The Stanley Cup is obviously the best possible outcome for the Canucks in 2012-13 (technically, sweeping the Bruins in the Cup Final would be the best possible outcome). And missing the playoffs would be the worst possible outcome (again, the absolute worst possible outcome would be a 30th place finish in the league).
What has to happen for the first outcome to come true for Vancouver? And what do the Canucks have to worry about if they hope to avoid the second outcome coming true?
Five Best Case Scenarios:
Alex Edler finally demonstrates consistency, signs a new contract.
There have been three or four times during his career in Vancouver that Alex Edler has played like an elite defenseman. One of them was during the first half of the 2011-12 regular season. Another was during the postseason against Los Angeles (no, definitely not in 2012, but back in 2010). Edler has shown that he can step his game up (both offensively and physically) at important times.
But can he ever develop into that defenseman on a full-time basis? If he meanders through another season, the Canucks may not be willing to invest a lot of money and term into a contract extension for him. There is nothing holding Edler back from becoming a top 10 defenseman in the league. He is big, strong, and mobile. He makes a great first pass and he can run a power play. He just needs to bring it all together at the same time.
Ryan Kesler comes back 100% healthy.
Kesler isn’t the "best" player on the team, but he is the most important. Let’s use the example of a car. The Sedins are the engine that drives the offensive attack. The defensive group led by Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis are the wheels. But Kesler, he’s the special turbocharged fuel that transforms the car from an ordinary one into an impressive machine. When he is at his best, opposing teams have a near-impossible task of trying to match up against two top line centers.
The Sedins re-emerge as premier offensive players.
I tend to think that if Kesler comes back 100%, this will take care of itself. The twins turn 33 in 2013 (in Septmeber), but their style of play should enable them to contribute offensively well into their mid-to-late 30’s.
Cory Schneider builds off of his success last season, handles heavy workload.
Schneider’s numbers over the past few years are very, very impressive. And last season he was given a more difficult workload. He won a few big games for the Canucks, providing consistently elite goaltending along the way. He’s ready.
David Booth shows he can shoot more than a gun, finds back of net with regularity.
All things considered, Booth’s first season in Vancouver wasn’t as big of a disappointment as many think (although he was invisible offensively in the playoffs against the Kings). Booth scored at a solid pace considering he saw almost no power play time, and was playing with a banged up Kesler as his center. If Booth can score at a 20-25-goal pace when he returns from his groin injury, the Canucks will be just fine for secondary scoring. Until then? Let’s hope Hansen, Raymond and Kassian can raise their game.
Five Worst Case Scenarios
Ryan Kesler rushes back from injury, the Canucks are a one line team again.
The Canucks proved last season that they are simply a good team when Kesler isn’t at his best. Yes, they won a second consecutive Presidents’ Trophy, but when the games mattered the most their secondary scoring lines weren’t able to generate any sort of sustained pressure.
Schneider struggles a bit with limited rest time in between starts
If Luongo is traded, Schneider’s first season as an official NHL starting goaltender will be a bizarre one. Routines and practice schedules will be thrown out of whack during the condensed 48 game season, and it will be interesting to see how goaltenders are affected, who are widely regarded as arguably the most habitual athletes in all of sports.
The Sedins continue their offensive decline.
Was last season a blip on the radar, or a sign of things to come for Vancouver? The Canucks window to win likely closes (for a little while, at least) once the Sedins are no longer elite. Does that happen sooner than we all think it will?
Neither Edler or Garrison are able to play on the right side.
The Canucks are hoping that one of Edler or Garrison – but probably Edler – are able to adjust to playing permanently on the right side. Both are left- shooting defensemen, but it isn’t out of the question for a left-shooting defenseman to play on his off side (Christian Ehrhoff was fantastic for the Canucks for a few years on the right side, Jack Johnson does it in Columbus, Phaneuf in Toronto etc.). The Canucks only have Bieksa and Chris Tanev as right side defensemen and Edler struggled on the right side last season. Keith Ballard isn’t comfortable there, either. One of these players is going to have to adjust for the top-four will be in disarray…
Cody Hodgson wins the Art Ross and Hart, Luongo is traded to Edmonton and wins the Vezina, Duncan Keith wins the Lady Byng.
At least the call-in radio shows would have discussion material for… infinity.
Like it or not, Hodgson is going to be followed by fans and media in this market for a long time. Personally, I wish him success in Buffalo (I think his situation in Vancouver was more a product of him listening to people around him too much).
I also wish Luongo success wherever he goes – he is/was the greatest athlete this city has ever seen. But just not in Edmonton, please.
And Mr. Keith has a date with the Canucks coming up in a few weeks. Plan your schedules accordingly.