Written by: HeadtotheNet
It’s hard to describe how the city of Vancouver feels about its hockey team, the Vancouver Canucks. Really, no one word – crazed, passionate, fanatical – can even come close to doing it justice.
In this beautiful city, the twitter hashtag “#isitoctoberyet” has been flying around since the end of June, and a twitter countdown of the days remaining until the start of the regular season has been running since the schedule was released in mid-July.
Perhaps unencumbered lunacy would best characterize it.
Of course, it has escaped no Vancouverite’s attention that the Canucks have been picked by everyone from The Hockey News to the PuckDaddy Blog as the team to beat in the NHL and the one that will lift the Stanley Cup come June.
On CBC’s After Hours, Canucks’ GM Mike Gillis was asked about his feelings on the lofty expectations.
“It worries me. Predictions in September are not usually the way it turns out in June… we’re just trying to keep our players grounded and see how it goes.”
He’s right too – it takes a lot more than having the best roster on paper to win a Stanley Cup, and the largest hurdle is making it through the enormous 82 game schedule.
There is a lot of luck that goes into winning any championship or even going far in the playoffs – how else can you explain the Calgary Flames playoff performance in 2004 (including their underdog win over the Canucks in the first round)?
For his part, Gillis has made an emphatic statement to the city of Vancouver that his team is ready to take the final step.
Hard to believe Gillis doing anything emphatically with his drab disposition
Canucks Turning Heads Around the League
The Sedin Twins
You know you’re doing something right (or wrong, #44) in Vancouver when people from the east notice you. Considering that Henrik Sedin was just voted as the NHL’s MVP, it looks like they’ve finally noticed, though it’s hard to miss a guy who led the league in scoring.
One thing about the Sedins – every summer they go back to Sweden and work their butts off, adding new dimensions to their games. Bolstering his arsenal this year – Daniel Sedin appears to have added a shiny new slapshot to his holster. Returning and motivated by an injury shortened season, Danny could very well be the leading Sedin brother this year.
Memorable moment: “It’s just so inconvenient when this happens.”
Not only has Kesler turned heads in eastern Canada, during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, he showed that he possesses the inner drive that very few, like Jarome Iginla, and Joe Sakic embody, and people around the world took notice.
Memorable moment: The one day every month when he dusts of his razor and finally decides to clean up.
Scoring 35 goals in a season is a sure-fire way to make a name for oneself. Make no mistake, while his goal totals are helped by the sublime passing skills of the Sedins, Burrows is a self-made hockey player whose constant, never-ending sense of urgency helps the Canucks no matter which line he played on or what situation he’s placed in.
Memorable moment: “All we ‘ave to do is win da turd.”
Raymond went from scoring 23 points 2 seasons ago to scoring 53 last season, which means he increased his output by a factor of 2.3. If he manages the same jump this season, he will score 122 points. So that’s pretty good.
Ok, that probably won’t happen, but playing on the second line for a full season, the fastest Canuck will have another career year, and 70 points would not be an unattainable number for him.
Memorable moment: When the first hair sprouted on his chin last May and called it a playoff beard.
The book on Samuelsson is simple – he’s very strong on the puck, and he usually shoots. It’s not a bad formula, especially considering he’ll be playing with the Sedins while Burrows heals up.
Memorable moment: “They should go f*** themselves.” (on being rejected from the Swedish Olympic hockey team)
Edler has been completely forgotten in all the talk about new acquisitions Hamhuis and Ballard. His demeanour has been compared to Nik Lidstrom’s in the past, and this year, so will his game.
The 6’-3” 215lbs. defenseman is a big guy but it has only recently dawned upon him as to what he can do with that size. During the most recent playoffs, he used his body to scare the L.A. Kings into submission, and he intends to do more of the same to all opponents this season.
Memorable moment: Hasn’t happened yet, but if he ever gets angry, be very afraid.
Ever so quietly was the Canucks’ best defenseman last season, combining steady defensive skills with an ability to carry the puck through the neutral zone that the team hadn’t seen since the departure of Ed Jovanovski.
