Things to watch for this season

Following up on my season preview, I want to highlight some things to look for with the Canucks this season.

1 – Ryan Kesler to have a breakout season

Kesler has looked terrific for parts of the last two seasons, only to be hobbled by frequent injuries just when he seems to be on the cusp of becoming the player he was projected to become (i.e. a slighter, but better checking version of Trevor Linden). This season, he will find time on one of the top two lines (most likely with Naslund and Morrison). That should stand him in good stead to score 20 goals and 50 points, barring the recurrence of injury, this season.

2 – Roberto Luongo to play around 70 games again

The Canucks picked up noted Canuck-killer Curtis Sanford this off-season to back-up Luongo, replacing little-used netminder Danny Sabourin (who signed with Pittsburgh). Unfortunately, Sanford has been demonstrating this pre-season that the only team he plays well against is us, which might be a problem since he is playing behind our defence now. To be sure, it is only pre-season, but he does not inspire much confidence. With top prospect Cory Schneider not quite ready for the NHL, I think this means another season of too many games played by Luongo. Implications for the playoff run are obviously worrisome, no matter how much Lui claims to love the work.

3 – Markus Naslund to rebound

Perhaps I am putting too much faith in the resurgence of Naslund this season, but a couple of reasons for optimism stand out for me. First, he is in the last year of his contract; always a motivator for a professional athlete. Second, he has something to prove, both as captain and as the highest paid player on the team, excepting Luongo. Finally, he is nearing the end of his career and, if you believe defenceman Kevin Bieksa and most of his other teammates, Naslund has made it clear he wants nothing more–and nothing less–than the Stanley Cup. Look for him to take charge of the team on the ice as well as off it this year. He will not regain the form of a player who was a regular top five scorer a few years ago, but he will get around 70 points and will score 30 goals.

4 – Kevin Bieksa to avoid the sophomore jinx

Technically, Bieksa is not a sophomore, as he was not a ‘rookie’, officially defined, last season. Still, he is, for all intents and purposes, entering his second season as a full time blueliner in the league. Last year, he anchored the Canucks at the back, offensively, physically, and in terms of minutes logged. This year, I expect more of the same. A slight drop off in offensive production will be happily exchanged for more consistency and solid defensive play this season.

5 – Matt Cooke to get injured getting off the team bus

For whatever reason(s), Cooke has been unable to remain healthy over the last few seasons. Not only that, but his injuries border somewhere between freaky and inexplicable in terms of bad luck. He seems to get hurt by errant pucks, practice mishaps, and neck strains answering his telephone. Some way, somehow, a freakish accident will befall the Cooker this year, rendering him unable to play more than half of the games.

6 – Alexandre Burrows to finally find the home he deserves: Manitoba

With the Canucks added depth this off-season on the bottom two forward lines (Byron Ritchie, Ryan Shannon and Brad Isbister), I can’t see how Burrows retains a spot among the regular twelve forwards. (Keep in mind also, that Jannik Hansen looks ready to make the step up this season, too.) This is happy news, for me at least. No more silly penalties; no more disgraceful theatrics and whining to the referee; no more stone hands around the net (wait, I suppose Isbister will take up that role). Burrows is a tireless worker, you can’t deny that. He simply he is not good enough for the Canucks, nor the NHL. I think he will find his way to the Moose sooner rather than later.


7 Responses to “Things to watch for this season”

  1. 1 Emmett Macfarlane September 25, 2007 at 12:39 am

    “Bobby Lu”? Seriously? You sicken me.

  2. 2 RJ September 25, 2007 at 7:51 am

    Okay, I changed it to his other, better nickname.

  3. 3 Emmett Macfarlane September 25, 2007 at 9:10 am

    Haha, I’m not sure that’s much better… Maybe he’s one of those guys that has such a cool name that people shouldn’t give him a nickname.

  4. 5 RJ September 27, 2007 at 6:18 pm

    Haha, yeah, I read that. He’s just venting, much like Brodeur when he quit the competition committee because he claimed goalies were getting the short end of the stick.

  5. 6 F2 October 3, 2007 at 11:43 am

    7 – Kevin continues to be bitter about Jan Bulis’ astonishingly bad play last season.

    I know ‘Boolis’ is gone, laughed out of the NHL into a reasonably lucrative contract in the Russian league, but I for one am still harbouring some serious resentment for his poor play last season. Thus, in honor his craptacular play last year, I will be explaining any and all misplays in the opening part of the season on the fact that Canucks are still working Bulis out of their systems.

  6. 7 April 8, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    Great post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed!
    Extremely useful info particularly the last part 🙂 I care for such
    info much. I was looking for this particular info for a very long time.
    Thank you and best of luck.

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