Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Great Support, Great Expectations

Less than a week before the start of the NHL regular season, the Canucks are finishing up their preseason schedule and putting the final touches to their opening night roster. Meanwhile, Canucks fans have begun dusting off their jerseys, preparing to forgive, forget and cheer for the home team and the return of NHL hockey after a one year lockout.

Especially the forgive and forget part.

For the second season in a row - and despite the lockout or that the team did not reduce ticket prices - the Canucks have capped season ticket sales at 17,000. This means that in 18,630-seat GM Place, only 1,630 seats are available for single-game sales. Of the 17,000 season tickets sold, 13,000 are full season ticket packages. And for anyone interested in purchasing a ticket package, the waiting list is now 4,000 long and the team renewed 96% of its existing ticket packages this summer.

The (somewhat) good news is that every Canucks game will be televised this season. Sportsnet Pacific will televise 45 games; CBC will televise 15; TSN will televise 5. The remaining 17 games will be available on pay-per-view.

Lockout? What lockout?

But with great support also comes great expectations. While the Canucks have made the playoffs in each of the last four seasons, they have won only one playoff series and many feel this is the season they need to go further than they have.

A lot of teams overhauled their roster in the off-season. The Canucks, however, retained their core players from last season's Northwest Division-winning team. These core players have been together for about five seasons now. This season, they are at or close to their prime.

Further, the NHL's rule changes cater to the Canucks run-and-gun style. If the league is serious (for the nth time) about enforcing the obstruction rules, it will open up the ice for the players like Naslund, Park and Jovanovski. It will prevent opposing players from hanging off Bertuzzi and the Sedins. In other words, it will allow the Canucks to play to their strength - their skill game.

What makes this season especially critical is that the new salary cap shortens the team's window of opportunity. Jovanovski and Linden are unrestricted free agents after the season. The Sedin twins may only be restricted free agents but if they have a big year (as expected), they will command big raises. Same applies to Kesler, Auld, Allen and Ruutu. Ditto with Carter, Park, McCarthy and Brent Johnson, all of whom signed with the team just for this season. If the salary cap doesn't go up, it is unlikely the Canucks will be able to re-sign all of them.

So buckle up, folks. Hopefully we're in for a long ride... that doesn't end until next June... with the Stanley Cup.
posted by J.J. Guerrero, 11:56 PM


At October 04, 2005 3:25 PM, Blogger opiatedsherpa said...

Go Canucks!!

Just passin' through... keep up the good work.


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