Last season I thought the Canucks had enough to win the Stanley Cup, only to see them crumple in Game 6 of the second round to the Hawks.
This season the Canucks are even better, so I want to pick them again, but all the while the little voice in my head is shouting, “Don’t do it!”
The Canucks are a deeper team this year than they have ever been before. Six players with 20 or more goals dot the lineup and one of them is seeing more time on the third line now. They’ve had career years from Henrik Sedin (and even Daniel, to a degree), Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler, Mason Raymond and Mikael Samuelsson.
They have one of the world’s best netminders in Roberto Luongo who, in a down year, will still likely hit 40 wins and have a save percentage above .910. Call him overrated and I’ll call you crazy: I’d rather have Luongo in net than at least 20 other NHL goalies.
They have a decent, albeit beat up, defence corps. Willie Mitchell doesn’t look like he’ll be back any time soon and Shane O’Brien has conditioning issues, but the Canucks still rank within the top 10 in shots-against per game.
But there’s something about this team that worries me and leaves me reticent to choose them again.
The latest troubling news comes from the thinning blue-line, as Christian Ehrhoff tweaked his knee in Sunday’s win against Minnesota. As good as Pavol Demitra has been since starting his season in January, Ehrhoff was hands-down the best off-season acquisition by Vancouver and one of the most shrewd pickups in the entire NHL.
Acquired along with Brad Lukowich in a San Jose salary dump during the summer, Ehrhoff came in for a couple of middling prospects. Now he is the glue keeping the defence together, leading the line in ice time, plus-minus (sixth in the league), bringing in key penalty-killing and power play minutes, while setting career highs in goals and points.
Ehrhoff plays strong at both ends of the ice. He’s the best all-around defender they have and if he’s forced to miss any time, Sami Salo will be the one to take his spot. As good of a year as he’s having, Salo isn’t as dependable or durable.
The Canucks are as likely to disappoint as the infamous San Jose Sharks, who have fallen short year after year.
However, the Canucks are also as likely to impress and surprise as Phoenix or Nashville.
But one thing’s for sure, if they are the unlucky ones to line up with the Red Wings in Round 1, it will make the decision a whole lot simpler.