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VANCOUVER—The Canucks organization and all of its incumbent players are eager to get started with the new NHL season. With the team coming within one win away from bringing home the Stanley Cup trophy, the team looks ahead to another trip to the playoffs, and eventually a return to the finals.
All the participants are aware that the hockey season is winding and demanding. Momentum can often turn from one shift to the other. Therefore, the Canucks know there is plenty of work ahead of them.
Here are 10 factors that can affect the Canucks bid for a Stanley Cup in 2011/2012 NHL Season:
1) Health and Injuries. Last season, the Vancouver Canucks used 13 different defensemen at some point of the regular season and playoffs. With so many newcomers entering the fold, the team struggled to play with consistency. If they want better success, staying healthy is crucial.
2) Art Ross Winners. Daniel and Henrik Sedin are the face of the franchise. Elder brother Henrik won the Art Ross and Hart Memorial Trophy in 2010. Younger brother Daniel followed suit with a strong year, winning the Art Ross and Ted Lindsay Award. The Canucks need both of these players to remain dominate five-on-five, and lead the powerplay.
3) Last line of Defense. The Vancouver media can be unforgiving at times when it comes to criticizing the goaltending of the hockey club. Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider were good enough to win the William Jennings Award in 2011 for least goals against during the regular season. However, when it counted the most, Roberto Luongo had trouble keeping the puck out of the net. That has to improve.
4) Coaching staff and game-planning. Alain Vigneault prefers to let the skaters figure out how to play sound defensively, before rushing the puck to generate scoring chances. The style the Canucks played was successful for the most part, but the team showed weaknesses slowing down the big bruisers like the Anaheim Ducks and Boston Bruins.
5) Physical and mental toughness. Last playoffs, the Canucks were outmatched physically by their opponents. In the Chicago series, the Canucks won whenever they out-hit the opposition, and lost when they were out-hit. Against the Boston Bruins, physicality boiled over, when the mean-spirited Bruins took the Canucks to school. Toughness must be addressed.
6) New additions or subtractions? During the off-season, Christian Ehrhoff agreed to contract with the Buffalo Sabres, $40 million over 10 years. Rugged winger, Raffi Torres, signed with the Phoenix Coyotes. Tanner Glass and Rick Rypien also departed. Management inserted Marco Sturm, Alexander Sulzer, Mark Mancari and Andrew Ebbett, hoping to add some elements they were lacking last season.
7) Top-six defense. The Canucks front office stressed the importance of preparing enough depth on defense to battle the rigors of an 82-game regular season schedule, and playoffs. Last year, they tested the defense depth 13-deep. This year, losing Christian Ehrhoff forces others to fill the void in the Top-six, and on the powerplay. Someone must step up.
8 ) Face-off Dominance. In 2010-2011, the Canucks were among the best teams in terms of face-off winning percentage, and face-off wins total. Led by free agent signing of Manny Malhotra, the team improved it’s puck-possession game by controlling the puck from the blow of the whistle. It made setting up plays easier, made penalty-killing easier, and it made goaltending a lot more comfortable. Look for this facet of the game continuing on to dictate success.
9) Versatility and Imposing Will. For the Canucks to beat teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the team must learn to adapt and impose their will on their opponents. Rather than adjusting to play other team’s style of hockey, the Canucks should dictate play by using their team speed, skill, and sound goaltending.
10) Do you believe in Hockey Gods? Luck plays a factor in all sports. Sometimes, one has to be good to be lucky, but in the case of hockey, getting a favourable bounce can really help the team advance further in competition. Timeliness of goals, bounces, breaks, injuries, and game-saving saves can be one of the intangible factors.
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