Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 9/27/13
I said Hockey! You’ve probably noticed by now that we’re very nearly ready to drop the puck on a brand new season that will look drastically different from last year’s. Aside from the full complement of 82 games, including match ups with the Eastern Conference, this year features brand new divisions and playoff formatting. For the Canucks, there’s some shiny new prospects and of course, a brand new coach behind the bench. The only thing that hasn’t changed? The starting goaltender, surprisingly. The preseason has been the initial foray into a new era of Canucks hockey and hasn’t gone spectacularly well. A 6-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes Monday is their victory in five tries, including two losses to those pesky San Jose Sharks. Roberto Luongo’s performance last Saturday in Edmonton also did little to inspire confidence that was would be a changed team. He was great last night however (In a 5-0 win over AV’s Rangers)…and he needs to play like that this year for $6,714,000 reasons. So let’s break down what September has led us to expect from this year’s Canucks squad. Love ‘Em 1. The kids After the Canucks were able to pluck Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk in the first round, John Tortorella was adamant that they and other Canucks prospects would get ample chances to prove they belonged on the Canucks squad. It was a switch from AV’s policies of going with veterans over youth, and the most exciting storyline heading into camp. Two nice looking youngsters. Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk Thanks in no small part to Zack Kassian’s suspension and Jordan Schroeder’s injury, not to mention their stellar camps, it appears as though both first round picks could stick around with the club for a nine game shot. Meanwhile, Brendan Gaunce had a decent camp that hints he may well be ready in a year or two to don the Orca full-time. Let’s just not talk about Nicklas Jensen‘s camp… 2. Santo-Really It’s early, really early, but Mike Santorelli has had a strong enough camp to make you wonder if perhaps he can regain the form that once saw him score 20 goals. Thing is, he’s only played 94 NHL games since that magical season three years ago, so the odds are probably better he regresses back to scrub form. But maybe, just maybe, the Canucks have a successful reclamation project. And maybe he can teach David Booth a thing or two about bouncing back from a career year in Florida several years ago. 3. Frankie in Vancouver or Utica? I wrote a piece earlier this month that it may be more beneficial for Corrado to start the year in Utica, I’m willing to admit that I thought I’d be dead wrong on that. He had changed my mind, and I really thought he’d stick. The kid has been such smooth sailings throughout the preseason that Chris Tanev is probably a little jealous of no longer being the most popular blueline prospect. Frank Corrado’s got game, it’s to bad Gillis/Torts feel his season should start in Utica. Hate ‘Em 1. Andrew Alberts has been absolutely terrible Oh boy. Just take him around the barn and shoot him. I was a bit shocked when the Canucks eventually re-signed him for most of the reasons put on display during Tuesday’s outing against the Sharks. He’s just not a terribly smart or talented hockey player. It was supposed to be a big year for Zack Kassian Thankfully, with the signing of Yannick Weber and the emergence of Corrado, he can be buried on the depth chart pretty easily. 2. Zack Attacks It was supposed to be a big year for Zack Kassian, under the tutelage of a new coach and given opportunities with the Sedins. Instead, his time on the top line during the initial preseason games was disappointing and he capped it with a reckless play that broke Sam Gagner’s jaw and saw Kassian suspended for five games. Certainly not the training camp anyone was expecting for a player that many see as the key to the Canucks’ success. Silver lining? Maybe watching Torts new system from the pressbox gives Kassian some insight on how to execute on the ice. 3. That third line centre position…. The Canucks may no longer be a goaltending graveyard, but there’s definitely been a hole about six feet deep at third-line centre for about as long as Mike Gillis has been in power. Brad Richardson has had a decent enough camp to win the fourth-line spot, but I wouldn’t want him full-time on the third. Jordan Schroeder perhaps had the inside track but he now has a broken foot. So the job should fall to Mike Santorelli or Bo Horvat. One has been largely out of the NHL for three years, and the other is an eighteen-year-old that has a good, but not great, camp. It’s looking like a third-line centre will once again be on the wish list come trade deadline, but given the success of Pahlsson or Roy in recent years, that may once again do little to solve the biggest hole in the Canucks’ line-up. CLICK HERE CHECK OUT THE CANUCKS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE SECTION AT NWSB!
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