Monday, October 02, 2006

Your 2006/2007 Vancouver Canucks: The Forwards

Today's final cuts pared the Canucks' roster to 22 players. Starting tonight with the forwards, here, ladies and gentlemen are your 2006/2007 Vancouver Canucks:

Markus Naslund

Despite a nagging injury that forced him to miss the Olympics and constant questions to his captaincy and friendship to Todd Bertuzzi, Markus' 79 points still led the Canucks in scoring in the 2005/2006 season. Always one to speak from his heart, he admits last season was a disappointment and is intent to bounce back.

He needs to. The Canucks lost 58 goals (Bertuzzi's 25 and Carter's 33) on their top two lines and he will be counted on to return to 40-plus goal form. Playing with the Sedin twins on the top line and the first powerplay unit, he'll get plenty of chances to do so.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin

No longer just the "Boy Wonders", the twins have grown into men and matured into legitimate NHL superstars. Both recorded career point totals in 05/06, Henrik (75 points) almost doubling his previous career high (42 points) and Daniel improving to 71 points from 54, despite seeing second-line minutes for most of the season. (Believe it or not, Henrik and Daniel ranked 124th and 133rd respectively in average ice-time per game.)

For the first time since they were drafted in 1999, the Sedins are slated for top-line duties, and with that, will also face opposing teams' top defensemen. Based on preseason play, they have so far been able to handle the extra attention - both led the Canucks in preseason scoring - but much of the team's success this season is whether or not they can do this over 82 games.

Taylor Pyatt

There is some hope that Pyatt will breakthrough this season. After averaging just under 20 points a season over his first five seasons in the league, I don't know how realistic this is. He'll see an increase from the 11 minutes of ice-time he saw in Buffalo last season, but it remains to be seen if this translates to an increase in his point totals as well.

Brendan Morrison

Morrison has a new role this year - score. Like Naslund, he was hampered with an injury for much of last season, and finished with just 56 points - his lowest point total in four seasons. He simply has produce more than that.

Jan Bulis

Bulis was originally signed to replace Anson Carter and play with the Sedins. While that may still happen, he has at least so far developed some good chemistry with Brendan Morrison and Taylor Pyatt, and all three created numerous scoring opportunities in the Canucks' final two preseason games.

Bulis scored 20 goals last season despite being used in more of a defensive role. He averaged 15:37 minutes of ice-time per game, only 1:37 minutes of which was on the powerplay. He scored six of his goals on the powerplay. By comparison, Anson Carter averaged 14:33 minutes of ice-time per game, 3:57 minutes of which was on the powerplay. Carter scored 15 of his 33 goals on the powerplay.

Matt Cooke

The 05/06 season was a freakishly unlucky season for Cooke. He was limited to 45 games after being injured twice in practice and another time courtesy of a high hit to the head in a game against the Kings.

While known mostly as a gritty third-liner, he has previously shown in spurts that he can also produce offensively. Should he remain healthy, he should be able to approach 40-ish points. (His career-high is 42 points.)

Ryan Kesler

Kesler could have entered this season with more modest goals appropriate for a 22-year old sophomore player. After his $1.9 million payday, expectations for him became a lot higher. That means chipping in more than his 10 goals and 13 assists totals of 05/06.

The good news is, Kesler, on a line with Alex Burrows and Matt Cooke, looked impressive in the preseason.

Alex Burrows

Burrows was one of the feel-good stories of last season. Called up as an energy guy, he also showed that he has some offense in him, chipped in with seven goals in 43 games, and quickly became a fan favorite. But even now that he has a new three-year contract, Burrows can't afford to rest easy. The Canucks have Rick Rypien, Jannik Hansen, Tyler Bouck and Brandon Reid itching for the opportunity to take his roster spot.

Josh Green

A versatile and veteran forward, Green is perfect for the fourth line and can play any of the forward positions. While he doesn't score much, neither is he a liability for the 8+ minutes of ice-time he gets.
Marc Chouinard

Chouinard will miss the first 7-10 days of the regular season with a separated shoulder. That's just as well as he seemed to be in Alain Vigneault's doghouse from early in the preseason. Right now, his $1.1 million cap hit hurts.

Trevor Linden

Linden understands that his role on the team is different - that is, less - than what it was a few years ago. He doesn't care. He came into camp rejuvenated and refreshed, and has performed reasonably well in preseason. Who knows how this impending lawsuit will affect his play this season?

Tommi Santala

To be honest, I didn't see much of Tommi Santala to form any real opinion of him. Dave Nonis had been hyping him up since the Canucks signed him and he's still with the team over Rick Rypien and Tyler Bouck, so maybe he's done more than okay so far.

Comments/Questions: Feel free to post in the comments section or email me at gocanucksgo10 (at) hotmail (dot) com.

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posted by J.J. Guerrero, 11:28 PM


At October 03, 2006 9:16 AM, Blogger Jeremy said...

Great summary, JJ. Those first three lines have such good potential that I'm trying to temper my rising expectations.

There's something dangerous about paying close attention to the team in the off-season and pre-season -- you start rooting for guys who just may not have what it takes, believing more in their potential than the actual reality of their skill and opportunity. Even a guy like Cooke, who we've seen season after season -- we expect him to break the mold and suddenly score 30 goals this year (you can almost hear fans from other teams chuckling).

But I guess the unfolding story of realized (or wasted) potential is all part of the fun and mystery of the game. It seems likely that with this forward group, the team's success will depend on the contributions of the middle-of-the-roaders like Bulis, Pyatt, Kesler, Cooke and Burrows...and of course injuries will play a big role again.

Looking forward to seeing your summary of the defensive lineup as well.


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