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NHL Morning Papers

NHL Morning Papers: Evaluating the Canucks

(Note: The morning papers can be found at the bottom of this post below my evaluation of the Vancouver Canucks)

After pulling off one of the most lopsided trades of all-time in the summer of 2006, Dave Nonis saw his Vancouver Canucks bow out in the second round of the playoffs to the eventual Stanley Cup champions in Anaheim. While a second round exit can be seen as progress, Nonis had the job, this off-season, of trying to push his team to the next level. As Nonis knows, once your team takes a giant step forward in the standings, expectations only increase, especially in a hockey hotbed like Vancouver.

Here are six questions that people have about the Canucks heading into 2007/08?

Does the team have enough offense to contend for the Stanley Cup?
Not likely. Creating offense was the Canucks‘ biggest problem during the playoffs and all the team added up-front during the off-season was Ryan Shannon, Brad Isbister and Byron Ritchie. Needless to say, that is not a list of forwards that will suddenly instill fear into opponents. Some may cite the possible rebound seasons of Brendan Morrison and Markus Naslund but, in reality, what reason do we have to believe that they will suddenly return to pre-lockout form? If anything, they are both a year older and their play should fall-off.

Was the addition of Aaron Miller significant?
It is hard to say the addition of a defenseman who is likely to play sixth defenseman minutes is significant, but playing in a Canadian city can do that. Jokes aside, Miller is an upgrade over Rory Fitzpatrick and the other end of the bench defensemen he will play in place of. The Canucks top four defense is very strong and Miller should be able to handle an increased workload if one of the defensemen were to go down to injury.

Can the Sedin twins each crack the 100 point plateau?
Anything is possible, and with their progression over the past couple of years the twins have begun to carry the Canucks‘ offense. Nonetheless, the 100 point plateau is generally reserved for the creme de la creme and the Sedins seem more likely to slot in around the 85-90 point range.

Was Kevin Bieksa’s breakout season a fluke?
Coming into last season’s training camp, Bieksa was just hoping to crack the Canucks‘ roster. It is fair to say he did far more than just that, as the Grimsby, Ontario native cracked the team’s top-four defensive rotation and was a consistent workhorse all season long. Bieksa is no fluke, he proved his worth for a couple of seasons with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose and used that experience in the minors to better himself in all areas of the game. The 26 year old rearguard was given a three-year contract extension this off-season that will take his tenure with the Canucks through at least 2011-2012. Expect another solid season from the gritty Bieksa.

Do questions 1-4 even matter if Roberto Luongo has a sub-par campaign?
In short, no. Roberto Luongo is the best goaltender in the NHL and, some believe (including this writer) that Luongo was the sole reason that the Canucks advanced to the second round of the playoffs and had a 100+ point year in the standings. It is a fairly simple equation in Vancouver, if Luongo plays up to his capabilities, the Canucks have a chance to make a Stanley Cup run; if he doesn’t play up to his capabilities, the Canucks will be fighting for a playoff spot.

Can the Canucks win the Stanley Cup?
They weren’t good enough to win it last year as they exhibited by just squeaking by an overrated Dallas squad and then getting dominated in round two by Anaheim. The Canucks have a very good one through six defense and the best goaltender in the world, but their offense leaves much to be desired. There is always a chance that Luongo becomes simply unbeatable and takes the team on a long playoff run; however, it says here that the world-class goaltender can only do so much and the team is most likely headed for another second round exit.

On to the morning papers: