2008-2009 Season Preview

2008-2009 finds the Canucks looking, first and foremost, to atone for the disappointment of 2007-2008. The goal for the team this season is simple: make the playoffs.

2007-2008 Recap

Last season, the Canucks ignominiously missed out on the Stanley Cup playoffs, only one year after winning the Northwest Division and reaching the Western Conference semi-finals.

To say that this was a surprise would be inaccurate. Some notable commentators had the Canucks earmarked to be on the outside looking in come playoff time. Still, some amateur prognosticators (ahem) had much higher hopes for last year’s outfit.

What went wrong? A few notable reasons for the Canucks’ absence from the playoffs immediately come to mind: injuries (especially on defence); a continued decline in production from top-end talent such as Markus Naslund; Roberto Luongo playing great instead of unbeatable; and a lack of team toughness that on too many nights saw the Canucks get pushed around the rink and off the puck with impunity.

The result: the Canucks faltered down the stretch, dropping to 11th place by the end of the season and three points out of a playoff spot.

2008-2009: A Look Ahead

This year’s version of the Canucks has a markedly different complexion. Long-serving captain Markus Naslund opted to leave via unrestricted free agency, signing with the New York Rangers. Brendan Morrison did the same, signing with Anaheim. The Canucks brought in Pavol Demitra from Minnesota via unrestricted free agency and traded with Buffalo for promising young right winger Steve Bernier.

More than anything, the team got a lot tougher. The Canucks signed bruising defenceman Rob Davison and acquired Shane O’Brien from Tampa Bay to strengthen the back end. Up front, the Canucks signed renowned pugilist Darcy Hordichuk to fill out the fourth line. 

Key ins:

  • Steve Bernier, F, Buffalo
  • Rob Davison, D, Florida
  • Shane O’Brien, D, Tampa Bay
  • Darcy Hordichuk, F, Nashville
  • Ryan Johnson, F, St. Louis
  • Kyle Wellwood, F, Toronto

Key outs:

  • Markus Naslund, F, New York Rangers
  • Brendan Morrison, F, Anaheim
  • Trevor Linden, F, Retirement
  • Lukas Krajicek, D, Tampa Bay
  • Nathan McIver, D, Anaheim
  • Byron Ritchie, F, free agent
  • Aaron Miller, F, free agent
  • Luc Bourdon, D, Deceased

Changes were also made right at the top of the organization, too, with GM Dave Nonis fired and replaced with former super-agent Mike Gillis.

Finally, the Canucks took the eyebrow-raising step of naming goaltender Roberto Luongo the team’s captain (prohibitions in the NHL Rulebook nothwithstanding).

At any rate, the dye of this team is now effectively cast.

  1. If there was any doubt before, this is now Roberto Luongo’s team. Indeed, the success or failure of the Canucks is proportional to his degree of excellence. If he is a nominee for the Vezina trophy, as he was in 2006-2007, this team is a lock for the playoffs and may well win the division. If he is merely great, the Canucks will be battling for a spot anywhere from 6th to 12th.
  2. Failing a dramatic change of heart from Mats Sundin or the acquisition of a top line centre, the Sedin twins will be expected to carry the bulk of the offensive load on the top line.
  3. The Canucks will be difficult to play against. Indeed, they may be one of the toughest teams in the Western Conference, if not the entire league (literally and figuratively), to take points from on a nightly basis.

Prediction

The team is outstanding in goal, has a strong defensive corps, and may struggle to score on many nights. In other words, the team has the constituent elements of both the 2006-2007 team and the 2007-2008 team.

What is hard to guage, precisely, is where the Canucks fit into the Western Conference mix. Edmonton certainly continues to improve and Chicago has progressed to the point of being a legitimate playoff contender but Calgary has many, if not more question marks than the Canucks, Minnesota’s already weak offence has diminished, and Nashville has not improved. None of LA, Columbus, Phoenix, and St. Louis have improved enough to avoid anchoring the bottom of the standings again.

My thinking is that if  the Canucks can avoid the injury trouble that crippled the team last season (particularly on defence) and Luongo plays like he did in 2006-2007, this team scrapes into the playoffs.

If the Canucks can also find consistent production from the second line of Demitra, Mason Raymond and Taylor Pyatt, and Steve Bernier complements the Sedin’s, as hoped for (e.g., scores 30 goals-plus), I think this team wins the Northwest Divsion.

My heart says the latter, my head says the former. Expect the Canucks to finish 7th.

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4 Responses to “2008-2009 Season Preview”


  1. 1 H October 8, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Where did Aaron Miller go? There is no mention of his departure or retirement in cyberspace.

  2. 2 Emmett October 8, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    The drive for 25!!!!!!!! Whooo! Habs Rule! Habs Rule!

  3. 3 RJ October 8, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    I think he’s still a free agent, floating in outer space. Much like he did in a Canucks uniform last season, come to think of it.


  1. 1 Opening night « The Vancouver Viewpoint Trackback on October 9, 2008 at 11:15 am

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