Tonight is game one of a new era in Vancouver Canucks hockey. The Alain Vigneault era is over, and it featured the most spectacular highs and lows this franchise has ever seen.
In a few years, we’ll properly recognize AV as the best coach the Canucks have ever seen, but for now it’s “Torts” job to clean up the mess he left behind.
AV got the Canucks 90 per cent of the way there, and Torts now has to figure out how to give the city the one piece of hardware the Canucks didn’t bring home during those years (though at this point, we’ll probably settle for a first round win).
The roster is familiar, the core untouched, but the big storyline this year (aside from that Roberto Luongo guy) is seeing how individual players react to playing under Tortorella, and how Tortorella reacts to coaching in Vancouver.
Trying to predict how this all plays out is going to be as difficult as predicting the final season of Breaking Bad, and for the record I finished tied for 10th in a prediction pool for that show so don’t take my prediction of David Booth‘s death to heart.
The Canucks will finish….in the divison
The Canucks will be going back to Cali a lot this year, and the new Pacific division will be won by a city within a stone’s throw of the eponymous ocean.
The Kings and Sharks are only the two most recent teams to embarrass the Canucks in the playoffs, and the Ducks are hoping that their success last year was no fluke. Safe money is on those three and the Canucks grabbing the playoff spots.
Yeah ok, but in what order?
Well, the Ducks are missing Bobby Ryan from last year’s group of overachievers, so let’s put them in the wildcard spot or whatever that’s called, leaving us with the Sharks, Kings and Canucks for top honours.
I could pick an order, or I could roll some dice.
Either should be as successful. But I will say this: If the Canucks can’t figure out how to beat two teams that have had their number for a couple of years, this re-alignment will be painful.
And their finish in the playoffs? I’m not even touching that.
Zack Kassian will….
You see Kassian, you remember Todd Bertuzzi in his prime, before the messy stuff and right around the time he was pushing off defenceman on the powerplay and popping home goals on the regular.
That’s what the Canucks need Kassian to become, especially in a season where the cap shrink forced very little summer moves.
The youth movement never caught on during training camp, but Zack Kassian still remains and he is undisputably the wildcard for the Canucks this year.
A breakout year means the difference between finishing above or below those pesky Sharkings.
Breaking Sam Gagner’s jaw wasn’t exactly the best start to the season, but it really would be fantastic for everyone involved if Kassian could take the next step this year.
Can Luongo (and us) forgive and forget?
To get back to Breaking Bad, there were plenty of shocking moments in the show’s final episodes but none hit as hard as that moment on draft day when Gary Bettman announced the Schneider trade.
That right there was great TV.
And now we’re back to square one regarding goaltending in Vancouver: Roberto Luongo is the undisputed number one and every goal he allows will be dissected and criticized to the point of extreme.
Roberto is still a damn goalie, fake backup label be damned. He didn’t lose his starting job, he had it taken from him.
He’s still the same goalie we fell in love with all those years ago.
Now begins the long process of learning to live together again.
Where will it all go wrong?
Because it will, this is the Canucks.
It will all go wrong because:
- The third line centre position is the new home of the graveyard that used to be in the crease.
- The extra defensive responsibilities for the Sedins will diminish their offensive output to the point where the Canucks simply can’t score (see: the Rangers, New York) or worse, a Sedin injury blocking a shot.
- Ryan Kesler is a shell of his former self; David Booth is a shell of his former self; Kassian is a shell of his current self.
- Luongo, somehow.
- Brad Marchand, probably.
It’s going to be an interesting year in Vancouver.
There have been changes combined with no changes (if that makes sense), making this year an experiment on a number of fronts. Perhaps it’s a bridge year until the Horvats and Shinkaruks and Corrados make the team full-time, but that’s no reason for the team not to go full throttle.
Let’s see how well they can navigate this season.