The panic for Canucks fans is finally stating to ebb as a jumbling bunch of youngsters has proven that they have skills to add to a team long in need of grit and offense.
The first half of the pre-season has seen the best record in the NHL and a nice crop of emerging talent in Hodgson, Grabner, Wellwood, Krog and Hansen. Granted Krog and Wellwood are not really 'emerging' talent, but they have shown to be much more than stock depth players.
What stands out the most in the pre-season for this fan is how much this group is looking like the group of 2006/07. 4 wins, all by one-goal margins, with no player scoring twice in a single game. Remind you of anything?
There was a tremendous shake-up in the locker room over the summer. Former Hart-trophy finalist, 100 point-scorer, franchise points-leader and perennial-captain has left the building. Along with him went the most loved Canuck in the last 20 years and the other 1/3rd of the West-Coast Express line. And 100% of Canucks leadership.
A host of newer and younger players have entered the fray with new management and some headline grabbing deals.
However, unlike most writers and arm-chair speculators, I do not believe that the Canucks have changed that drastically in the last 2 years nor do I believe that they have ever been as bad as is generally believed.
The Canucks won their division in 06/07 off of a generally sound system of defense and opportunistic offense. They found ways to win. Luongo anchored the team, the defense as a group stayed consistent and the Sedins provided the lions share of the offense.
Last year was not much different. The Canucks were competitive and fighting for the division lead until they lost 7 of their last 8 games. 7 of their last 8! Think about that. It could have been a rematch with Dallas and a mildly successful year considered if they had not crumbled down the stretch.
Why they crumbled and what would have happened had they not is an unknown. Luongo's family issues, team chemistry, Naslund's motivation and injuries all played into the mix somehow.
However, like the last two years, the Canucks still have a solid first line, 2 of the best forwards in the NHL, a great checking line, a diverse and unheralded defense and a world class goalie. They've basically swapped the players they lost for much of the same thing, minus their leadership capabilities. However I wouldn't be surprised if those needed changing anyways.
I submit, for general fan approval, that the Canucks will be basically the same team we've seen over the last 2 years, only a little better. They've been working a system for the last 2 years and I think it will only continue to improve. They've added fresh blood and youth. And they know they have it in them to win...