The Vancouver Canucks open the abridged 2013 NHL season Saturday as they host the Anaheim Ducks. Like most teams they have scrambled to slap together a training camp and get ready for the 48-game sprint to the finish line this season.
There are a ton of questions facing the team this year and after a disappointing first round playoff exit the Canucks will have to answer them if they wish to go further.
What is the end game for Roberto Luongo?
Luongo is in camp with the Canucks after a summer, and lock out, full of trade speculation, rumors and some entertaining twitter. Every day seems to bring a new rumor concerning Luongo but to date the team appears ready to go into the season with Luongo on the roster.
They still have some needs on their roster and Luongo could help fill them, if there is a trade to be had. Will it be Toronto, Florida, Philadelphia, or a team yet to step forward? With $8 million in cap space taken up by two goalies the Canucks will eventually have to do something.
Hopefully it won’t end up being a distraction.
Will Ryan Kesler be healthy?
Ryan Kesler is arguably the most important Canuck. He plays at both ends, he is the emotional leader of the team and is the key to them getting secondary scoring. He played the second half of last year hurt and his production, and the team’s, suffered for it.
He is still not cleared to play and it’s unclear exactly how long he will be out. In the past he has sucked up the pain and played hurt which while admirable, may actually have set the team back.
Do the Canucks have enough depth?
Vancouver’s depth is getting tested early this year. With injuries to Kesler and David Booth, Vancouver has big question mark on their second line. Who’s going to be on it? Where will they get secondary scoring?
These injuries give Jordan Schroeder a chance to show that he is NHL ready. While Schroeder lacks experience he has shown some offensive skills. Can he put it together?
Andrew Ebbett is another guy who could step in and offer some depth for the Canucks. He has NHL experience and has been playing well in Chicago during the lockout where he put up 21 points in 29 games.
Vancouver’s younger players will be asked to step up early this year and if the club experiences any more injuries during the year they could be in trouble.
Can Zack Kassian step up?
The Canucks moved crowd favorite Cody Hodgson for the young bruiser last year at the deadline and are hoping for big things this year. Kassian needs to play physical while chipping in offensively this year for Vancouver.
He has looked good at times in Chicago this year and should hit the season in mid-season stride. He’s been throwing his weight around for the Wolves and Vancouver is hoping that he brings that with him to the Canucks.
Is Cory Schneider ready?
One of the big assumptions the Canucks made this summer when they signed Cory Schneider and named him the number one goalie was that he was ready. He sure looks ready. He’s shined whenever he’s been given a chance to play, but has yet to play more than 33 games in the NHL.
If the club moves Luongo and for some reason Schneider is not ready for prime time the Canucks will have a problem. While this seems unlikely it is still a bit of an unknown issue, one that is key to Vancouver’s success.
In the end the Canucks should once again be one of the best clubs in the NHL. Do they have the answers to win it all? It will be a tough road but all indications point to them still being a contender this year. They just have to figure out some answers moving forward.
Andrew writes about the WHL and NHL Draft Prospects. He also covers the Seattle Thunderbirds for 710 ESPN Seattle and spent two years with Sportsnet. Follow him on Twitter @andyeide.