The final roster released for the start of the 2011/2012 season by the Vancouver Canucks looks very similar to the line-up that was one game away from a Stanley Cup in 2010/2011, a good sign for any Vancouver fan. The latest roster changes were made by the Canucks in the last week of September and included Owen Nolan and Todd Fedoruk not being offered contracts after their PTO`s, and Ryan Parent and Mark Mancari placed on waivers after being sent down to the Chicago Wolves.
The current 23 man roster:
With Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond expected to miss some games with their respective injuries, Marco Sturm and Andrew Ebbett were the only new faces brought in to the Canucks forward group. Sturm will be expected to challenge Chris Higgins for either the second or third line wing position, while Ebbett, the 13th forward, could be used in a top 6 centre role if Hodgson doesn’t prove himself early. BC native Aaron Volpatti earned a roster spot with a great pre-season performance and will be under pressure from Mike Duco and Byron Bitz for regular playing time on the bottom line.
With Christain Ehrhoff moving to Buffalo for big money at the end of last season, the Canucks didn’t make any big moves to replace the German. The re-signing of Salo for 1 year has softened the blow, and Keith Ballard is expected to bounce back after a poor first season. Chris Tanev will be expected to fight for a place with Andrew Alberts and Aaron Rome (after he returns from injury) and play out most of the season with the big club. 21-year-old Tanev is expected by most to take over Sami Salo’s job next season if the Finn decides to retire from hockey.
Roberto Luongo, Cory Schneider
The Canucks are electing to make the obvious choice and stick with the William M Jennings trophy winning duo of Luongo and Schneider for 2011/2012. Schneider, who will be a RFA at the end of the upcoming season, will again be expected to play just over the magic number of 25 games, ensuring his name will be on the trophy if the Canucks make it all the way this season. Eddie Lack, who made a great impression in preseason, will be the starter for the Chicago Wolves and the number 3 choice for the Canucks.
Ryan Kesler, Mason Raymond, Byron Bitz, Aaron Rome
With Kesler returning straight into the second line centre role after his hip recovers, Raymond will have to compete for a spot on the second line with Higgins and Sturm having the opportunity to earn a permanent role in the top 6. Bitz will be a great candidate for the 4th line depending on the play of Volpatti and Oreskovich, and Rome will be fighting Alberts and Tanev for the last remaining defensive spot.
The saying of ’dont fix what isn’t broken’ can be applied to all 3 groups above. With the departures of Raffi Torres, Christain Ehrhoff, Tanner Glass and Jeff Tambellini as regulars from last season, the Canucks really lost a gritty forward, a power play defenseman and 2 likeable guys in the dressing room.
In the off-season, they have added Sturm, a top 6 forward if he stays healthy and a handful of tough players capable of playing on the 4th line such as Bitz, Mark Mancari, Steve Pinizzotto and Duco. While Ehrhoff will be missed on the power play, Salo can be relied upon for that job if he stays injury free, and Tanev’s calm play can be used as an asset as it was in the Stanley Cup finals series.
The current Canucks lineup looks like one of the best not only the West but in the entire league, with a possible third line of Higgins-Malhotra-Samuelsson surely making opponents shake in their skates. If the Canucks can avoid the defensive injury curses of previous years and stay consistent, there is no reason why the Vancouver team of 2011/2012 shouldn’t be one of the favorites for reaching the Cup final again.