On the eve of the Canucks’ forty first NHL season, it will be nearly impossible to top the performance of the 40th anniversary edition. That team put up not only the greatest regular season performance in franchise history, but arguably one of the best regular seasons of any team anywhere.
Don’t believe us? Well, it’s been a very long time since a team led the league in points, goals scored and fewest goals allowed. Try the New York Islanders’ dynasty of the early 1980’s. And combine that with special team play that was easily the envy of the league, another Sedin scoring title, a best defensive forward award for Ryan Kesler, and executive of the year honours for Mike Gillis and it’s hard to imagine building on that regular season success.
But really, will the faithful care? At this point, regular season winning has become old hat. Nothing but a Stanley Cup win will suffice. And nor should it. Windows of opportunity to win it all are not ever present. Opportunity is knocking. And in that regard, what are the Canucks’ chances this year?
Our previous post highlighted the possible issues that prevented this team from winning it all last season. And in our opinion, nothing has been done to address those issues. Yet. But there is plenty of time.
Given the Canucks lack of real competition in their own division, another division title is all but assured and with it will bring at least a third overall conference seeding. We think that’s a given.
Other things we expect to happen this season:
- The Sedins will have another remarkable season. Consider for a moment that Henrik won a scoring title despite missing his brother for a good portion of the season two seasons ago. And consider that Daniel won the title last season despite missing Alex Burrows from their line for the opening ten games of the season (after which it took him another ten games to notch his second goal of the season). A healthy first unit to start the season could easily catapult the Sedins to the top of the charts once again.
- Keith Ballard will not find his form. Again. At least, not in this environment. He may play capably with limited minutes, but don’t expect him to play to a level commensurate with his $4 million plus price tag. Whether Mike Gillis will have the gumption to do anything about it remains to be seen.
- Cody Hodgson will play capably, but will not set the world on fire. That is, don’t pick him in your hockey pool.
- Chris Tanev will continue his steady play and while not having the offensive upside, his cool head will earn him valuable minutes.
- Sami Salo will be injured by
And, more importantly, things we’d like to see happen this season:
- Given Roberto Luongo’s late playoff meltdown and admitted exhaustion by the end of it all (not to mention his iffy big game reputation), we’d like to see Cory Schneider pick up more of the regular season starts this season - getting between 30 and 40 starts himself. Come playoff time, the starting position shouldn’t be simply handed to Luongo, but awarded to whichever goalie is playing the best at the time.
- Here at Critically Canuck, we’ve never held Coach Vigneault in the highest of esteem. He’s an adequate bench boss, but, in our opinion, might very well be all that is holding this team back from a Stanley Cup. Now into the second year of his three year contract extension, his leash should be short. And yanked repeatedly.
- The Canucks seem determined to start this season with the same revolving door mentality they adopted last season with respect to the fourth line. Chemistry on that unit is as important as on any other. We’d like to see that situation stabilized sooner rather than later.
- While everyone likes to talk about stockpiling defensive depth for another long playoff run, we’d like to see more emphasis placed on finding a physical top six forward to take some of the toll off of Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows, who seem to consistently wear out over the course of an extended post season. And we know that’s easier said than done. We’d just like to know that someone is actually trying. And when Marco Sturm moves in when Raffi Torres moves out, we are left to wonder if anyone is…
So there you have it. We predict another successful regular season is seemingly in store, but without some attention to our wish list, we’re not planning that parade route yet…