2011 ended in heartbreak in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals to the Boston Bruins. How does Vancouver regroup and move forward and where should they strengthen in order to make a renewed assault on the title?
If you polled the 30 NHL teams prior to the start of a season, and asked them if making it to the Stanley Cup finals is an achievement, almost every one of them would say yes.
For the fans of the Vancouver Canucks, it wasn’t good
Now that the dust has settled from the 2010-11 season as
well as the riots that followed afterwards, cooler heads can prevail and
realize that the future in Vancouver is fairly bright.
They’ll return virtually the entire core of a team that
won the Presidents’ Trophy and ventured all the way to Game 7 of the Cup
finals. Overall, it was actually some really good progress for a team that had
been considered playoff underachievers prior these playoffs.
With some lessons learned, there is little reason to
believe that the Canucks won’t be contenders in the hockey betting for the Cup once again in 2012. Right now you can get futures odds for the Canucks lifting the Stanley Cup next year at +600.
What they’ve got:
Pretty much everything.
The Canucks have a pair of MVP candidates in Daniel
and Henrik Sedin, they have ample backup with Ryan Kesler, who had 41 goals
this season, and they have an excellent goaltender in Roberto Luongo – as much
as everyone wants to doubt him.
On defense, they will have a bit of work do to in the
offseason, but the Canucks still have an excellent defensive corps and one of
the deepest in the league.
As far as intangibles go, they have plenty of team
chemistry and after a deep journey into the playoffs, the bonds of this team
are only going to grow stronger. They’ve also gained a lot of playoff
experience and now know what it takes to get the job done; previously, they had
been underachievers in the postseason but now they are a seasoned squad.
There is a lot of consistency on this squad and almost
all of the key players on this team are either entering or in their primes.
They are in about as good shape as a team can be.
What they need:
First and foremost, the Canucks need to bring back a
couple more defensemen. They quickly took care of Kevin Bieksa, who at times
looked like a Conn Smythe trophy candidate in the postseason. Now they’ll work
on bringing back Christian Ehrhoff and/or Sami Salo.
As far as their forwards are concerned, the Canucks will
look to get bigger and stronger in their top six units as they looked like they
were outmuscled by the Boston Bruins in the finals. A power forward would be
ideal to complement all of the finesse that is already there.
Next in line will be an intangible they don’t really
control: health. The Canucks were one heck of a beat up team by the time the playoffs
were finished. Dan Hamhuis has torn abdominal muscles, Mason Raymond has
fractured vertebrae, Mikael Samuelsson had abdominal surgery during the
playoffs, Kesler has torn hip and groin muscles, Alex Edler had two broken
fingers at the end of the finals, Ehrhoff’s shoulder might require surgery,
Bieksa had an MCL bruise, Chris Higgins had a bad foot and Henrik Sedin had a
bad back. Some injuries are more serious than others, but this type of wear and
tear could really show early on next season. The Canucks must get healthy.
Lastly, Vancouver needs to round out some of their
roleplayers. Tanner Glass, Raffi Torres, Jeff Tambellini and Higgins are
unrestricted free agents, while Maxim Lapierre and Jannik Hansen are
restricted. The Canucks will have to either keep some of these guys or replace
them, as a number of them – particularly Torres, Higgins, Lapierre and Hansen –
played key roles on the third and fourth lines.
Overall, the Canucks don’t have a ton of homework to do.
They need to get healthy, re-sign some key players and try to address the issue
of grit, which could also be solved at the trade deadline. It might sound like
a lot but these are minor renovations for a Cup contender.
The days are not nearly as dark in Vancouver as their
fans might have you believe. As a matter of fact, the future is very bright.
They were the best team in the NHL in 2010-11, and
considering so many of their players are in their prime – or just entering it –
they could very well be the best in the league once again.
While everyone doubts them, don’t be surprised if they
are once again in contention right at the end of the race in 2012.