Vancouver Canucks: est 1970
GM: Jim Benning
Coach: Willie Desjardin
Arena: Rogers Center
2015/16 Results: 31w 38l 13otl for 75 points.
Playoff Results: Did not qualify.
The Canucks enter the new season stuck in the same quagmire that has gripped them for the past few seasons. Do they try and add players for a potential playoff run or feel the current core of players has run its course and work towards a rebuild in the style of Toronto or Buffalo. Club President Trevor Linden states their goal is to make the playoffs, which I find troubling. The stated goal of every team should be to win the Stanley Cup and to do whatever they can to achieve that goal. Vancouver returns several veterans with a mix of decent young prospects added to the lineup. Daniel and Henrik Sedin along with new linemate Louis Eriksson will lead the offensive charge. How many more seasons the twins can continue to pile up points remains to be seen. Vancouver is going to be hard pressed to score goals and will need the youngsters to show some flair and touch with the puck. The defence is suspect with Alex Edler, Lucas Sbisa, Chris Tanev and Ben Hutton returning to anchor the defence. Hutton was a pleasant surprise last year while Sbisa was the punchline to too many jokes. Newcomer Erik Gudbransen is a monster at 6’5″ and will add much needed size and muscle to the defence. Goaltending is the Canucks strength. Veteran Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom give the Canucks solid netminding.
Coach: Desjardins will need to get the Canucks out of the gate fast this season. There is a noose around his neck and it will tighten if the losses pile up early. In Desjardins defence he doesn’t control injuries or who is on the roster but it is his head that will roll first should things go awry.
Forwards: As mentioned above, the Sedins will once more be expected to carry the load offensively. Off season signing Louis Eriksson, the latest winger signed to play with the twins will blend well with the Sedins if their play at the World Cup is any indicator. The Canucks are going to need an increase in output from former first round pick Bo Horvat and Jake Virtanen. Virtanen recently injured his shoulder at training camp fueling worries his body may not hold up to his style of play as it is a repeat of an injury suffered in junior hockey. Horvat is going to have to find his way to 60 plus points this season. Alex Burrows and Yannick Hansen will be counted on for mentorship and depth scoring while Sutter will fill the penalty killer role and with luck add a few goals to the team totals. James Sheppard in camp on a professional tryout is going to be hard pressed to crack the lineup as the Canucks try to infuse youth onto the roster.
Defence: Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, Lucas Sbisa and Ben Hutton are returning with additions Erik Gusbransen, Nikita Tryamikin and Philip Larson expected to add some sandpaper and offensive flair. Unspectacular and often bailed out by their goaltending tandem the defence must play tighter in their own end for the Canucks to succeed. To many misplays or giveaways spelled doom for the Canucks last season and cannot be repeated. Tryamikin gives the Canucks a strong physical presence which has been sorely lacking since Kevin Bieksa was pounding opponents in front of the crease. The Canucks do have a little depth on defence and have some options to round out their top seven. I was surprised Subban was demoted so quickly but Stecher could surprise and be playing opening night. The extra size of Tryamikin and Gudbransen will only make life easier for Miller and Markstrom.
Goalies: in Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom the Canucks have one of the best pairings in the NHL. Not flashy or brilliant but solid and steady the duo kept Vancouver in many games last season allowing the team to win or steal an otl point. Miller is 36 and will require more frequent breaks, the good news is Markstrom has proven more than capable of carrying the load when needed. Thatcher Demko is bound for Utica and is a year or two away from securing the top job between the pipes.
Prospects: For years a point of irritation for fans the Canucks have finally begun to stockpile excellent young prospects. Thatcher Demko is the goalie of the future. Not NHL ready but a gem of a prospect. Defenseman Troy Stecher from Richmond is one youngster that could suprise and make the opening night roster. Smallish at 5’10” but an excellent skater with advanced puck sense, Stecher is the future of the Canucks defence. Brandon Gaunce and Emerson Etam will be hard pressed to make the roster and seem destined for Utica as the Canucks roster depth shows signs of deepening. The additon of young talent through the draft or signing college fre agents has turned Vancouvers prospect pool from one in dire need to one of strength and the reward for this should have several prospects plying their trade in Vancouver over the next couple of years.
Predictions: 37w 39l 6otl for 80 points. 7th in Pacific Division and headed for a lottery pick.
Willie Desjardins will need a quick start to keep his job. Struggling out of the gate will only fuel the calls for him to be fired. GM Jim Benning is also on a short leash I suspect. Next to the dynamic duo running the Canadiens in Montreal the Linden, Benning and Desjardins trio is the worst management group in the NHL. The continual indecision of whether to retool or rebuild catches up to all three at some point this season leading to a complete management overhaul. Vancouver needs depth, they cannot rely on the Sedins forever and as 2011 gets further and further in the rear view mirror the urgency to find an offensive solution only grows. Adding pieces is great for a Cup contender, Vancouver is far from that and is in dire need of a rebuild. They have the prospects to do it, tradeable veterans to move out for prospects or picks and Canuck fans deserve a contender. While the immediate future is far from rosy there is light at the end of the tunnel for Vancouver. The sooner they form a management team dedicated to rebuilding and not tinkering the sooner the Canucks will contend again.
Vancouver fans want a winner, they deserve a winner. The we want to make the playoffs mentality has to go and be replaced by a Cup or Bust strategy. Canuck fans have earned that and should demand no less of their team.
That’s how I see it, from the bleacher seats.