It was a short summer for the Canucks and their fans, which might have be a good thing considering the heartbreak they suffered at the hands of the Bruins just a few short months ago.
But the boys are back and ready to go. So is their city.
Is this finally going to be the year of the Vancouver Canucks? Here is what to look for in this season’s version of the team.
Canucks to Watch
In last year’s preview, we wrote this about Edler:
His demeanour has been compared to Nik Lidstrom’s in the past, and this year, so will his game.
Now, while he’s no Lidstrom yet, every year he earns more and more respect around the league. When he was injured in January last season, analysts were unanimous in saying that Vancouver was losing their best defenseman.
With Christian Ehrhoff gone, Edler will be given even more responsibility this year, especially offensively. Look for him to put up some serious points.
Moment to look forward to: Who knows, if the Canucks win the Cup, he might crack a smile. Until then, we’ll see his regular ho-hum celebration face shown above.
Burrows followed up his career best 67 point season with just 48 points. Despite the fact that he played 10 less games, his production was down to 0.67 points per game from 0.82 points per game the year before.
This season, he will start the season healthy, rather than coming off shoulder surgery and he’ll be filling Ryan Kesler’s spot on the top powerplay unit. The goals shall come.
Moment to look forward to: Tipped-in goals like this one may come fast and furious with Burr on the powerplay this year.
With Mason Raymond and Ryan Kesler out, Samuelsson is going to prove his worth.
He will be playing the point on the first power play unit. While his shot may not be as powerful as Sami Salo’s or Edler’s, quarterbacking the powerplay is about more than that. His vision will become evident as the year progresses.
Moment to look forward to: More interviews like this one, where he’s completely honest about why he’s scoring (“I don’t know”) and modest to a fault.
Starting as the second line centre until Ryan Kesler returns, Hodgson will be the Canucks’ breakout player this season.
He will also be playing on the second power play unit. The kid is being given the chance to shine, and he’s earned it with his hard work throughout the summer and preseason.
Sturm will be auditioning for permanency on the second line for when Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond return. With his history, prior to injuries, of being a 7-time 20-goal-scorer, he should have it in him.
Moment to look forward to: Sturm’s crazed goal scoring face: (See more)
With all of the mix-and-match second line parts, you can be sure that if one of them so much as stumbles, Higgins will get his shot. He will be playing on the second unit powerplay as well, and he has the skills to deserve it.
Moment to look forward to: Halloween…
Offense is not everything. Lapierre will play a huge role as a checker and on the Canucks penalty kill this year, and while goalscorers usually take all the glory, Lappy should be given his due.
Moment to look forward to: Seeing more of this guy
Western Conference Teams To Watch
The fact that the Canucks finally beat the ‘Hawks in last years playoffs will only intensify this rivalry. That it took until overtime of game 7 for the Canucks to triumph truly reinforces how close the 2 teams are.
They’ve added some grit and depth with Dan Carcillo and Andrew Brunette, and after following up their Stanley Cup win with a first round exit, they’ll be hungry.
Key to stopping them: When they signed Dan Carcillo, he misfired in his attempted Canucks directed trashtalk by calling out the departed Tanner Glass and Raffi Torres. He’s slow… tell him he’s in the wrong arena or something.
San Jose Sharks
If the ‘Hawks are the Canucks’ number 1 rival, the Sharks are number 1A. They’re also an improved team this year. Defenseman Brent Burns helps to solidify the one position that was a little thin for them, while Martin Havlat should return to form with a more offensive minded team.
Key to stopping them: First, Canucks fans need to do better than this guy
Most improved team in the West. With the additions of Simon Gagne and Mike Richards, the team now boasts 2 lines of scoring power.
Key to stopping them: well, we know Doughty gets distracted by the Green Men…
Detroit Red Wings
People look at the Flames and say they have an aging core. Yet the Red Wings remain in everyone’s top 4. Their most important player is 41 years old!
If you’re looking for me to be the one who bets against them, think again. They could use a goaltender, but somehow this doesn’t seem to matter in Detroit.
St. Louis Blues
Not only will they be starting the season with their impact players Andy McDonald, T.J. Oshie, and David Perron, fully healthy, they have added depth with Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott.
Jaroslav Halak will be prepared for the rigours of the Western Conference and Chris Stewart will add another dimension to their offense. This should finally be the long-awaited breakout year for the Blues.
Key to stopping them: As long as Halak doesn’t inspire signs like this, the rest of the Conference will be fine.
There are many incredible top lines around the league, but Getzlaf-Perry-Ryan might be the scariest of them all. The smallest of the three is Ryan at 6′-2″ and 209lbs.
How to stop them: Don’t bother. As Dan Hamhuis found out last season – when they’re coming: RUN! (or skate or whatever)
Last season, in the period between Darryl Sutter’s resignation and Brendan Morrison’s season ending knee injury, the Flames went 17-5-6. In that period, they propelled themselves to 5th place from 14th in the West.
Many people write this team off as one that needs to be stripped down and rebuilt, but I’d contend that they just need to be healthy under new GM Jay Feaster. Jarome Iginla is nowhere near the hill that many says he is over.
Key to stopping them: In July, the Flames acquired a defenseman named Keith Seabrook… Conclusion: scientists have discovered the secret to creating hybrid hockey players.
The general belief is that there may be no stopping this Keith Seabrook. All the Canucks can do is create a player named Edler Hamhuis to level the playing field.
One of these days, this young Oilers team is simply going to explode and become a force to be reckoned with. While they won’t likely dominate the conference, they should contend for a playoff spot this season.
Key to stopping them: Cut Ryan Smyth’s hair. It is the source of his powers.
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