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This is a team that has been plagued by playoff failures the last 2 seasons. The result of such failures culminated in the firing of head coach Alan Vigneault. Basically Vigneault was made the scapegoat for a talented team that vastly underachieved when it counted the most. This past postseason was the straw the broke the camel’s back for the organization’s upper management, as they were swept in 4 games by the 6th seeded San Jose Sharks. In the season prior, they were upset in 5-games by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
In a very strange sequence of events, Vigneault was hired to be the head coach of the New York Rangers shortly after being fired by Vancouver. The Rangers had just departed ways with former head coach John Tortorella. Vancouver subsequently turned around and hired Tortorella as their man in charge behind the bench. Tortorella comes in with a stellar resume including leading the Tampa Bay Lightning to the 2003-2004 Stanley Cup. His 410 career wins is tops in NHL history for an American- born head coach. Tortorella brings a fiery demeanor and is a master motivator. He certainly doesn’t enter a situation where the cupboard is empty. This roster is loaded with talent, and general manager Mike Gillis didn’t panic with a massive overhaul, in spite of the bitter disappointments the fan base has had to endure the last few seasons. This may be a classic case of where a different voice and disposition behind the bench could be just what the doctor ordered.
As previously mentioned, this is a roster that has pretty much stayed intact. The forwards unit returns its core group with the Sedin brothers, Alex Burrows, Ryan Kessler, Mason Raymond, Zack Kassian and Jannik Hansen. Make no mistake. the Sedin twins continue to be the heart and soul of this team. Henrik Sedin has been durable and highly productive over the last 8 seasons. In that time span he has 138 goals, 508 assists, and 646 points in 622 regular season games. Additionally impressive is the fact that he’s failed to miss a regular season game in that 8-year stretch. He’s also appeared in 99 playoff games for the Canucks totaling 22 goals and 52 points good for 74 points. His twin brother Daniel Sedin has also been a high production player over the last 8 seasons. The left winger has accumulated 230 goals, 377 assists, and 607 points in 591 regular season games in that stretch. Additionally he’s appeared in 96 career playoff games with the Canucks tallying 23 goals and adding 44 assists good for 67 points.
The defense of the Canucks arguably can be considered to be collectively the most agile and offensively talented of any group in the NHL. Kevin Bieska, Alexander Edler, Jason Garrison, and Dan Hamuis are the core of a very solid back end.
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The huge question mark entering this season will be in goal. Roberto Luongo returns and will be the most scrutinized player on the roster. Luongo possesses a huge contract which has been a deterrent in any possible trade talks. We are talking about a player that as recently as 2 years ago was considered to be among the top 5 at his position in the world. Luongo’s slide began in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals when his confidence and performance level dropped dramatically in the last 3 games of the series. That started a stretch of 7 consecutive playoff losses for Luongo in goal. Last year Luongo started just 18 of the Canucks 48 regular season games posting his lowest save percentage (.907) since his rookie season with the Islanders in 1999-2000. Luongo basically became the backup to Corey Schneider although he was given the starting nod in 2 games of the first round playoff loss versus San Jose. Schneider is now departed signing a free agent contract with the New Jersey Devils in the offseason. Schneider was a terrific 53-21-6 the last 3 seasons with an excellent .931 save percentage while being used primarily as a backup up until last season. Not only is the starting goaltending situation a big concern but the backup job is as well with no proven candidates on the roster as of yet.
You can certainly do a lot worse for your NHL picks than a wager on the Canucks at 16-1. The offensive firepower will be as good as any team in the league. The addition of John Tortorella as the head coach could provide a much needed shot in the arm for this veteran group. If the 34-year old Luongo can return to the form he displayed even a couple of seasons ago, this could be a team to be reckoned with in the Western Conference. My intuition tells me that Luongo has lost the confidence and the swagger he once possessed. The chance of him regaining those attributes is highly unlikely. At the very best this is a long shot bet with the uncertain dilemma in goal.
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