Im sure Ludacris didn’t have the Canucks in mind when he penned his classic “area codes” jam in 2001 for the Rush Hour 2 soundtrack. But here we are, one PTO veteran making the team and another going the way of the Ruutu (its actually funny because that’s his name). Jim Benning felt Jack Skille warranted a full season on his team after a solid? preseason. Tuomo Ruutu was let go but the Calgary Flames/Toronto Maple Leafs are always trolling the Canucks wastelands for pickups.
As this season gets underway there aren’t really a whole lot of questions with this team. I mean, no one has them picked to win the Cup so that can be put away, goaltending really isn’t a problem after seeing last year that Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom can easily handle the duties this year while super prospect Thatcher Demko hones his craft in the AHL.
Up front, the Sedins will once again lead the way for Vancouver and it wouldn’t surprise me if they still have some tricks left up their sleeves. New line mate Loui Eriksson (also from Sweden) will start the year on the top line and after a positive first go around with Henrik and Daniel at the World Cup of Hockey, they should easily transition into the regular season. A healthy Tre Kronor will probably net Eriksson 30 or so goals, the Sedins each around 80 points…ok maybe high 70s.
Last year was abismal and I’m willing to say a healthy, properly used Sedin line probably does get close to those totals. Henrik put up 73 points two seasons ago while Daniel put up 76. I’m not even going to link it because I know that YOU KNOW how to use the Internet and I want you to stay here. With Eriksson up front, for we’ll say 70 games, the 70-80ish point threshold is doable. Canucks Army just fired me, pretty sure….pretty sure.
The Sedins aren’t really the focus though for the “wow” factor this year if there even is one. Bo Horvat along with Sven Baertschi will hope to relight their spark they found last year and Jake Virtanen would be smart to get in on that action early. Sure, the lines aren’t in his control but no one wants to be stuck with Markus Granlund or Derek Dorsett.
Brandon Sutter will be starting the year almost healthy and will do his best get back to being a normal NHLer. He was the forward version of Sami Salo last year when it comes to injuries. A broken jaw and sports hernia pretty much shut Sutter down last year and there was no way he was going to be anything close to normal.
Willie Desjardins needs Sutter to produce for him to give this team a lick of hope in 2017. Three reliable centres make the Canucks somewhat legit like Crocs you buy at Canadian Tire. You know they aren’t the real thing but you’ll use them how they should be used and heck they’re 10 bucks! Where was I going with this? I forgot.
Brandon Sutter, right.
If Sutter does indeed stay healthy enough to warrant regular rotation between the top 3 lines, guys like Jannik Hansen, Markus Granlund and even Alex Burrows can become relevant once again. The checking line of Brendan Gaunce, Alex Burrows and most likely Jack Skille/Derek Dorsett might be a regular checking line if the top 3 lines are going. Again, not a Cup contending roster but rolling 4 lines does make the Canucks a bit tougher to defend, ya I said it.
Who’s really going to challenge that line anyways, on the Canucks I mean? If you’re in the first 9, don’t screw up and you’ll be fine.
Does that go for the defense as well?
Apparently you can tear up the preseason (meaningless hockey) and still get sent down. I’m talking Troy Stecher, I’m talking Ben Hutton ver. 2.01. Going into training camp and then the preseason, Stecher to the general public, me as well, was a name we were told to watch for. We watched, he delighted and somehow for a second season in a row, a Canucks defenseman from college was going to crack the roster.
The Utica Comets will give Stecher some solid playing time on a top pairing and it will only be a matter of time before he’s called up. He’s too good and Philip Larsen can’t really be our PP QB, can he? I bet fellow Dane Jannik Hansen is high on him but he can’t really believe our problems are solved on the man advantage with Phil.
Vancouver’s defense looks like this to start the year: Chris Tanev, Alex Edler, Nikita Tryamkin,
Lou Alex Biega, Luca “ya they haven’t gotten rid of me yet” Sbisa, Erik Gudbranson, Ben Hutton and the aforementioned Larsen.
I shutter to think where the Canucks are without Hutton or worse, Tanev. The defense on paper is sketchy and anytime you ice a team that has a really tall unproven player along with a veteran not good whatsoever player, you have issues still. Sbisa is our resident dumpster fire but thankfully Matt Bartkowski’s astonishments are now done here.
Tryamkin better start figuring his stuff out quick because having a guy that can’t be sent down to the AHL or he leaves is stupid. If he was that hot, you wouldn’t need that clause in there. Be a big boy and earn your spot. Even bulldog Biega earned his stripes, we like him. He’s not great but when Biega is out there, you want him to succeed. I hope Nikita is everything they hoped he’d be but man, he has to own that body and take names.
One man who doesn’t need to prove himself is newcomer Erik Gudbranson. A gritty defender who doesn’t shy away from the rough stuff. His #fancystats aren’t anything to write home about but he is what the Canucks have lacked since Kevin Bieksa’s hay (sp?) days minus the offensive punch. Markstrom and Miller are definitely safe this season with Guddy in front of them.
As for a nicely wrapped basket of what the Canucks will or won’t accomplish this year, the jist is don’t expect anything promising. They won’t make the playoffs but in typical Canucks fashion, they won’t finish dead last either; thus eliminating them already from Nolan Patrick the first overall pick in June.
We may very well be witnessing the transition into what Canucks land will look like for awhile but thankfully there are a handful of bright spots (Horvat, Virtanen, Hutton, Stecher, Demko and Tanev) that make you think it’s going to be OK eventually.
The Canucks will hang in there this year but at the end of the day, be prepared for many, many 1 and 2 goal games; most of those being defeats.
I won’t sugar coat it because we’re past that now. Enjoy watching hockey again even if it means a bunch of #moralvictories again.
Go Canucks Go, We are all Canucks and all that jazz.
See you out there.
cover photo – insidetoronto.com