Canucks, Gillis bring in plenty of new faces Staff

8/12/2008 10:44:16 PM

New general manager Mike Gillis promised the Vancouver Canucks will be a very different looking team this season. He has lived up to that. But whether or not they are better is certainly debatable.

Gone are seven players, including a trio who have been the face of this franchise for the better part of past decade: Markus Naslund, Brendan Morrison and Trevor Linden.

Among the six newcomers are Pavol Demitra and Steve Bernier. The question is, are they an upgrade offensively over Naslund and Morrison?

The pair combined for just 31 goals a year ago. Demitra has missed 53 games over the past 4 seasons with injuries. The hope is he can stay healthy, and that Bernier will thrive with more ice time and added responsibility.

Both players are expected to be among the Canucks top 6 forwards. An early look at what the Canucks lines might look like, has Bernier penciled in as a right handed shot along side the Sedin twins.

Whether this group can provide more offense than the one that finished 23rd in the league in goals, remains to be seen. But if nothing else, Bernier, Johnson, Hordichuk and Brown will make the Canucks bigger and harder to play against.

Defensively, the Canucks top six returns in tact. Many of them had injury-plagued, sub-par seasons a year ago, with Alex Edler being a bright spot.

They will all be counted to bounce back and provide support to Roberto Luongo, who will also be needed to return to return to the form he showed in his first season as a Canuck, when he was a Hart Trophy finalist.

All of this changes of course if the Canucks can land Mats Sundin. He would immediately be the Canucks number one center on a line with Demitra. Vancouver has just enough cap room to handle Sundin's salary.

If he retires or signs elsewhere, Gillis has promised to persue more offense via the trade route or youngsters like Jannik Hansen and Jason Jaffray may be thrust into the forefront.