by Kent Basky
1. Rumors of the Sedin's decline are exaggerated.
While they aren't going to win a Hart Trophy this year, last season saw a fine return to form for the twins. Yes, they're going to start slowing down, but you couldn't get a finer example of just how disastrous the John Tortorella experiment was than the way Daniel and Henrik showed that they still have a lot in the tank.
2. Distraction-less heading into this season?
After removing the drama that seemed to gravitate to the team via Ryan Kesler, the Canucks continued that with the deal that sent Zack Kassian to Montreal for Brandon Prust. Between his frustrating efforts on the ice and his issues off it, Kassian is the Habs' problem now.
3. Hope for the future.
The emergence of Bo Horvat last year was a pleasant surprise, and the Canucks have a few more in the system that they will turn to as they continue to dismantle the core. While they seem to have done a better job via the draft over the last three years, they've made some good free agent signings as well, the most recent one being University of Maine defenseman Ben Hutton. Hutton has a terrific offensive touch, but not at the expense of his defensive game, and could end up stealing a roster spot when all is said and done.
by Kent Basky
As we saw during the series against Calgary, Vancouver's defensemen were exploitable to the point of ridicule. So imagine how Canucks fans felt watching Jim Benning make a number of moves involving forwards during the summer, and the defensive moves were puzzling.
Bringing in Boston's Matt Bartkowski was a move that was underwhelming to say the least, but unless there's something literally EVERYONE has been missing when it comes to Luca Sbisa, there's really no other word to describe the raise he got last year than lunacy. Hey, maybe Sbisa blooms, Bartkowski finds his groove, Dan Hamhuis shakes off a disappointing season, but let's face it: this is going to be part of their downfall this season. And that leads us to ...
2. The goaltending.
There are nights where I pray to the hockey gods above for my team to just have one season where the words "goaltending controversy" are not synonymous with the Canucks. This is not that season. After trading away fan favorite Eddie Lack, the Canucks head into this season with Ryan Miller in year two of his three-year deal, and Jacob Markstrom as backup.
What's the bigger concern for the Canucks: That Miller is going to be more of the shaky version we saw last season and that his best hockey is behind him? Or is it that Markstrom cannot recreate the kind of dominance he has displayed in the AHL? They are going to need both of these issues to be solved if they want a shot at even making the playoffs.
3. The little things.
Sure, some of the guys they lost over the summer may not seem like huge names, but the Canucks may find it coming back to haunt them on the PK. The Canucks' penalty kill last season was frighteningly effective, and the absences of Richardson and Matthias could really be felt here. Add in the 36 goals that Bonino, Richardson and Matthias provided, and the pressure will be on the three lines that don't have a Sedin to step up in a big way.
1. Is this still a team that needs to tweak things, or is it time to dissolve the core completely?
2. Is there a method to Jim Benning's madness? Because the offseason moves left many puzzled.
3. How long is Ryan Miller's leash, and what if Markstrom can't give the Canucks what they need from their backup?
Get the answers at Nucks Misconduct.
BEST CASE SCENARIO
by Kent Basky
I think this is a pretty simple one. Well, let's start with goaltending. Ryan Miller stays healthy and plays consistently, and Jacob Markstrom learns how to translate his AHL dominance to the NHL level. Luca Sbisa suddenly stops being one of the statistically-worst defensemen in the league, they get solid performances from their top four and Ben Hutton begins his ascent to his role as leader of the Canucks defense in the future.
After that, the Canucks need Radim Vrbata and Brandon Sutter to find the chemistry needed to give the Canucks a potent second line. The Sedins will need to recreate their success from last year, the third and fourth lines will need to provide the kind of production they did last time ... oh, and Bo Horvat will need to continue his growth as he becomes the future leader of the team. Pretty simple, right?
WORST CASE SCENARIO
by Kent Basky
There are a couple different options here for the Canucks, really. One thing that could happen is the Canucks again make the playoffs. Is that a bad thing? Some might say so. As the core of the team gets older, and they inch towards establishing a new core, the need to restock with solid prospects becomes vital. There are two ways to get a high draft pick: a) make a trade with a team that stinks, or b) be a team that stinks.
Truth be told, this one's a coin flip. We will need to see how the Trevor Linden/Jim Benning plan plays out to know which is going to be more beneficial for the long-term needs of the team. One thing that's going to benefit them is that the Pacific Division is now full of teams that aren't exactly world beaters. The Canucks, San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings aren't as good as they once were, the Edmonton Oilers are still a ways away and the Calgary Flames are a pretty likely candidate for regression.
Add in the Arizona Coyotes who are awful, and the playoffs are a crapshoot. But much like last season, I can't shake the feeling that missing the playoffs is going to be a better thing in the long run.