NHL season previews often sell you an impressive bill of goods before you realize, at the end of the season, you're holding an empty box. Which makes using advertisements and infomercials the appropriate template for Puck Daddy's 2009-10 NHL Season Previews, presented each day throughout September.
Last Season's Ad Copy (See Also Canucks Eulogy): Third in the Western Conference and first in the Northwest Division (45-27-10, 100 points). Predicted to be in the basement before the 2008-09 season, the Vancouver Canucks played above their heads to reach the second round of the playoffs. Despite losing goaltender Roberto Luongo(notes) for two months (and winning just nine times in his absence), the Canucks went on fire as soon as he returned from injury, earning the NHL's best record after February.
Coming off a 100-point season, Vancouver is becoming the Stanley Cup favorite of many. They have the goaltending, the scoring, and depth, and the defense. After finding success with lowered expectations last year, how will the Canucks deal with being a possible contender? Luongo will want to make up for his lackluster performance in Game 6 against the Chicago Blackhawks where he let in seven goals and let his emotions show afterwards.
There will be much excitement in the Vancouver air this season with the Winter Olympics taking place in the city. The 21st Winter Olympiad will also force Vancouver to hit the road for a 14-game, month and a half road trip that will play a key role in the how the team heads into the latter part of the '09-10 season.
Latest Gadgets (Offseason Additions): With Mats Sundin(notes) on his annual "decision quest," General Manager Mike Gillis didn't waste any time in finding a suitable forward to replace the aging Swede. Mikael Samuelsson(notes) comes over from the Detroit Red Wings and will bring plenty of playoff experience with him. Samuelsson is expected to play the wing on the first power-play unit; and if head coach Alain Vigneault decides to play him with the Sedin twins on the top line, there's a good chance the 32-year old could threaten his career high of 45 points.
Replacing the departed Mattias Ohlund(notes) on the blue line will be veterans Mathieu Schneider(notes) and Brad Lukowich(notes) as well as Christian Ehrhoff(notes), who is a possible insurance policy should Willie Mitchell(notes) walk next summer during free agency.
Adding to their goaltending depth, Gillis signed former Calder Trophy winner Andrew Raycroft(notes) to a one-year deal. Already having Cory Schneider(notes) signed through the 2010-11 season, the Raycroft signing could spell the end of Schneider's days in Vancouver -- at least that's the general consensus.
To The Recycle Bin (Offseason Subtractions): Mats Sundin can be considered a subtraction, but we never know what the big Swede will do. If he chooses to return to hockey, there may not be enough money available under the salary cap to re-sign with the Canucks.
The signing of the Sedin twins forced Mattias Ohlund to leave Vancouver for sunny Tampa Bay. The loss of Ohlund is a big blow to the seventh-ranked Canucks defense that will miss his 30 points a season and hope that Mathieu Schneider, Brad Lukowich, and Christian Ehrhoff can step in and fill those minutes.
A fond farewell was in order for Taylor Pyatt(notes) who tragically lost his fiancée in a car accident during the playoffs. With the Canucks looking to add more speed up front, Pyatt's 6-4, 230 lbs. frame wasn't in the team's plans.
The Pitchman (Top Offensive Player): Besides being identical twins, the Sedins are practically the same player; and year after year post almost identical numbers. After signing five-year deals over the summer, Daniel and Henrik can now concentrate on bringing Vancouver a Stanley Cup and continuing to lead the way offensively.
Last season, Henrik posted career highs in goals and points while Daniel reached a personal best of 51 assists. The twins are the drivers of the Canucks locomotive. How far they go will be an indicator of how well the team is doing. Whoever plays with the Sedin's will be a big benefactor of their chemistry, just ask Anson Carter(notes). If Mikael Samuelsson gets his number called to play on the top line, the "Tre Kronor" could be one of the leagues best.
Introducing .... (Potential Breakout Player): A Canadian League player of the year and World Junior Championship gold medal has given Cody Hodgson(notes) the pedigree to become a valuable piece of the Vancouver Canucks. How soon he makes an impact is currently up in the air. Hodgson has not had the best pre-season and the Vancouver brass need to make an important decision whether to keep him or send him back to Brampton of the Ontario Hockey League for another year of dominating.
Should Hodgson fall out of the Canucks '09-10 plans, Sergei Shirokov could be a surprise replacement. The 23-year old Russian fought for his opportunity to leave the Kontinental Hockey League and sign with Vancouver for less money than he was offered to stay at home. Shirokov wants to face the challenge of playing in the NHL and would not bolt back home should he be assigned to the Canucks AHL affiliate in Manitoba.
Operators Are Standing By (The Defensemen): A top-10 unit a season ago, the Canucks will have to incorporate the additions of Mathieu Schneider, Brad Lukowich, and Christian Ehrhoff into their defense corps all the while moving on without longtime defensive stalwart Mattias Ohlund. The top pairing of Willie Mitchell and Sami Salo(notes) will be relied on to shutdown opponent's top lines while the second unit of Kevin Bieksa(notes) and Alexander Edler(notes) will bring the offense. Ehrhoff and Schneider will add depth to a steady blue line that averaged 2.6 goals-against/game last season.
The Spokesmodel (The Goalies): There's no doubt that Roberto Luongo will handle the volume of the load for the next decade or so with the Canucks after signing a 12-year, $64 million extension. Coming off the first significant injury of his career, the pressure is on Luongo to rebound from last season's playoff exit and carry Vancouver to a Stanley Cup.
Andrew Raycroft and Cory Schneider will be expected to spell Luongo for the 5-10 games he typically sits a season. If Raycroft can find his game again, Schneider will quickly become expendable, especially now that he's been sent to Manitoba.
And Now, a Short Message From Roberto Luongo on the Weather: