Yesterday’s muse, the Arizona Coyotes, are definitely a team on the upswing. From there, we move to a team on a very slow and painful downswing, the Vancouver Canucks. Here’s Kent Basky from Nucks Misconduct to answer our three questions.
1. Where do you see Loui Eriksson slotting into the lineup? What kind of season, offence-wise, do you see him putting up?
Well, the smart money has him with the Sedins, as he was obviously brought in to be Radim Vrbata v2. Of course the Canucks have spent the last couple seasons doing things that seem to be somewhat south of smart, so should the 3 Swedes not go on a tear right out of the gate, look to Willie Desjardins to start shuffling him around in an attempt to get more offensive production going from a team that was embarrassingly bad at it last season. That being said, I get the feeling Eriksson will do well with Daniel and Henrik. They've played together internationally and as the Sedins have shown in the past, they can make a pylon look like a serviceable player, and a skilled player look like a superstar.
2. Jim Benning's roster evaluation, trades, and FA signings have generally been panned by wider hockey circles. Do you think he's on thin ice at all? In what situation could you see him being fired?
Unless the season starts out with some kind of horrendous losing streak like the one that Anaheim suffered at the start of last year, I wouldn't say the ice is thin, but that's not the same for Willie Desjardins. I am not sure what saved his job more after last season's disaster: the number of injuries the team had to endure, or the hope that he might be able to guide the team to the 100-point mark like he did in his rookie season behind the bench. I can't see that happening, even if healthy this team will struggle to improve their dismal showing last season. Unless the Canucks are at least competitive at Christmas time, Willie D will be on the bus back to Medicine Hat. Another losing season, and then we can start talking about Benning suffering that fate, though it won't take nearly that long in the fan base.
3. What are you expecting from the Canucks this year? What would the team have to accomplish this season for you to consider it a success?
I spent a lot of time pondering this over the summer, and I have come to the conclusion that the Canucks are going to be bloody awful. This way, by expecting nothing from them I can derive a positive feeling out of even the most minute signs of improvement. This is what has become of Canuck fandom, I suppose. Sure, there's some hope for the future. Bo Horvat made some serious strides last season, and there's a lot of expectations being placed on Jake Virtanen and Sven Baertschi. Maybe Brandon Sutter will stay healthy for an entire season and actually give them 40 points or so? On the back end, the addition of Erik Gudbrandson should help to make the Canucks not such lightweights defensively. He may not be the answer to all their problems on D but he is one hell of an improvement over Matt Bartkowski. Chris Tanev is becoming a solid first pairing guy, and the emergence of Ben Hutton last year, as well as the late season addition of hulking Russian behemoth Nikita Tryamkin could see the Canucks getting marginally better on D, in spite of Luca Sbisa. Oddly enough, as has been the case for a few years now, goaltending is once again one of the things they can count on. Ryan Miller's in the last year of his contract, and will try and use that to either get a better deal (whether in Vancouver or somewhere else), or showcase himself as a potential rental at the trade deadline should the Canucks be out of the hunt. Jacob Markstrom showed he can play in the NHL last season, and the question is, do the Canucks groom him to be the successor this year by giving a more even split of the games with Miller? Like a lot of situations with the Canucks, it all depends on how they're doing by Christmas. In the hunt, and maybe they're even buyers at the deadline. Out of it, and we start talking about the likes of Miller and guys like Alex Edler and Alex Burrows potentially getting moved for draft picks. 2011 seems so far away now...