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The Current State of the Vancouver Canucks

For the Vancouver Canucks and their fans, it was truly a roller-coaster ride of a season and playoffs. It was very emotional, very exciting, and very intense. Many other appropriate adjectives could be used in an attempt to accurately captivate the vibe that was flowing through the beautiful west coast city, but unfortunately we will never know what it would have been like if they had won game 7. In the end the season must be labeled as a success, and I believe a foundation is in place for years of Stanley Cup contention. But, in the meantime let’s review where the team is now, and what has transpired thus far in the off-season.

First off, the top six corps is in tact for next season with the Sedin Twins, Alex Burrows, Kesler, Mikael Samuelsson, and Mason Raymond all under contract. Add to that the re-signing of Chris Higgins and the addition of Marco Sturm and you have some internal competition for those six positions. Manny Malhotra should be recovered enough to resume his NHL career after a career/life threatening eye injury last March, and Max Lapierre was re-signed and rounds out the top-4 centermen. So far, Vancouver has lost Raffi Torres, Tanner Glass, Rick Rypein, Alex Bolduc and Guillaume Desbiens to free agency. Not a terrible group of forwards to lose since half of them are borderline NHL regulars and the other half are physical players who choose which nights to show up and which nights to play mediocre. Also, Vancouver picked up Andrew Ebbett, who has become a depth centerman and will likely play for the new farm team Chicago. Ebbett won’t appear in the NHL unless there is a significant injury down the middle. Finally, the Danish Jannik Hansen should be back, assuming he is signed following his arbitration hearing. All in all, the Canucks are looking strong up front going in to next season.
As for defense, the class of 2010-2011 is all returning except for Christian Ehrhoff who decided to spend the next decade in Buffalo. I was a big fan of him while he played in Vancouver, but his defensive liability will not be missed. I wish him well and believe he is an elite offensive defenseman. He will be missed on the top powerplay unit, but the Canucks are well stocked on the back end to fill that void. As of now, the top pairing will be Kevin Bieksa and Hamhuis, followed by Sami Salo and Alex Edler. The final pairing is unclear, but will be Keith Ballard with one of Andrew Alberts, Aaron Rome or Chris Tanev.

The goaltending situation remains the same. Roberto Luongo had a very strong regular season last year, followed up by an inconsistent playoff run. He will never live up to expectations until he wins a Stanley Cup and was never good enough in these playoffs to accomplish that feat. Look for many rumors to swirl in the coming season of Cory Schnieder taking over the reigns, but that is highly unlikely at this point. Roberto’s contract makes him very difficult to trade and he is still a good number one goalie. Moreover, the organization still shows great faith in the Italian netminder. However, I refuse to call him elite or one of the best until he wins that grand prize. Consider me a huge Luongo critic.

I believe Mike Gillis has done an admirable job and there was little more he could have done to ensure ultimate success. Let’s be realistic, his team came within one game of capturing the Stanley Cup and they were not even playing their best in the Finals. As far as I’m concerned, last season was a success and the encore should be similar.

Stay tuned for future columns about the Canucks in the offseason, and how the blueprint of the class of 2011-2012 is shaping up. Thanks for reading and for more articles please visit my site http://hockeywithme.com.

Michael Elias

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