With this being my first blog entry at Hockeybuzz, I figured I'd start by doing a general outline of the Canucks in the offseason and the team at its current state.
The team, even though they finished top of the Northwest Division (Typically considered the most balanced, if not hardest, division in the league. Though I'd have probably given hardest to Pacific), were not considered Stanley Cup contenders. So when the Canucks fell in five to the Ducks, many weren't all that surprised. After what felt like a sigh of relief, most decided to look ahead and ask, "What now?"
Going into the draft, the Canucks had high hopes that Nonis would pull another Luongo out of his hat and possibly move up to one of the top 3 spots to secure Turris. Obviously that didn't happen, and after almost two long hours of GMs thanking Columbus over and over again, it was finally Vancouver's turn to take the podium. Who would it be? Perron was the highest ranked unpicked player at the time, but in this crapshoot of a draft it could be anyone. They called the name of Patrick White and with apprehension I went downstairs to my computer and did some research, finding very little. Ever more dubious after my failed scouring of the Internet, I gave the Canucks organization the benefit of the doubt and decided to wait for further information to surface. Recent news has shown that Patrick White is a promising draft pick with a fair amount of upside, good stick handling, and a nose for the net. He was picked so much higher than he was ranked because Ottawa was believed to have shown heavy interest in him as well, and they didn't pick long after Vancouver.
Without any major surprises from the Canucks on draft day, the days fell quickly as everyone eagerly anticipated the Christmas in July that is the Free Agent Frenzy. With high hopes that the Canucks would be able to scoop up a higher tiered right wing right handed shot (Which is what I and many others believe the Canucks are truly missing), the Free Agent Frenzy slowly turned into a 3rd line and depth-on-defense frenzy for the Canucks. Don't get me wrong, I loved the signings they made. The additions of Isbister, Ritchie, and Shannon combined with the returns of Cowan and Linden make this team one of the strongest and deepest in terms of the bottom 6 forwards, especially if you're including Cooke. Miller being signed and Bieksa being extended was only icing on the already delicious and diverse defensive cake.
It is my belief that if the Canucks can pick up a decent top six forward off of other teams looking to dump some salary (see: Rangers, Bruins, or maybe even Anaheim knowing the relationship between Burke and Nonis), the Canucks could transform themselves from a Stanley Cup hopeful into a Stanley Cup favourite.
Projected lines as of right now:
Sedin - Sedin - Pyatt
Naslund - Morrison - Isbister
Cooke - Kesler - Linden
Burrows - Ritchie - Cowan
Depth: Shannon, Hansen, Balej, Jaffray
Defensive pairings (No particular order):
Ohlund - Miller
Bieksa - Mitchell
Krajicek - Salo
Depth: Edler, Bourdon, Tremblay, Coulombe, Rahimi
Depth: Schneider, MacIntyre
For the forward lines, I can see Isbister stepping up to the 2nd line and taking Cooke's place alongside Morrison and Naslund, even though those two had some success last season. Isbister is a very large 6'4, 230lbs and a former 20 goal scorer. Although he has been on a decline while bouncing around teams, he could definitely find a home here playing with Nazzy and Mo, and spark some fond pre-lockout memories. Cooke, Kesler and Linden with Burrows, Ritchie and Cowan is a very solid checking group and will cause a ton of headaches for the rest of the league. What the Canucks also have this year is a lot more depth in the system. If any specific player on the team isn't playing at a reasonable level, they can be easily demoted or scratched while players like Shannon and Jaffray can step in and give it a shot.
For the defensive pairings, I know my opinions are off-beat. I've paired Ohlund with Miller because I believe that because Miller is so defensively responsible, it will give Ohlund a ton of opportunity to jump up on the play and create some offense, sort of like what has happened between Bieksa and Mitchell. With Krajicek playing with Salo, Krajicek can develop a lot faster as a solid power play quarterback as he's been predicted to become.
I'm not going to bother talking about Luongo at all because everything has already been said, but I will say that I'm excited to have Sanford on our side for once instead of having to lose repeatedly to the St. Louis Blues due to his ridiculous play against us. Given any injuries occur (knock on wood), I'm also looking forward to seeing Schneider don a Canucks jersey and show what kind of prospect he's been believed to be.
I absolutely believe that the Canucks can improve over last year. I think that their offense will improve by at least 15 goals (which may not sound like much, but that can potentially add 5 more wins to the season total) and I think their goals against will fall as well. I can easily see Luongo capturing the Jennings this year. If the penalty kill stays where it is and the power play can improve a few percent, the Canucks will be a very scary team.
Edit: Just realized I wrote Allison instead of Miller. I guess I missed Aaron Miller n my mind to create Allison?