Vancouver Canucks Division Preview: Vancouver Canucks

Apr 11, 2015; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; The Vancouver Canucks celebrate the win during overtime against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Arena. The Vancouver Canucks won 5-4 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 11, 2015; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; The Vancouver Canucks celebrate the win during overtime against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Arena. The Vancouver Canucks won 5-4 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports /

The Vancouver Canucks have hope. They have prospects. They are looking to improve. In other words, this is not a good team.

The Vancouver Canucks seem determined to recapture the magic of Jarome Iginla‘s last days in Calgary. Iginla, like Daniel and Henrik Sedin, was an aging superstar no longer capable of elevating a team on his own. He was still very good. Actually, somehow, he’s still quite good. But he wasn’t the force of nature he once was. The rest of the key pieces of the last Stanley Cup run were gone, or faded, and there were no blue-chip prospects ready to take top-line minutes.

The Calgary Flames from 2009-10 into 2012-13 were built on hope and memory. This year’s Vancouver Canucks are similarly built, but at least the hope is a little more tangible. A few of the Canucks’ blue-chip prospects are in the league, or are nearly ready for the NHL. Unfortunately, there isn’t a potential 40- or 50-goal scorer amongst those prospects, which is what the Vancouver Canucks still need.

It is many years since the Stanley Cup run in 2010-11 and our beloved team is still short on secondary scoring. And, as Daniel and Henrik age the team is short on primary scoring too. The ability of the second and third lines to score will determine the trajectory of the Canucks’ season.

Projected Lineup


Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Loui Eriksson
Emerson Etem – Brandon Sutter – Jannik Hansen
Sven Baertschi – Bo Horvat – Jake Virtanen
Alexandre Burrows – Markus Granlund – Derek Dorsett
Anton Rodin, Brendan Gaunce, Michael Zalewski 

This is speculation, obviously. I think the first line is probable, but the rest can and will interchange. I’ve seen prospective line combinations which have either Anton Rodin or Michael Zalewski as the second-line left wing. For my guess, I decided on the actual NHL player. But, I’ve been wrong before. I will be again.

More from The Canuck Way

Up front the Canucks lost Radim Vrbata, Jared McCann and Linden Vey during the offseason. Vey’s departure doesn’t hurt in particular despite the delusions of certain writers on this site. However, Vrbata scored some points and it was hoped McCann would start to. If you look at last years stats, you’ll notice Vrbata only had 27 points in 63 games. But, that was good enough for sixth in team scoring.

Are you starting to realize the problem?

This team can’t score. (Insert your own self-deprecating joke about high school here). Here is our hope. Loui Eriksson is good. Like, he’s really good. Except for a mid-career two-season hiccup after an injury-shortened 2012-13, Eriksson has always been a 60- to 70-point-per-season player. Or, to put that in Vancouver Canucks 2015-16 perspective, the leading scorer on this team.

But, is anyone else good?

We, and yes I just used the royal ‘we’ for all Canucks fans, think Sven Baertschi, Bo Horvat and Jake Virtanen are going to be good. And we really, really hope they will start doing that this season. If not, it’s going to be another long one. My hope is that this projected third line quickly becomes a point-producing second line, and the third line is able to chip in as well. That would be our best-case scenario.


Alexander Edler – Chris Tanev
Ben Hutton – Erik Gudbranson
Luca Sbisa – Philip Larsen
Nikita Tryamkin, Alex Biega

There are four pretty good defensemen on that list. I’m not sure there are four top-four defensemen, but there are four actual and decent NHL-calibre defenseman here.

Ben Hutton is good, and clearly one of the top players under 25 years of age for the Canucks. Alex Edler, despite injuries, is younger than you think (30) and a top-four defenseman on most teams in the league. Chris Tanev is a legitimate top-pair defender and Erik Gudbranson is, like Nikita Tryamkin, very tall. He’s probably fine too. The analytics people don’t love him, but an overabundance of joy isn’t what that community is known for. I will go way out on a limb and say he’s fine.

