Never before has the NHL’s marketing campaign “is this the year?” ever spoke to me like it does now. Isn’t that really the question on every fan of the Vancouver Canucks mind today? Is this the year they can finally bring the cup home to Vancouver? Well, as a fan of the Canucks for all of my life, I can safely say that their chance to win the cup has never been this good to begin a season. Now, let me qualify that statement with the fact that this in no way makes them a sure thing, and if you’ve followed the Canucks long enough, you know that high expectations are usually something to be worried about in these parts. But alas, the Canucks are entering the 2010-11 season as one of the Stanley Cup favourites, and given the alternative, that’s something to get excited about. So get excited Canucks fans, but know that the competition will be stiff.
The Other Contenders in the West:
Lets start with the cup champs. They’ve lost a lot of their role players like Byfuglien, Versteeg and Eager, but they’ve kept all of the main pieces of the puzzle like Toews, Kane and Keith. I’m also one of the few that believes they’ve improved in goal with Turco over Niemi. They’ll still be tough to beat and should still be considered favourites in the west.
Detroit Red Wings
Don’t kid yourself, the Wings are a powerhouse in the west. They had a lot of injury trouble last year but still finished only slightly behind the Canucks in the standings. They’re bound to have better luck in the injury department this year, have re-added Jiri Hudler and are set in goal with Jimmy Howard. They could easily win the conference this year.
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks have taken a half step back this season losing Evgeny Nabokov and Rob Blake and it’s yet to be determined how adequately they can replace them. What nobody is talking about though is whether or not their young players can take a step up this year. If they do, they could win it all. Of course the biggest question surrounds Joe Thornton and if he can deliver in the playoffs. Either way, they’ll be tough to beat.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings could win it all if one of their goalies, Quick or Bernier, become star goaltenders this year. They’ll also need some of their great young players (Doughty, Johnson, Brown, Simmonds, Kopitar, etc) to continue to take steps forward. If they get that, they could win it all.
What about us?
So what do the Canucks need to do to win it all? In goal they’ll need a big season from Roberto Luongo. Forget Henrik, Bobby Lou needs to be their best player. He should be their best player and he is without a doubt their most important player.
On defense, staying healthy is key. Sami Salo is injured at the moment but if he can come back in time for the playoffs and be an impact player, it would help immensely. They could also sure use a more reliable Kevin Bieksa and high quality play from their new acquisitions on the blueline.
Up front, they are relying on their top two lines duplicating what they did last season, which will be a tall order. Their third line has been remodeled, with Manny Malhotra centering Jannik Hansen and Raffi Torres once everyone is healthy. That line will need to be gritty, tough to play against and provide offense.
On top of all this, they’ll need to stay healthy and get the right bounces. The Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy in the world to win for good reason. Step one to winning it all begins tonight.
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