This is probably my favorite season primer post that I am writing this season, obviously other than the hometown Oilers which goes without saying. Well I guess it doesn’t go without saying cause I just did. Why is this my favorite you ask? Well mostly because despite finishing second in the Pacific and earning a play-off spot this team seems to be set on self-destruct. No team in the league did as much to make their team worse than Vancouver Canucks and that sounds great to this Oilers fan!
Key Additions: C Brandon Sutter, LW Brandon Prust, D Matt Bartkowski and G Richard Bachman
Key Departures: C Nick Bonino, D Kevin Bieksa, G Eddie Lack, C Shawn Matthias, RW Zack Kassian, C Brad Richardson
Roster Contenders: LW Hunter Shinkaruk, RW Jake Virtanen, C Brendan Gaunce, and D Taylor Fedun
The Canucks finished the 2014/15 season with a 49-29-5 record. Good enough for 101 points and second in the Pacific division, 5th in the Western conference and 8th overall in the league. Eighteen of those wins came thanks to departed goaltender Eddie Lack who led the team in GAA and save percentage in the regular season.
The top line provided a lot of offense with Henrik and Daniel Sedin being joined by right-wing Radim Vrbata. The trio combined for a total of 69 goals and 212 points. So it is easy to see that as this line goes so does the team. The Canucks will need huge years from all three to again be in the play-offs next April.
As for the aforementioned off-season moves let’s look at what GM Jim Benning did that have me so puzzled. First off he traded Kevin Bieksa to Anaheim for a 2016 second round draft pick. While this may help in the long run it hurts the team in the here and now. Bieksa while getting up there in years, he’s 34, he was still a big part of the Canucks defense playing over twenty minutes a night and was used on both the power-play and penalty kill. Next up was the July 1st trade that sent RW Zack Kassian to Montreal for LW Brandon Prust. This was also another loss for Benning in my opinion. While I don’t like Kassian in any way shape or form I have to admit that he is a much better player than Brandon Prust. In 42 games last season Kassian had 10 goals and 6 assists. Prust only managed 4 goals and 14 assists over the full 82 game schedule. Next is the ultra boneheaded play of the summer for Jim Benning. He sent center Nick Bonino and AHL defensive standout Adam Clendening to Pittsburgh for center Brandon Sutter and a 3rd round pick. This is a no-brainer for me, Sutter is a third line center on virtually any NHL team and Bonino was the Canucks 2nd line pivot last season and was also fourth in scoring behind only the top line guys. Add Clendening who had an amazing AHL season to the deal and it is clearly in favour of the Pens. Even with the addition of the draft pick this trade is still lopsided in Pittsburgh’s favour.
Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Radim Vrbata
Chris Higgins – Brandon Sutter – Alex Burrows
Brandon Prust – Bo Horvat – Jannik Hansen
Sven Baertschi – Linden Vey – Derek Dorsett
Alex Edler – Christ Tanev
Dam Hamhuis – Yannick Weber
Luca Sbisa – Matt Bartkowski
Finishing second in the Pacific division last year is likely a lot higher than most had predicted for the Canucks. In my estimation after the off-season that this team had we are likely looking at a massive reduction in wins and points this season. At best I think we will see the Canucks in 5th place in the standings but more than likely I see them finishing 6th.
The players to watch for this team are, as always, the Sedin twins. If they can remain at or near the top of the league in scoring they could claw their way to fifth. As the twins go so does this team but I think even with the on ice magic between the two isn’t going to be anywhere near enough to save the Canuckleheads this year. As I stated in season predictions for the Pacific division over at JustOil.net, at least all the fires the rioters start will keep all the homeless warm this winter…