Vancouver Canucks players, coaches, management, and fans would like to put last season behind them as quickly as possible. They have their first chance at that, starting tonight, as the club opens up their seven-game preseason schedule against last year’s Western Conference champions, the San Jose Sharks.
Venue: SAP Center, San Jose, CA
Time: 7:30 pm
Radio: TSN 1040
What everybody is talking about: Battle for roster spots
After a quick four-day training camp, players are itching to get into game action just as Canucks fans are itching to see some of their players on the ice. Throughout the next couple of weeks, we’ll get to speculate as to who will be on the opening night roster on October 15.
General Manager Jim Benning was on TSN 1040 yesterday and said that there are likely two or three forward spots up for grabs. Let’s presume that the locks are the Sedins, Loui Eriksson, Brandon Sutter, Jannik Hansen, Alex Burrows, Bo Horvat, and Sven Baertschi. I also think that it’s Jake Virtanen’s spot to lose; as evidenced by the trio of Horvat, Baertschi, and Virtanen reuniting for tonight’s game.
That means that the final four spots will go to some combination of Markus Granlund, Emerson Etem, Derek Dorsett, Anton Rodin, or Brendan Gaunce. Tuomo Ruutu, James Sheppard, and Jack Skille (at camp as PTOs) are all long-shots to make the club.
On the back end, things seem a little more certain with the likely opening night combos of Alex Edler and Chris Tanev, Ben Hutton and Erik Gudbrandson, and Philip Larsen and Luca Sbisa. Benning has gone on record stating that he’d like to carry eight d-men to start the season. Thus, Nikita Tryamkin, Alex Biega, and Andrey Pedan will battle for those two remaining spots. Troy Stecher and first-round pick Olli Juolevi will give fans something to look forward to in a year or two.
In goal, it will be the returning duo of Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom.
What nobody is talking about: Making the playoffs
There aren’t many people predicting a return to the playoffs for the Canucks.
Their 75-point total was third worst in the league last season and there are many questions surrounding the team. Are they deep enough? Where will the secondary scoring come from? Can the Sedins stay healthy? Will the defence be able to chip in offensively? Who will be the team’s number one goaltender by mid-season?
The Canucks will need a lot of things to go right for them to secure a playoff birth. First and foremost, their key players will need to stay healthy. Granted, you can say this for just about any team in the league. However, the Canucks are more dependent on their top-tier players than most other teams in the NHL.
It will take health, breakout seasons from a couple of the younger players, and likely a bit of luck for the Canucks to be playing meaningful games next April.
With six players involved with the World Cup of Hockey (Hansen, Sbisa, Sedins, Eriksson, and Markstrom), the Canucks’ lineup is thin even by preseason standards.
Six players have been cut from the main club and returned to their junior teams on Monday:
- Rodrigo Abols
- Brett McKenzie
- Jakob Stukel
- Cole Candella
- Tate Olson
- Carl Neill
Here are the expected line combinations tonight:
Not exactly the most intimidating roster.
Does it really matter? Look for goals from Baertschi, Horvat, and Larsen en route to a 3-2 upset win for the Canucks.