butterfly goaltender who has the potential to be a starter in this league but much show consistency at the top level. Schneider will begin the season in the AHL due to salary cap constraints but will soon be recalled. In lieu of Schneider's absence, Swedish import Eddie Lack will take the backup duties until Schneider returns.

Team Trending

The Vancouver Canucks are arguably the best team on paper in the league with showing top end talent at every position. However mental lapses have been this team's undoing and the question of whether or not this team has the fortitude to be a success has got to be hanging in the minds of the Canucks faithful. The season won't really begin for this team until April but until then the Canucks will be a power house in the West. Expect them to come in anywhere from 1st-5th overall in the league.

BVB's Projected Opening Night Lineup




Player Projections


Daniel Sedin 39 G/76 A 115 P
Henrik Sedin - 25 G/91 A 116 P
Mikael Samuelsson - 27 G/27 A 54 P

Mason Raymond - 28 G/31 A 59 P
Ryan Kesler - 27 G/42 A 69 P
Raffi Torres - 21 G/16 A 37 P

Peter Schafer - 8 G/16 A 24 P
Manny Malhotra - 13 G/22 A 35 P
Jannik Hansen - 13 G/18 A 31 P

Trevor Glass - 4 G/8 A 12 P
Alex Bolduc - 5 G/9 A 14 P
Guillaume Desbiens - 6 G/8 A 14 P

Alex Burrows - 25 G/24 A 49 P
Rick Rypien - 3 G/2 A 5 P


Dan Hamhuis - 7 G/29 A 36 P
Kevin Bieksa - 4 G/20 A 24 P
Christian Ehrhoff - 13 G/31 A 44 P
Alex Edler - 8 G/39 A 47 P
Keith Ballard - 5 G/21 A 26 P
Andrew Alberts - 2 G/9 A 11 P
Aaron Rome - 1 G/6 A 7 P
Ryan Parent - 0 G/2 A 2 P
Sami Salo - 1 G/5 A 6 P


Roberto Luongo - 41-19-3 | 2.39 GAA | .921 Sv%
Cory Schneider - 12-5-2 | 2.69 GAA | .911 Sv%

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