Remember this time last year? The Canucks were Stanley Cup favourites. They were picked by many to not just contend for the Stanley Cup, but to win it. And they came pretty darn close.
The Canucks had a dream season in 2010-11, save for four games in the Stanley Cup Final. They were the best team in the regular season, had the best power play, scored the most goals and had the lowest goals against. The Canucks had just two significant losses in the offseason (Christian Ehrhoff and Raffi Torres), yet the pundits don’t seem to like their chances nearly as much this season. The TSN Power Rankings has the Canucks ranked fifth. It seems like a lot of people don’t think the Canucks can make it back to the Stanley Cup Final, and I think they’re wrong.
Of course, winning the Stanley Cup is a tall order. A lot needs to go right, and you need some luck along the way. The Canucks certainly had their fair share of luck last season, and they’ll need a bit more this year. But luck aside, the Canucks have a lot going for them.
A lot of talk has been centered around what the Canucks have lost. The Canucks will be without Christian Ehrhoff and Raffi Torres (both lost to free agency), as well as Mason Raymond who is out long term due to injury. Yet, once Ryan Kesler returns in November, the Canucks will have an improved lineup than the one dressed for game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Game 7 Lineup:
2011-12 November Lineup:
A lot of people forget that the Canucks were without Dan Hamhuis and Mikael Samuelsson during the Stanley Cup Final. A lot of people also forget that Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre were not with the team for most of last season’s record breaking regular season. Missing Mason Raymond will hurt, but Marco Sturm should be able to fill his shoes aptly. Chris Tanev looks to be improved and Keith Ballard can’t possibly have a worse season than he did last year, can he?
My argument is not that the Canucks are without warts, far from it. But this team is in the mix with about seven or eight other teams as the top contenders for the Stanley Cup in 2011-12. The Sharks, Kings and Blackhawks should be much improved this season and along with the Red Wings (who are always good) will be the toughest competition in the west. Should the Canucks get back to the final, the Capitals and Penguins appear better as well.
If Roberto Luongo is strong in net, their defence stays healthy and their forwards continue their scoring prowess, the Canucks will be the best team in the Western Conference. And that’s not a bad position to be in.