2011-12 NHL Season Preview: Vancouver Canucks

Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler, and Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks
Daniel & Henrik Sedin, along with Ryan Kesler, will lead the way for the Canucks in 2011-12

Key Offseason Additions: Marco Sturm

Key Offseason Losses: Christian Ehrhoff, Raffi Torres, Tanner Glass

Last Season Ranking: 1st in the West

Offense: Up front, the Vancouver Canucks will not look much different than they did last season. They’re lead by a unit of forwards who left them on the brink of elimination in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, rebounded, and later pushed them to within a game of winning the Stanley Cup in June.

Leading the way on the top line will be Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Both are dominant offensively, and will hover in the range of 100 points once again this season. Also contributing heavily will be Ryan Kesler, who recorded a career-high in goals last season with 41. While putting up over 70 each of the past two seasons, Kesler has also been defensively responsible as well. Nothing showed off his accomplishments more than winning the Selke Trophy last season as the leagues best defensive forward. His strong play on both sides of the puck will continue to help the Canucks immensely.

When you think about secondary scoring for the Canucks, guys like Mikael Samuelsson, Alex Burrows, and Mason Raymond are going to come to mind. All three are going to continue to put pressure on opposing goaltenders, and will welcome the addition of Marco Sturm, who signed as a free agent over the summer. Sturm, when healthy, can be counted on to contribute at least 20 goals to an already prolific group of scorers.

Providing additional depth for the Canucks will be Jannik Hansen, Maxim Lapierre, Chris Higgins, and Manny Malhotra. Look for Hansen to continue his development and have a career year in only his fourth NHL season. Higgins will also look to rebound a bit after having sitting out several games last season due to injury.

Defense: On the blue line, the Canucks lost Christian Ehrhoff, one of their most talented defenseman from last season. To fill that void, they will rely on a core of Alexander Edler, Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa, and Sami Salo. Hamhuis and Edler will see their roles grow, and Canucks fans hope to see them stay in the line-up for 82 games this season. Both will be relied on for their contributions on the power-play, as well as even strength.

Bieksa, who played only 66 games last season, and 55 the year before, looks to rebound and retain his health as well. He had a fantastic post-season, picking up 10 points and playing around 24-25 minutes per game in the Stanley Cup finals. Salo, who has played less than 70 games every season since the lockout, needs to remain healthy as well. After only playing 27 games last season, the Canucks need him to rebound and be a presence on the blue line all season.

Goaltending: Roberto Luongo will be the man in net once again for Vancouver. Depending on who you ask, this could be a good or a bad thing. Luongo posted great numbers last season, and had good games in the post-season too, where he recorded four shutouts in only 25 games, which matched his season total for shutouts. On the downside, Luongo also had miserable outings including being pulled in favor of Cory Schneider on four separate occassions, and even being forced to play an entire 60 minutes as the Canucks got trounced 8-1 in game three of the finals. So the question still remains, does Roberto Luongo have what it takes to win a Stanley Cup?

Schneider will continue to see backup duty, as he is reliable in net and can be counted on to play the 20-25 games that will be asked of him. Canucks fans can be confident in his ability to step in and play, and being only 25, he will continue to develop and get better.

HWB Playoff Prediction: Playoff bound. The Vancouver Canucks arguably have all of the pieces in place to not only return to the playoffs as a number one seed, but make a repeat run to the Stanley Cup finals as well.

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