Vancouver Canucks: Puck Daddy’s 2015-16 NHL Season Preview

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VANCOUVER, BC - APRIL 11: Fin, the Vancouver Canucks' mascot, salutes the fans after their game against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Arena April 11, 2015 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver won 6-5 in overtime. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Vancouver Canucks

VANCOUVER, BC - APRIL 11: Fin, the Vancouver Canucks' mascot, salutes the fans after their game against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Arena April 11, 2015 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver won 6-5 in overtime. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

(The 2015-16 NHL season is nearly upon us! Why bother watching this team? What will make or break the season? Find out as we preview all 30 teams as camps begin!)  

Last Season:

48-29-5, 101 points. Second in the Pacific Division. 

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Did They Get Better, Worse Or Are They About The Same?

Probably a bit worse in that a lot of their aging top pieces got a year older. And most of their core players are in their mid-30s. Daniel (76 points) and Henrik Sedin (73 points), Radim Vrbata (31 goals) and Alexandre Burrows are all 34 years old.

Starting goaltender Ryan Miller is 35.

Vancouver no longer has the Eddie Lack safety blanket it had last season after a trading the netminder to the Carolina Hurricanes this summer. The Canucks were pretty excited to add Brandon Sutter as a depth center as part of dealing Nick Bonino, but seemed almost too pumped to bring in a guy who tied a career-high of 21 goals this past season.

Center depth is always important, but Sutter shouldn’t really be considered a core piece. He’s a nice player, but nothing special.

The X-factor is coach Willie Desjardins: a Climax, Saskatchewan native who just always seems to make the playoffs, wherever he coaches. 

Five Most Fascinating Players

1. Brandon Sutter, C

The guy had just 21 goals last season. But general manager Jim Benning spoke glowingly of the guy after acquiring him for Nick Bonino. He’s just a third-line center in reality. But how will the Canucks use him if they value him so highly? On the second-line if Henrik Sedin slows down or Bo Horvat takes a step back? Either way, expectations are high for Sutter. 

2. Bo Horvat, C

The rookie had just five points in his first 17 NHL games. But in the playoffs, he stepped up in Vancouver’s six-game loss to Calgary with four points. The Canucks are counting on the second-year pro – who is just 20 years old – to support Henrik Sedin at center. Is he up to the task? Horvat has prodigious talent and should do better than his 25 points from last season. But is he ready to take the full-time step to being a top-six forward? 

3. Henrik and Daniel Sedin, C and LW

Maybe we’re cheating by adding two names in one category, but you can't mention one without the other. They bounced back last season with 70-plus point campaigns after it appeared they had dropped off considerably the year before. Again, they’re 34 and it’s unlikely that they’ll improve. But both are still excellent (and in some ways underappreciated) first-line luxuries for the Canucks. They're also not good at basketball. 

4. Ryan Miller, G

The goaltender is one of the most interesting men in hockey. He’s smart, full of bravado … and he’s declining. Last season he had a 2.53 goals against average and .911 save percentage. Signing Miller was almost a gut reaction to the bruised psyche of Roberto Luongo during his time with the Canucks. Miller was perceived to be stronger mentally for the tough Vancouver market. You can be as strong as you want mentally, but what if you don’t have it physically anymore? Also, with Lack gone, Desjardins will have to go with Miller even if he’s not performing well. 

5. Dan Hamhuis, D

The man is a pending unrestricted free agent. Unless he’s willing to take a paycut from his $4.5 million salary – or at least a cut in years – a return to the Canucks just doesn’t seem to be in the cards for the 32-year-old blueliner. That being said a veteran UFA is always a nice trading chip, especially in today’s salary cap world where it’s important to turn a depreciating asset into something of value for a few more years. 

Potentially The Best Thing About This Team

The first line. The Sedin twins are always magical and are a lock for at least 60 points or more. Vrbata provided the perfect skill set to ride shotgun with the twins this past season. Henrik (plus-6.2 SAT Rel%) and Daniel (plus-5.2 SAT Rel%) always seem to hold onto the puck when they're on the ice. 

With so many teams having turned over players this season, Vancouver’s first line should get off to a roaring start in comparison to the rest of the Western Conference. 

Potentially The Worst Thing About This Team

The defense and the goaltending. Christopher Tanev (plus-3.4 SAT Rel%) and Alex Edler (plus-3.6 SAT Rel%) are both excellent puck-moving blueliners. But what of the rest? Hamhuis is aging and is maybe a No. 4 defenseman at this stage of his career. Luca Sbisa still hasn’t developed into a top blueliner, and probably won’t in his career. Tack on a shaky Miller and this is a group that could have some trouble keeping the puck out of the net.

Dream 3-on-3 OT Group

Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Chris Tanev. Watch them skate circles around everyone and play keepaway. It will be amazing.  

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being scorching hot)

Three. Desjardins has never missed the playoffs in a full year as a head coach between Major Junior. The AHL and the NHL. This includes three championships of some sort. That being said, some in Vancouver soured on his match ups and line moves in the team’s first-round postseason loss to underdog Calgary.

He’s not on the hot seat, but this is Vancouver which doesn’t get enough credit as a rabid, nutty, crazy hockey market.  

Awkward Old School Video Break

Prepare to have 'Bure Bure' stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks Canucks superfan 'Heavy Eric.'

Their Best Case Scenario Is …

Horvat turns into a powerful second-line center, giving the Canucks a one-two punch down the middle. The Sedins continue their productive ways and Vrbata has another excellent season with the twins. 

Their Nightmare Scenario Is …

The Sedins start their inevitable decline. Horvat suffers a sophomore slump. Miller plays more Hyde than Jekyll. 

Prediction

Desjardins does what he always does – makes the playoffs. The Canucks will win a round this year, but will get trounced in the second-round. They have the veterans to get you into the playoffs, but they don’t have the young depth – outside of Horvat – to go deep into the postseason. 

PUCK DADDY SEASON PREVIEW 2015-16

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