[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.]
Look around the league and you’ll read more than a few pundits predict and pick the Vancouver Canucks as one of their Stanley Cup favorites. TSN, ESPN and The Hockey News have all weighed in and like their chances. Even a video game simulation by EA Sports NHL 11 picked the Canucks to win it all. (The same video game simulation correctly picked the Chicago Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup last year.)
Listen to Mike Gillis and Alain Vigneault and you’ll hear them publicly call the Canucks one of the top 4 or 5 teams in the NHL – if that’s note a vote of confidence in the group of players they’ve assembled this season, I don’t know what is.
Talk to Canucks fans and they’ll tell you they feel that this is the year the trophy named after Lord Stanley of Preston will finally make its way down Georgia St. to the park named after him.
Needless to say, expectations in Vancouver are at an all-time high.
And so they should be.
The core of the group that has reached the second round of the playoffs is largely intact. Except Henrik Sedin is now a Hart and Art Ross Trophy winner and Ryan Kesler is a two-time Selke Trophy nominee. And they added Manny Malhotra, Raffi Torres, Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard to replace Kyle Wellwood, Steve Bernier, Willie Mitchell and Shane O’Brien.
Mike Gillis took the team that was the second-highest scoring team in the NHL last season and added some missing pieces. The bottom-six is bigger and the defense is deeper. There’s more playoff experience in the lineup. Sure there has been consecutive playoff disappointments, but this probably means they should be hungrier as well.
Stanley Cup or bust – this expectation is fair, isn’t it?
Cam from Canucks Army: Yes, this expectation is fair. They have plenty of depth, they have the reigning league MVP and scoring leader, and bolstered their defense to address problems they saw last year. With this group of players, their window to win is open now and they have to seize the opportunity they have in front of them. If the Canucks don’t make it past the 2nd round again, fans will rightly call this year a failure. Fans are getting tired of failure in this market. With an improved team over last year, it is reasonable to expect a trip to the Conference Finals this year.
J.J.: After failing to make the playoffs in 2007/2008 primarily because they couldn’t score, the Canucks added Mats Sundin, Pavol Demitra, Steve Bernier and Kyle Wellwood to provide some secondary scoring. After consecutive postseasons in which they suffered significant injuries in the back end, the Canucks added Hamhuis and Ballard. After getting outworked and beaten by guys like Byfuglien, Bolland, Brouwer and Ladd, the Canucks signed Malhotra and Torres and toughened up.
My point is, the Canucks have done a good job of evaluating his team, identifying its needs and addressing them; this year is no different. Going into this season, they don’t have many – any? – discernible weaknesses. On paper, they are one of the NHL’s best teams and I’ll be disappointed if they don’t make it past the second round. Again.
Richard: In each of the last three years, the Canucks have fielded a better team than the one they fielded the year before. That hasn’t changed this year. Gillis has assembled the best team this city has ever seen. It is so solid in every facet of the game it’s hard not to think that this is the year.
Chris: If expectations were fair, there would be a 16 way tie for the Stanley Cup on a regular basis. I’m confident that this Canucks team is closer than ones in recent memory, but I’m never one to set expectations that high. I’ve watched the Canucks far too long to ever do so.