More from Editorials

The Canucks did say goodbye to Yannick Weber and Dan Hamhuis. Weber doesn’t hurt the team. He is a bottom-pairing AHL-level guy whose stats benefited from playing in front of Carey Price for a few years. And, as we’ll see in a couple of paragraphs, these guys aren’t playing in front of Carey Price.

However, Hamhuis is still good. His loss hurts. I understand why they let him go, but I’m still not sure why they didn’t trade him at the deadline. He ended up signing for $3.75 million a season in Dallas. That’s a lot of money for a third-pairing defenseman. But, it’s less than Sbisa. And Hamhuis is still better than Sbisa. Sure, Hamhuis is smaller but that isn’t a…*bad pun warning*…huge deal in the NHL these days.

This may be a bit of the problem here. Except for prospects Troy Stetcher and Jordan Subban, the Canucks are a little too focused on giant, net-protecting Chara-esque behemoths. Today, the league is quarterbacked by puck-moving, swift-skating defensemen. Maybe, over the next few seasons, the additions of Stetcher, Subban and Juolevi will create a nice mix of puck mover and Tormund Giantsbane kin on the back end. But, for next year it will be a little back-end heavy.

(Again, make your own jokes).


Ryan Miller
Jacob Markstrom
Richard Bachman 

This year will be a replay of last year in net. Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom will split duties and be the absolute definition of totally serviceable NHL goalies. I don’t expect Miller to fade dramatically, especially if he is only expected to play half-time. I don’t predict Markstrom will be the goalie he was projected to be when he was drafted. But, I do expect him to be as good or even a little better than last year.

Like forward and defense, goaltending is holding out for the next generation to take over. But Thatcher Demko isn’t going to mature and arrive this season. He is a few years away. Actually, he’s exactly the duration of Markstrom’s extension away.

The story here is a couple of placeholders doing their best. Last season Miller’s .916 and Markstrom’s .915 save percentage were not particularly good, but neither was this team. Even the great Henrik Lundqvist could only manage a .920 on slightly better team. Actually, Lundqvist is the difference between the Vancouver Canucks making the playoffs or not. And, you can insert Roberto Luongo or Corey Schneider in this example if you want to scratch that annoying itch.

But hey, Demko is coming.

Key Players

1. Daniel Sedin / Henrik Sedin

Yes, I cheated and grouped the twins together. Don’t worry, as the father of twins, I’m sure they never get sick of this. But realistically, this team’s success starts and ends with their future Hall of Fame, first-line, top-production brothers. If they can remain healthy and productive and manage a little magic with Eriksson, it might be enough to climb into playoff contention.

2. Bo Horvat

The Vancouver Canucks need Horvat to be good now. Like, right now! Actually, good isn’t enough. Horvat needs to be a second-line, almost first-line centre, with commensurate production, for this team to have a prayer of playoff hockey. As I talked about earlier, secondary scroring has been an issue for some time. It’s an even bigger issue when the front-line scoring isn’t great.

3. Erik Gudbranson

Gudbranson needs to be a lockdown presence in the Vancouver zone, while magically finding a scoring touch he’s never exhibited. Okay, that’s not fair. But, as the Canucks gave up McCann’s potential scoring to get him, he better prevent a lot of goals. Basically, Gudbranson needs to establish himself as a legitimate top four defenseman. If not, his trade sets back team growth a year, or more.


Just awful.

No, I kid.

Awful, but with flair.

Next: Anaheim Ducks Preview

When you write these things it is easy to fall in love with players and newly uncovered possibilities. Basically, you fall for the things you learn and know. But, this isn’t my first rodeo. This is a rodeo preview, right? This is not a good team. This team is unlikely to be better than last year. Even if it is, it is hard to foresee a scenario where it is much better.

My prediction is that this is a rebound season for the Vancouver Canucks. In other words, this is the year we hit the floor and start to head up. Ya, don’t get your hopes up. The Vancouver Canucks are going to finish dead last in the Pacific division and about the same spot (28th) overall.