Join TSN in a 30 teams in 30 days tour of the NHL in preparation for the upcoming season. Teams will be unveiled in reverse order of the pre-season TSN.ca Power Rankings, and the Vancouver Canucks are up next. Get the lowdown on their off-season and the issues they face this season. Use the Your Call feature to give us your take on the Canucks!
2009-10: 2009-10: 49-28-5 (3rd in West, Eliminated in Conference SF by Blackhawks)
General Manager: Mike Gillis (3rd Season)
Head Coach: Alain Vigneault (5th Season)
What they did in the off-season:
For the second straight season, the Canucks saw their playoff dreams end at the hands of the much hated Blackhawks. The summer was spent licking their wounds and re-loading for what the team hopes will be their best shot at the Stanley Cup in franchise history.
The Canucks kicked off their summer by re-signing perennial ‘goaltender of the future' Corey Schneider to a new two-year deal, with the promise that he will serve as the team's primary backup and give incumbent starter Roberto Luongo a few extra days of rest throughout the season. Seeing as they had difficulty dealing with the size and speed of the Blackhawks forward group, the Canucks looked to bolster their blueline over the summer, first with the re-signing of Aaron Rome, then by trading for Keith Ballard from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Steve Bernier and prospect Michael Grabner. Vancouver made Shane O'Brien a qualifying offer to keep the much maligned defenceman around for at least another year. The Canucks then made their biggest signal of intent as the inked shutdown defender Dan Hamhuis to a massive six-year deal, virtually ending the tenure of Willie Mitchell on the West Coast. While not a defenceman, Manny Malhotra was one of the best two-way forwards in the league last season, and the Canucks rewarded him for his efforts by signing him to a new three year deal. Jeff Tambellini was also brought in as a free agent while the likes of Mitchell, Pavol Demitra, Kyle Wellwood, Andrew Raycroft, Ryan Johnson and Brad Lukowhich were all allowed to walk.
Tanner Glass, Janik Hansen and Mason Raymond were all retained while Raffi Torres was brought in on a one-year deal. In a surprise to virtually no one, Sami Salo injured himself, tearing his Achilles tendon in training which will cause him to miss significant time this season. Fortunately the Canucks were very proactive in restocking their defence corps; so while the injury will be felt, the Canucks have adequate depth on the blue line to compensate for his loss.
Biggest issue facing the team:
Expectations heading into the season are perhaps the highest in franchise history, and for good reason. The Canucks are as stacked as any team in the NHL with great depth at forward complemented by a solid group of defenceman and an All-Star goaltender who will receive a considerable push from their hotshot rookie backup. The Canucks biggest issue may be how they handle the increased expectations while attempting to satisfy a rabid fan base who feels the time is right for the team's first championship.
Although Alex Burrows may miss the first month after undergoing shoulder surgery, he should slide right in on the top line and ride shotgun on the Sedin Express when he regains full health. Ryan Kesler will look to build upon his breakout season and the signings of Malhotra and Hamhuis should help the team's mediocre penalty killing. A lot of the responsibility will once again fall on the shoulders of Luongo who was not his normally stellar self last season. A great deal of this could be due to the amount of pressure he was under to perform at the Olympics where he helped Canada capture gold. With the Olympic distraction out of the way, and Cory Schneider knocking on the door, look for Bobby Lu to bounce back in a big way and the Canucks to challenge for the Cup.
Player to watch:
No matter how you slice it, Roberto Luongo will be under the microscope this season. While his regular season statistics would suggest that he had another superb season, those who watch the team closely would say otherwise. Luongo sported a 2.57 goals-against average and .913 save percentage with just four shutouts, all low water marks for his career since joining the Canucks. Bobby Lu's play really suffered during the playoffs where his already mediocre numbers ballooned once again. A lot of this may be attributed to Luongo's Olympic participation. A tournament of that magnitude in the middle of the season unquestionably saps a player both mentally and physically. It became clear down the stretch and in the post-season that Luongo was worn out. Fortunately for the Canucks there are no Olympic games in 2011 to disrupt their season and Schneider is expected to spell Luongo more often than Andrew Raycroft did last campaign. If the Canucks are able to manage Luongo's minutes better than they have in the past, then it should be a very good season in Van City this upcoming year.