Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Your 2006/2007 Vancouver Canucks: The Defense

Last night, I looked at the forwards; tonight, I present the defense:

Mattias Ohlund

Now that Ed Jovanovski is a Coyote, Ohlund is no longer just the Canucks' number 1A or 1B defenseman. He's number 1, period. Last season, Ohlund struggled somewhat when Jovanovski was injured. For a few games, he was playing almost 30 minutes a game and seemed to be trying to do too much and forcing the play. Let's hope he can adapt better this time around.

Not only will he be expected to log his trademark 25-plus minutes of ice-time against opposing teams' top forwards, he will also be expected to replace some of Jovo's offense. Ohlund has never scored more than 36 points in a season so it will be interesting to see if the Canucks can squeeze a bit more offense from him.

Sami Salo

Salo say's he feels fully-recovered now from the partially-torn pectoral muscle he suffered in the Winter Olympics, but during the preseason, you can tell he was still trying to shake off the rust from an extended off-season.

Before Turin, Salo was playing the best hockey of his career. Despite playing in only 59 games, he established career-highs in goals (10), assists (23), points (33) and powerplay goals (9). The Canucks need him to return to this pre-injury form.

Willie Mitchell

Willie Mitchell will be a big part of this year's - and at least the next three years' - defense, but let's get this out of the way right now - he is not a replacement for Ed Jovanovski. They're not at all the same type of player. The pride of Port McNeill may replace Jovo's minutes and toughness, but as a career-high 14 points indicate, he won't replace his offense.

Luc Bourdon

One year after being the team's final cut, Cool Hand Luc made sure he played his way to the team this time around. He struggled early in preseason but steadily got better over the final three games when he wasn't going out of his way to make the big hits or the big play.

Still, Canucks fans have to be patient with Bourdon. Remember that he is only 19 and is still learning how to play hockey's hardest position.

Lukas Krajicek

Krajicek came to training camp as advertised - skilled but soft - and needs to be paired with a physical-type defenseman. He struggled early in the preseason when he was paired with Sami Salo and looked more comfortable when he was paired with Willie Mitchell.

The "forgotten man" in the Luongo trade, Krajicek has the potential to be the powerplay quarterback the Canucks have been missing for a while.

Kevin Bieksa

Bieksa impressed a lot of Canucks fans (me included) during a short stint with the team last year. He's picked up where he left off and made the most of his preseason. He has a good first pass and will give the Canucks some toughness in the back end.

Rory Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick was a good depth pick-up for the Canucks. He is able to step in regardless of the situation, how many games or how many minutes he plays. During Buffalo's playoff run last year, injuries forced him into a top-four role and he did an admirable job despite an increase from 10-13 minutes of ice-time to about 25-26 minutes.

Roberto Luongo

Quite simply, Luongo is the key to the Canucks' season. For the first time in recent Canucks history, the question isn't whether their goaltender can steal games for them, but how many.

Wade Flaherty

For now, Wade Flaherty has the back-up job, though Dave Nonis has been on record that he is actively scouring the waiver wire for other potential goalies. Can't be too comforting for Flats.

Regardless, Flaherty proved in the last game of the preseason that he can keep his team in the game. Keeping in mind that the Canucks will only need him to play 10-12 games, he should be fine.

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, 11:14 PM


At October 05, 2006 11:57 AM, Blogger mclea said...

"Still, Canucks fans have to be patient with Bourdon. Remember that he is only 19 and is still learning how to play hockey's hardest position."

So I guess you're backing off your asinine suggestion that Luc Bourdon is the next Dion Phaneuf? Remember that one?


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