Well, another NHL preseason is upon us. That means a number of questions will be answered for all 30 teams. And the Vancouver Canucks are no different. A lot of people are asking a lot of questions about the Canucks. To say the least, there is much uncertainty surrounding the team.
I'm about to attempt to answer some of the questions facing them this season.
1 Will Cody Hodgson make the team?
This will be the second camp for Hodgson, who the Canucks took tenth overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
He came oh so close to making the big club in '08. Since then, Hodgson has gained a wealth of experience. He was the OHL Most Outstanding Player, the CHL Player of the Year, and he played on Canada's World Under 18 and World Junior teams. All of this adds up to a spot on the Canucks this season. Just another improvement to the forward depth of the team.
2. Who will be the backup to Roberto Luongo?
It's obvious who the race for this position comes down to. You've got Cory Schneider, the standout with the Canucks' farm club in Manitoba. The you have veteran Andrew Raycroft, signed as a free agent in the offseason. This is by no means an easy decision for coach Alain Vigneault. There are pluses and minuses for both men.
Yes, Schneider is younger than Raycroft. But Raycroft does bring a lot of NHL experience to the table. For a couple of years, Schneider has been seen as the heir apparent in Vancouver. However, when Luongo was injured, he showed signs of not being quite ready for the higher intensity of the NHL. And when the team acquired Jason LaBarbera, Schneider was promptly sent back to Manitoba
Has anything changed there? It's hard to say. My guess is that the veteran Raycroft will win out in this battle. But honestly, I can't say definitively that's what will happen. Only time will tell.
Question 3: Will Alex Burrows continue to play with the Sedins?
Every season, the question is the same. Who is going to play with Daniel and Henrik. Last season, the answer appeared to have been found in Alex Burrows. The Canucks had finally seemed to have found a man who can keep up with the twins on the ice and can compliment their skills. So, this should be a no brainer, right? Why mess with what's been working?
However, the Canucks have added Mikael Samuelsson to the mix. While it may make sense at first glance to keep Burrows playing with the Sedins, let's not downplay the experience factor. Samuelsson has Stanley Cup experience with the Red Wings. And I suppose there may be something to the fact that he's a Swedish countryman of Daniel and Henrik.
The bottom line is, the Canucks have a couple of viable options to put with the Twins. Who will end up in the spot is truly anyone's guess.
Question 4: Who will shine on defense?
Ok. Mattias Ohlund is gone. There's no way around it. The longest serving Canuck, and top defenseman on the team signed in Tampa Bay as a free agent. So what do the Canucks do on defense? A better question might be, who do they cut from their defense.
The blueline is extremely crowded heading into camp. And it would appear some quality players will be left out of the mix. You've got returning veterans such as Kevin Bieksa, Willie Mitchell, Sami Salo, and Alexander Edler. Then there's the young guns looking to make the club, such as Shane O'Brien and Aaron Rome. Don't forget new acquisitions Christian Ehrhoff, Brad Lukowich and Mattieu Schneider.
I would expect the team to keep seven defensemen on the active roster, possibly eight. Which means that one or maybe two of these qualified d-men will be looking for a new home after camp.
Question 5: Will Pavol Demitra finally live up to his potential?
Heading into last season, Demitra was seen as a huge signing for the Canucks.He was the guy who was going to spearhead the offense, and possibly compliment the Sedins. And there was reason to expect this could be possible. He has been a 70-plus point man earlier in his career, and though he hadn't surpassed 65 points in his past five seasons, there was reason for optimism.
Unfortunately, it wasn't realized, as Demitra managed only 53 points. Factor in off season shoulder surgery, which will cause Demitra to be out of action until sometime in November. And even then, who knows if he'll regain his previous form. Demitra may be the biggest question mark facing the team this season.
So there it is. The five biggest question marks, in my opinion, facing the Vancouver Canucks as we head into training camp. We should know the answers to most, if not all of these questions by the time the season begins in October. Regardless, I expect some big things from the Canucks this season. Time will tell if this optimism is warranted.
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