Memorable moment: Eat your hearts out ladies…
Watching him skate is reminiscent of when Brett Hedican used to fly around the ice. Yeah, Hamhuis can move, but even more impressive, he’s got poise with the puck.
Memorable moment to come: Rogers Arena crowd chanting “HAMMER HAMMER HAMMER” when he scores a hat-trick.
On top of the 10 million reasons he has to have a bounce back year, the pressure is on with the C coming off his mask. Though, we’re pretty sure it’s not pressure he hates, it’s the media.
Best day of our lives. Next up: The Stanley Cup
Teams The Canucks Should Worry About in the Western Conference
San Jose Sharks
Say what you want about Joe Thornton’s playoff intensity and the entire team’s lack of success despite being favoured for years, they remain one of the teams to beat in the West. Sure they lost their captain and a great defenseman in Rob Blake, but Danny Boyle is the straw that stirs the drink on their blue-line, and he’s one of the best in the league.
Key to stopping them: For the Blackhawks to stop Jumbo Joe, it took an even bigger guy in Dustin Byfuglien. Any other 265lbs 6′-5″ monsters out there? Can Yao Ming skate?
A lot has been made of all the players they’ve lost, but completely ignoring what they have in firepower up front, any team whose defensive core includes Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell and Niklas Hjalmarsson will be a force to be reckoned with.
We’d be remiss not to mention that their scoring depth is still second to none. So what about the 3rd/4th liners? Listen, they’re 3rd and 4th liners for a reason, not the least of which is the fact that they’re replaceable.
Key to stopping them: Shoot the puck at their teeth and knock them out! Crap, that might not even help…
Detroit Red Wings:
CFL fans, you know how the Lions fell to 1-7 and football experts never counted them out because they have legendary coach/GM, Wally Buono, pulling the strings? Red Wings’ GM Ken Holland has the same reputation in the NHL. They finished 5th in the Western Conference and made it to the second round of the playoffs, and it’s considered a huge disappointment to everyone who knows hockey.
To put in in perspective: the Vancouver Canucks haven’t done better than that in 16 years!
Key to stopping them: Oh simple: just shut down two of the league’s most creative, unstoppable players – Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, and once you turn the puck-over, go beat 6-time Norris Trophy winner Niklas Lidstrom.
Yes, the Canucks need to worry about the Flames. Before you shout WTF at the screen, just think: Jarome Iginla, still one of the NHL’s premier power forwards, finally has a supporting cast on his top line. Sure he had no chemistry with Jokinen on their last go around, but combining 2 shooters and no passer was a bad idea to begin with.
Now that they have the vision of Alex Tanguay saucering the puck to their laser-beam shots, they’re going to be scoring threat every time they step on the ice. And never forget the impenetrable object, Mikka Kiprussof, in net.
Key to stopping them: Hope Daryl Sutter has miscalculated his cap numbers and has to sit half his roster. (the chances of this happening are surprisingly high)
Here’s a stat that shows they’re a well coached team: 202 goals against last season – 3rd lowest in the league. Playing against the Coyotes defensive system is like taking a deep breath in a port-a-potty – it’s suffocating.
Dave Tippet is a genius at squeezing a lot out of a little talent, and the fact that they managed to finish 4th in the West without a single player scoring more than 55 points is mind-boggling. As I said in my hockey pool preview, Wojtek Wolski will likely buck the trend of anaemic scoring, and Phoenix will be even more dangerous.
Key to stopping them: Dunno, but to make it through watching any game involving them, practice watching snails race.
I must be crazy, right? Wrong. Three young superstars in Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Magnus Paajarvi have made everyone completely forget that the Oilers already had a good young team going into last season. Losing a combined 531 man games to injury would derail any team’s playoff aspirations.
With Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner coming off their sophomore slumps and ready to take the next step, and Ales Hemsky and Nikolai Khabibulin coming off major season ending injuries, you should be saying “holy massive deuce, this will be a frightening team to play against.”
Key to stopping them: Change zoning of the Rogers Arena ice surface to a liquor primary establishment so minors are not allowed in.