Canucks Can Be an Elite Team

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The wait is finally over! It’s game day, and the Canucks open up their campaign tonight in Calgary against the Flames.

Last season, the Canucks were not considered one of the elite teams of the league last season. They were a very good team, but not an elite team. However many pundits, like TSN and Sportsnet, have the Canucks winning the division and going for a deep run in the playoffs, possibly even to the Cup final.

So what do the Canucks need to do to improve over last season to become a truly elite team in the NHL this season?
Here are the five keys areas they need to improve.

Discipline

The Canucks were in the bottom five for total penalties last season, and it cost them. They need to be more disciplined, and stay out of the sin bin. There is no excuse for giving your opponent an unnecessary advantage. Shane O’Brien, specifically, needs to improve dramatically. If he can’t control himself and stay out of the box, I’m sure AV will gladly and quickly swap him out for Aaron Rome or Brad Lukowich.

Penalty Kill

Given the Canucks lack of discipline, they need to improve their penalty killing. To be an elite team, they need to be a Top 10 PK team, not a middle-of-the-pack team. A fully healthy Luongo, and improved play from the defencemen when short-handed will help improve their penalty killing. The forwards, like Ryan Johnson, Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler, did their jobs last year. The improvements the Canucks need to fall on D. The Canucks did not take any specific actions to address this in the off-season, so their improvements need to occur in practice, and staying out of the penalty box to start.

Power Play

The main reason why the Canucks acquired Mathieu Schneider was to improve their Power Play dramatically. Just like the PK, to be considered an elite team, the Canucks need to improve their PP and get into the Top 10. With the acquisition of Schneider and Christian Ehrhoff, Mike Gillis clearly had two areas in mind on how to best improve his blue line – and the PP was one.

First Pass out of Defensive Zone

The other key area that Gillis addressed when he acquired Schneider and Ehrhoff was the first pass out of the defensive zone.
There is no hard statistic for this key, but it was clear watching the Canucks last season that they struggled to move the puck up ice out of their zone to their forwards. Puck possession is one of the most important aspects of the game today. If the Canucks can move the puck quicker and more accurately up ice, and therefore avoid neutral-zone turnovers, they will be able to hold the puck longer and hopefully score more.

Shots Against

The Canucks had one of the worst Shots For vs. Shots Against ratios in the entire league last season. This is just simple – less shots against means less goals against. Once again, if the Canucks can be considered on the elite teams in the league, they need to take more shots than they allow. And they can quickly improve that by limited their shots against. If they can improve their discipline and their PK, this will help in dramatically reducing their shots against.

These are the five key areas I’ll be watching for improvement this season.
If the Canucks can improve these stats, they will be considered an elite team in NHL, and will be poised for a dramatic run at the Stanley Cup, starting in April.

  • lj

    Here’s what the lineups will look like:

    http://www.canucksarmy.com/2009/10/canucks-can-be-an-elite-team/#respond

    David Moss – Olli Jokinen – Jarome Iginla
    Nigel Dawes – Daymond Langkow – Rene Bourque
    Curtis Glencross – Craig Conroy – Dustin Boyd
    Fredrik Sjostrom – Eric Nystrom – Brandon Prust

    Dion Phaneuf – Robyn Regehr
    Jay Bouwmeester – Mark Giordano
    Adam Pardy – Staffan Kronwall

    Cory Sarich did not skate again today. He is “status quo” according to Brent Sutter. Foot issues continue.

    For the Canucks:

    Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Alex Burrows
    Sergei Shirokov – Ryan Kesler – Mikael Samuelsson
    Mason Raymond – Kyle Wellwood – Steve Bernier
    Darcy Hordichuk – Ryan Johnson – Rick Rypien

    Willie Mitchell – Sami Salo
    Kevin Bieksa – Alex Edler
    Shane O’Brien – Christian Erhoff

    There was some question as to whether or not Bieksa (groin/lower body issue) and Rypien (flu) would be good to go tonight, but indications are both players are set to go.

  • lj

    RossCreek wrote:

    Sergei Shirokov – Ryan Kesler – Mikael Samuelsson

    If Samuelsson can improve on his very average career PPG,(.44) this could be a very good 2nd line. I'm not convinced he can, though.

    What's the over/under on Sami Salo's periods played before an injury?

  • lj

    […] In my article yesterday, I said that the Cnaucks had five keys to improving over last year and becoming an elite team in the league. Those are also the five keys for the Canucks to win any game. […]