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6 Cities in 6 Days - Canucks core needs to elevate its play

Bob McKenzie
9/22/2009 1:28:07 PM
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It would not be fair to say the Canucks did not take steps in the off-season to make themselves better.

They did, to a point.

The signing of free agent winger Mikael Samuelsson should provide a boost to secondary scoring. And the addition of Christian Ehrhoff and Mathieu Schneider on the blueline is likely to give a much needed infusion of offence and mobility from the defence, as well as additional defensive depth.

But if the Canucks are to take the next step and go from being a competitive team in the western conference to a legitimate Cup contender, it is the core of last season's second round losing squad that must elevate its play.

Let's be honest, the Canucks' success hinges largely on the play of the Sedin twins, Alexandre Burrows and Ryan Kesler. They must lead the way and generate more timely offence than they did in last spring's playoff loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. The same thing goes double for franchise netminder and team captain Roberto Luongo, who needs to be better at crunch time.

Canucks general manager' Mike Gillis's most deft and crucial off-season moves were pre-emptive strikes -- signing the Sedin twins and extending Luongo. Can you imagine where the Canucks would be now if the Sedins had left for free agency or what a distraction it would be if Luongo was a threat to bolt at season's end?

That isn't to say the Canucks don't need a kid such as Cody Hodgson or Sergei Shirokov to step up and contribute a little something. And it would be a boon if Samuelsson scores 20 or more and the new d-men skate the Canucks out of trouble and contribute offensively, too.

All that would be nice.

But if Luongo, the twins, Burrows and Kesler and the returning vets on defence - Kevin Bieksa, Willie Mitchell, Sami Salo and Alexander Edler - don't find another gear when it matters most, Vancouver's off-season tinkering will be just that.

Still, it's safe to say the Canucks look to be the team to beat in the northwest division this season and Calgary will try to do just that while Edmonton, Minnesota and Colorado appear to be a notch below.

Be sure to follow TSN NHL Insider Bob McKenzie on Twitter at twitter.com/TSNBobMcKenzie.

Bob McKenzie

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