Friday, September 30, 2011

NHL 30 in 30: Vancouver Canucks

How can a team bounce back from a heartbreaking loss in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in their own barn? Plan, and train. Hard. That's what Alain Vigneault's team has been doing, and they should be contending again for a Stanley Cup. They have very little that changed from what got them so close last season, so will the result stay the same, aside from the gut wrenching Game 7 loss?

Strengths: Up and down the roster, there is so much depth and talent. Everyone knows about the Sedin twins, Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows and others, but there is so much more to it than that. They have depth on defense, especially headed by Kevin Bieksa, Sami Salo, and Dan Hamhuis, but they did lose Christian Erhoff to Buffalo this offseason, and it remains to be seen who will be able to replace him. Up front, they have other great players besides the big boys. Mason Raymond, Mikael Samuelsson, Marco Sturm and others are big threats, alongside the young players that have big promise, such as Cody Hodgson, Jannick Hansen, and others. In net, Roberto Luongo is about as good as they come in net, but young goalie Corey Schneider is going to challenge him for starts this season, and that may be a very good thing for both guys.

Weaknesses: Now, there are questions about who will replace Christian Erhoff on the blue line. Keith Ballard is one that many want to replace him, but he has not lived up to his potential in Florida, and in Vancouver. There are also questions about whether the big guys can stay healthy this season, and to whether the guys aside from the Top 4 can perform to big levels like they have done in the past.

Any Help Coming? RW Nicklas Jensen has some good talent offensively, but may need to add some muscle to his frame at some point to contribute. D Chris Tanev is a light defenseman with offensive potential, but he could use to add some strength and grit to get better. G Eddie Lack has some promise too, but he may be buried behind both Luongo and Schneider on the depth chart.

Outlook: They are the odds-on favorite to win the Northwest Division again, but they have their sights set beyond that. They want to win that elusive cup, and they sure have the talent to be able to. However, can this team totally come together like they did last season in order to to beat Detroit, LA, and Chicago in the West this season.

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