Will the results be different?
By Elliot Chan, Contributor
For several years, the Vancouver Canucks have been a notoriously slow-starting team. But somehow by mid-season they pull a few winning streaks together and suddenly at the end they are on top of the league and Presidents’ Trophy winners. This year, with 48 games scheduled, every game becomes so much more important. Although the core of the team is still intact, several key areas of the Canucks’ lineup may require some tinkering. And if they are unable to find chemistry off the bat, then a short season will feel a lot shorter.
The most crucial problem is the absence of Ryan Kesler. After a shoulder and wrist surgery in the summer, the Canucks’ most valuable two-way forward is still recovering. With no schedule set for his return and Kesler refusing to risk any setbacks, the team will simply have to cope without him for the time being. Left winger Chris Higgins will be the most likely candidate to replace Kesler as the second-line centre. But concerning points, David Booth, Jannik Hansen, and Mason Raymond will be expected to pick up the slack.
Despite everything Roberto Luongo has done, Vancouver still remains a goalie graveyard. Amidst the skeletons of Dan Cloutier and Felix Potvin, Cory Schneider will now take the spotlight as the number one goalie in town. During his rise through the Canucks organization, fans have developed a bond with the 26-year-old Massachusetts native. But with Luongo’s departure imminent, how many chances will the fan base offer before the faith in Schneider, like that in his predecessor, runs dry?
While GM Mike Gillis was fairly idle with free agent signings this past summer, there was a notable newcomer: Jason Garrison from the Florida Panthers. With a six-year contract in place, Garrison is taking on big shoes replacing Sami Salo on the blue line. For some, the lockout was a blessing and that was just the case for the White Rock native. Garrison had been nursing a groin injury when he was signed, but now the 28-year-old player is ready to hit the ice with his new team.
The Canucks’ depth has been one of the team’s strengths for many years and this one will be no different. But since it is a tighter schedule don’t expect to see as many line changes and swaps with the farm team. Alain Vigneault needs to see the big picture and get the team to the playoffs; that means relying on the core. Daniel and Henrik Sedin must produce points, Alexander Edler and Dan Hamhuis will need to contribute on the power play, and Corey Schneider must elevate his game and become the new face of the franchise. No pressure, or anything.