Vancouver Canucks 2009-10 Season Preview
The Vancouver Canucks had a successful 2008-2009 campaign. The Canucks were not expected to make the playoffs, but they had up a strong regular season and playoffs, eventually losing in the second round to the Chicago Blackhawks. This year Vancouver must deal with raised expectations: playoffs are a must, and a division title is attainable.
Though the Canucks were not one of the highest scoring teams in the league last year, their surprising offensive output was one of the reasons for their success. They averaged 3 goals/game, 5th in the Western Conference. The Canucks are led offensively by Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Both were re-signed shortly before becoming free agents. Daniel led the team in goals with 31, and Henrik led the team in assists with 60. Both players amassed exactly 82 points in 82 games.
Daniel and Henrik have been incredibly durable over their careers. Daniel has missed 14 games in 8 seasons while Henrik has missed only 8 games in 8 seasons. At 29, it is unlikely to expect an increase in production from the twins, but they are certainly capable of being point-per-game players this year.
It has yet to be determined who will line up alongside the twins. Reports earlier out of Vancouver training camp had Samuelsson as the early favorite. The former Red Wing has never eclipsed 45 points in a season but could easily see new career highs if he plays with Daniel and Henrik. He brings grit, size, skating ability and a solid shot. Recent reports, however, have Samuelsson playing on a line with Ryan Kesler and Sergei Shirokov.
Alex Burrows is an excellent two-way forward who broke out offensively last season. Burrows significantly improved his career bests with 28 goals and 23 assists. If Burrows lines up alongside the Sedins, he should eclipse those totals. He was also a +23 and registered 150 penalty minutes. He is a hard-worker and an agitator and is major all-around contributor to the team.
Ryan Kesler is another Canuck that had a breakout season last year. The 25 year-old Kesler registered 26 goals and 33 assists last year. Though he struggled in the post-season, Kesler should rebound nicely and at least match last season’s offensive output. He should enter the season as Vancouver’s second-line centre.
Pavol Demitra can still be one of Vancouver’s offensive leaders, but durability is a concern. The oft-injured Demitra has missed at least eleven games in each of the last five years and will miss the first month of the season after undergoing major shoulder surgery.
After an impressive 39 game rookie campaign with the Sharks, Steve Bernier has been a disappointment. Bernier has failed to become a scoring threat for Vancouver despite spending time on a line with the Sedins. Another 24 year-old, Mason Raymond will be counted on to contribute more. Raymond will likely be paired on the second-line with Ryan Kesler.
Kyle Wellwood is the favorite to be Vancouver’s third-line centre. The much-maligned Wellwood is reportedly in much better shape this year and may have found a home in Vancouver. Competing with Wellwood is potential Calder candidate Cody Hodgson. Hodgson, the 2008 10th overall pick is a high-scoring forward. He will play centre or right wing if he makes the team. Hodgson may not begin the season with the team, however, as he has already been called out for his poor play by GM Mike Gillis.
Sergei Shirokov debuts with the Canucks after spending considerable time in various Russian leagues. Shirokov has potential to make a valuable offensive contribution. Face-off specialist Ryan Johnson, tough guys Rick Rypien, and Darcy Hortichuk, and Jannick Hansen will be competing for the final roster spots.
The Canucks lost Mattias Ohlund to the Lightning in the off-season but signed Mathieu Schnieder and acquired Christian Erhoff, and Brad Lukowich. The 40 year-old Schnieder may not play every game and probably will not be ready to start the season. Schnieder’s most valuable contribution comes as a quarterback on the power play. Newly acquired Christian Erhoff will probably also play a role on the power play. Erhoff recorded 25 of his 42 points with the man-advantage. At most, Brad Lukowich will be relied on as Vancouver’s seventh defenseman.
Kevin Bieksa is the Canucks #1 defenseman. He will not spend as much time on the power play this year, but logged almost 25 minutes of ice-time en route to a 43-point campaign. Alexander Edler had a career best 37 points and was a pleasant surprise for the Canucks. Edler is only 23 and could become one of the NHL’s better offensive defensemen.
Though Willie Mitchell set a career high in points last year, his role is firmly entrenched as Vancouver’s top shutdown defenseman. Like Mitchell, Shane O’Brien is a stay-at-home defenseman. He will probably play only in Mathieu Schnieder’s absence.
The oft-injured Sami Salo is back for another season on the Canucks blue-line. Salo has the potential to be an above average offensive defenseman, but injuries and reduced power play time this year could leave Salo vulnerable to a career low (with Vancouver) in points.
What can you say about Roberto Luongo? The 30 year-old continues to put up stellar numbers. Last season he was 33-13 with a GAA of 2.34. Luongo missed time due to injury last year, but has been relatively durable over his career. Luongo is one of the top goaltenders in the league, and the Canucks’ success will be dependent on their captain.
Andrew Raycroft will be counted on to back up Luongo. Raycroft has been shaky since an incredible 2003 with the Bruins. Cory Schneider is clearly the Canucks goaltender of the (distant) future and should Luongo get injured, it is Schneider that will likely play a majority of the games.
Ceiling – The Canucks are one of the favorites for the Northeast Division. They could easily win the division as long as their key components stay healthy. 1st in division 3rd in conference.
Floor – An injury to Roberto Luongo or a prolonged offensive slump could put this team on the playoff bubble in a competitive Western Conference. 4th in division, 10th in conference.