[As we approach the start of the NHL regular season, members of the Canucks blogosphere give their two cents about your Vancouver Canucks and address the issues, questions and expectations of the team in their 40th year anniversary.]
En route to scoring 268 goals in the season – second in the NHL only to the Washington Capitals – and winning the Northwest Division for the third time in four seasons, a lot of things went right for the Vancouver Canucks. Specifically, Ryan Kesler, Mason Raymond and Alex Edler all took their game to another level in 2009/2010.
For the second consecutive season, Kesler was nominated for the Selke Trophy. He played mostly against opposing teams’ top lines and still bettered his career-high in points by 25%. During the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, he was one of Team USA’s best forwards.
After an inconsistent 2008/2009 campaign, Mason Raymond reported to camp bigger, faster and more determined to drive to the net. As a result, he more than doubled his previous career-highs in goals (25 up from 11), assists (28 up from 12) and points (53 up from 23). Hockey Canada took notice too; for the first time in his career, Raymond was selected to play for Team Canada and don the red Maple Leaf in the IIHF World Hockey Championships.
With his mentor, Mattias Ohlund, lured to Tampa, Edler looked shaky to start the 2009/2010 season. By the end of it, however, he had adjusted to the point that he still recorded a career-high 42 points and was arguably the Canucks’ best defenseman in the playoffs.
Now approaching the prime years of their respective careers, how do Kesler, Raymond and Edler follow up a very good 2009/2010 season?
Richard: I expect Kesler and Raymond to have similar years to last year but I think Edler’s going to have a big year this year. Last year he seemed to be in a bit of a slump to start the season, but really brought things around in a big way for the playoffs.
Mike from Nucks Misconduct: Kesler and Raymond should be fine. I’d love to see Kesler take a step backwards in the PIM department, but he’s out there against the best of the opposition so it comes with the territory. If Raymond improves he’ll be one of the most underrated top six guys in the league. He made such a great leap last season with his play and on-ice vision that a 65-70 pt season is realistic. It’s certainly worth remembering how remarkable it is that BOTH can produce while playing the toughest minutes of all forwards.
Edler I’m more suspect with; if paired with Hamhuis, maybe he’ll have a longer leash to flex his offensive muscle, but his hitting and shutdown skills need to improve as well. We saw him unleash that physical side of his play against Los Angeles in the first round especially. Without Ohlund and now Mitchell around, his mistakes will be more magnified so he’ll have some of the biggest growing pains of anyone. Of the three, Edler is the best bet to have an off year.
Chris: The only ingredient that Kesler needs, in my honest-to-goodness-uneducated opinion, is a dash more maturity. Although it still remains to be seen, I’m confident that Kesler would be the go to guy for Captain if he had that in his tool-kit. That’s not to say he lacks maturity, as I do love the unbridled edge he plays with, but I think he needs to pick his spots a touch better.
With Raymond, I’m expecting more of the same from him. With all the added attention that Daniel and Henrik will have, the Canucks will require some point production from other areas and I think Mason will be counted on far more this season to be one of the guys who needs to step up. If he does so, expect him to receive more attention from Robin Scherbatsky on HIMYM.
And what about Edler? If there was one facet of his game that I was pleasantly surprised to see, it was the feistiness he displayed during the playoffs last season. When Ohlund was at the top of his game, he was not only a defensive stalwart who found his way to the scoresheet, but a tough S-O-B (not the kind that parties at the Roxy). If Edler continues to enhance that aspect of his game without taking away from the rest, he’ll be Ohlund two point oh – a definite upgrade.