After being embarrassed by the San Jose Sharks in the first round of last season’s playoffs, the Vancouver Canucks are heading into a monumental year. The Canucks made headlines off the ice over the summer by the shocking trade of Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils at the NHL draft and the hiring of John Tortorella. The Vancouver Canucks are at a turning point in their franchise. This aging core is nearing their expiry date and has one last kick at the can for the cup. With the season approaching, let’s take a look at the roster and make a prediction.
Forwards: Henrik and Daniel Sedin return for their 13th season with the Vancouver Canucks. Both are entering the final years of the five-year contract they signed in 2009 and are looking for new contracts with the club. I have nothing bad to say about these two, they have given their heart and soul to this team. They have made minor league caliber players look like natural born goal scorers. I see another solid year for the twins where they average a point a game as per usual. I would love to see Zack Kassian get the opportunity to gel with the twins and be that big rugged goal scorer that will stick up for the two when they are being pushed around. Kassian simply did not get enough of an opportunity with the twins under Alain Vigneault. I see Kassian having a stellar season.
Ryan Kesler needs to stay healthy! Ever since the superman-like playoff series against Nashville in 2011, Kesler has just not been able to stay healthy. Ryan Kesler looked like the best player in the National Hockey League in the Nashville series. He has said that he is 100% healthy and is ready for the 2013-2014 season. It would be of great benefit for the Canucks if Kesler can stay healthy throughout the season. I would like to see a line of Chris Higgins and Alex Burrows centered by Kesler. Burrows and Kesler have always had chemistry over the years. Chris Higgins has all the talent in the world; he just needs to be more consistent. The disappearing act in the playoffs must come to an end to for Higgins.
The third line is the big question mark for this team. Only a few years ago the Canucks had much depth in the center position. Well times have changed! At the moment the Canucks do not know who will be their third line center on opening night. Bo Horvat was drafted 9th overall but will probably be sent back down to his junior club for the season unless he turns heads during training camp and makes the big club. I see the Vancouver Canucks looking to trade for or sign a veteran centre to fill in the 3rd center position because I would hate to see Mike Santorelli or Brad Richardson iced as the 3rd center. Manny Maholtra would make a better 3rd line center than those two players. I see Jannik Hansen and David Booth as the wingers for the third line. Booth needs to stay healthy; so far he has been nothing but a bust for the Canucks and is one of many bone headed transactions that Mike Gillis has made. The fourth line will consist of players such as Dale Weise, Tom Sestito, Kellen Lain and the two mentioned above.
Defense: The Canucks return with defensive depth. Kevin Bieska, Dan Hamhuis, Jason Garrison, Alexander Edler, Chris Tanev and youngster Frankie Corrado all return to the blue line. The X factor to the defensive corps is Edler, who had a season to forget. Edler needs to shake off last season and get back to his old form. Jason Garrison must be placed on the first power play unit. He has one of the hardest shots in the league and it must be utilized. Henrik and Daniel love to have someone with a booming point shot on the power play. Look for Dan Hamhuis to have his best season as a Vancouver Canuck because he is in the running for one of the 7-8 defenseman spots for Team Canada. Andrew Alberts was resigned and Yannick Weber was brought in for depth.
Goaltending: Roberto Luongo (remember him?) is back between the pipes as the Canucks undisputed number one goalie. You have to wonder where his head is at after thinking his time was done in Vancouver. I think Roberto will have one of his finest years as a professional. Even though it seems like he does not want to be here, he will have a stellar season and be named Team Canada’s starting goalie for the Olympics in Sochi. Look for Luongo to start between 60-65 games this season. Swedish goalie Eddie Lack looks like he will be backing Roberto up for Vancouver this season. Eddie Lack is coming back from a hip injury and may be challenged by Joachim Eriksson who lit it last year in the Swedish Elite league.
The 2013-2014 Vancouver Canucks season will be a memorable one. The Canucks will be playing in new division that will include Stanley Cup Contenders like the LA Kings and San Jose Sharks. The Division also has the up and Edmonton Oilers who are loaded with young talent and the Anaheim Ducks who are led by All-Stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are always in the playoff mix. For the first time in five seasons, the Vancouver Canucks will not be division champs. I see them making the playoffs but being bounced early in either the first or second round. As much as I like the players on the Canucks, I think it may be time for management to start the rebuild sooner than later.
By Jessy Dhillon
A regular columnist for the LINK newspaper and Desi Today magazine, Jessy is an avid sports fanatic and young community leader. Jessy’s passion for sports started at the young age of 6 when he started watching Wayne Gretzky play for the Los Angeles Kings. He is a long-time resident of Richmond with deep roots in the sports scene.