While every team in the NHL begins the pre-season camp and schedule with the goal of putting the best team on the ice not every team is faced with the same realities. Many perenial contenders and former champs of the upper echelons of the NHL have suffered high turn-over in various aspects of their rosters.
Chicago, the reigning cup champ was forced to sacrifice many key components of their squad to the salary cap sytem. They are relying on years of smart drafting and player development to fill voids, and hope a fomer #1 goalie in Marty Turco can return to form.
Detroit, the ageless wonder of the NHL, also have a deep system of players long developed overseas and in the AHL.
San Jose has a gaping hole on its back end after the retirement of Rob Blake, and hope to platoon two former back-up Finns behind that d-corps.
In Los Angeles the Kings are replacing a veteran 20 goal man in Alexander Frolov and hope again that youth will prevail. They're also dealing with high profile pending RFA's and what could end up being the biggest goalie controversy in the league this season as Jonathan Bernier is set to userp the starting job from last years go-to-guy Jonathan Quick.
The point I'm making is that of all the contenders in the west the Canucks have likely the fewest jobs available and arguably the deepest pool of hopefuls which is saying a lot for a team who had for years been maligned for draft day gaffs and poor player development and asset management. How they got to this point in such a short period of time is unbelieveable. What it means is that they have a healthy dose of constructive competition within their system that will drive players to earn their spot night in and night out.
Sergei Shirokov was given every opportunity to skate with the top line but his conditioing was called in to question and he finds himself with conditioning and skills coaches and notwith his teammates. Jordan Schroeder didn't impress to the point where he would make the unlikely leap in to this roster, but we will without doubt see him eventuallly i'm sure if he's anything like he showed in last year's AHL call-up. That said, those guys are the long shots, along with Steve Tambelini and Cody Hodgson, to step in to meaningful top six minutes at the outset of the season until Alex Burrows returns. The real key since top six forwards in this team are among the best in the league, is the bottom six guys who it was evident in the past two post-seasons did not bring enough defensive responsibility, offesnive options and nowhere near the level of toughness which was required.
Offseason signing Raffi Torres may see top six minutes, but will likely start the yaer on the third line with Manny Malhotra. These two are the only certainties on the bottom six, but they do immediately address the Canucks need to get bigger, tougher, faster, smarter and offensive. The other four roster spots are a toss up, but I would love to see a young skilled prospect take a top six job, or, slide on to the third line. If I had to pick one it would be Hodgson, so the reamining three jobs up front have a litany of deserving candidates. If I were Alaign Vigneault I would have a hard time leaving Victor Oreskovich off the roster, as he showed an ability to score in the AHL last season putting up 55 points in 70 games and has the wheels to paly in this league, let alone a body-builders physique. Brendan Morison should find himself on the fourth line because he's versatile and a good veteran presence. We will need players that can play in all situations, and Brenden has showed he can quarterback the Power Play and win key defensive zone shorthanded face-offs, and he is an overtime legned in Vancouver. For the same reason I hope Janik Hansen will stick, going with the speed and heart model. He is also flexibleand can score or kill penalties. Darcy Hordichuck is still very necessary in this division, which unlike other conferences the North West exhibits a need for enforcers. This should drive a rotation between Oreskovich and the veteran tough-guy. Rick Rypein may be the toughest scrapper in the league, but the oft-injured pugilist is too unreliable healthwise. Bill Sweatt is the odd man out, who has impressed at all levels of the game but just might find hims with the short straw.