Since the later years of the last decade, few ventures in hockey have been as expected as the Vancouver Canucks’ attempts to finish atop the Northwest Division and acquire a high seed.

In a significant shift in the balance of Western Conference power, the Canucks no longer will be making measurements for a divisional banner in September – and for the first time in recent memory many of those periods and exclamation points have been replaced by question marks.

Make no mistake – where there are Sedins, there are ways. But for a team that captured the President’s Trophy in 2011 and 2012 and boasts regular season credentials like few National Hockey League teams do, a more challenging division, the adjustments necessitated by a new coach and a new system, a depleted prospect pool that only recently has begun to be restocked, and perhaps the lack of one or two high-caliber offensive performers to play with the Sedins and round out the top six all combine to bring Vancouver closer to the playoff bubble than the B.C. club has been since Roberto Luongo’s early days wearing the Orca.

That Luongo is even wearing the Orca at all in August, 2013 isn’t as much of a surprise as it is the logical response to one of the team’s most repeated questions. How do you move the clunkiest contract in the NHL? You don’t. So Luongo will cost the team 5.33 million dollars of cap space annually through 2022, Cory Schneider will eventually take over the reins from Martin Brodeur in New Jersey, and Bo Horvat, selected with the ninth overall pick exchanged for Schneider, will – well, who knows what Bo Horvat will do. He’s 18-years-old. He and Hunter Shinkaruk, selected 24th overall, represent the Canucks’ efforts to replenish a farm system that, as noted by Mike Battaglino of NHL.com, iced only one player drafted by the team since 2005 (Jordan Schroeder) that appeared in at least 12 games.

From NHL.com’s 30-in-30 article, Jensen, Horvat top Canucks’ prospects:

“We have some kids that are knocking on the door,” new coach John Tortorella said. “We want to give them every opportunity to try to crack this lineup.

“We have to be careful in how we develop them; they need to go through the process of understanding what it is to be a pro. If we feel it’s hurting them, then they’ll go to the minors and play. But we’re going to give them every opportunity because I think that’s how you create the enthusiasm, that’s how you build your team to be competitive for a long time with the [salary-cap] world. … You need some youth in your lineup.”

As for Tortorella, his defensive-minded tactics shouldn’t create the most voluminous hiccup in the Canucks’ immediate plans. His comments regarding the Sedins blocking shots and killing penalties shouldn’t be scoffed at; a team flush with defensive depth and committed, two-way forwards will only have its strongest attributes enhanced under a demanding, defensively-aligned coach such as Tortorella. The Canucks finished tied for ninth, fourth, and first overall in goals allowed over the previous three seasons, and appear to be a top-10 team defensively once again.

Of course, these stats measure regular season performances. The only postseason statistic impacting this year’s Canucks team is one – as in the total number of playoff games won over the last two seasons. That lack of postseason accomplishment should serve as a rallying tool by a tight-knit group of players whose path to the postseason is no longer paved with a combined 18 combined games against Calgary, Edmonton and Colorado. That type of “Why not us? Why not now” mentality, spiked with a fresh beginning for Tortorella and an established level of defensive aptitude should create the right environment for this team to once again find regular season success – though to a diminished degree than had previously been established in the Northwest Division.

2012-13 Canucks Statistics (NHL Rankings)
Goals / Game: 2.54 (t-19th)
Goals Against / Game: 2.40 (t-9th)
Power Play: 15.8% (22nd)
Penalty Kill: 84.0% (8th)
Shots For / Game: 28.1 (t-19th)
Shots Against / Game: 28.9 (14th)
Faceoff Percentage: 47.6% (25th)
Save Percentage: .917 (8th)

Expected Miles Traveled, 2013-14 (stick tap: On The Forecheck)
Vancouver: 48,510 (sixth most)
Los Angeles: 48,432 (seventh most)

2012-13 Kings-Canucks Results (LAK finished 1-2-0)
1/28/13 / LAK 3 vs VAN 2 (SO) / W: Quick (21-23 + 3-3) / SOL: Luongo (26-28 + 3-3) / SOWG: Carter
3/2/13 / VAN 5 vs LAK 2 / W: Schneider (28-30) / L: Quick (19-23) / GWG: D. Sedin
3/23/13 / VAN 1 at LAK 0 / W: Schneider (20-20) / L: Quick (12-13) / GWG: Raymond

2013-14 Kings-Canucks Schedule
Saturday, 11/9/13: Vancouver at Los Angeles
Monday, 11/25/13: Los Angeles at Vancouver
Saturday, 1/4/14: Vancouver at Los Angeles
Monday, 1/13/14: Vancouver at Los Angeles
Saturday, 4/5/14: Los Angeles at Vancouver


To offer a Canucks off-season recap while previewing the upcoming season, I consulted with good friend (and fellow Everett Silvertips broadcasting alum) Dave Sheldon, sports anchor at CKNW News Talk 980 Vancouver.

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Alec martinez

#27 | 6′ 1″ | 210 lb | Age: 29

Born: July 26, 1987
Birthplace: Rochester Hills, MI, USA
Position: D
Handedness: Left

Bio

Bio: Martinez was drafted by the LA Kings in the 2007 Draft, while playing for Miami University. He has since become a two-time Stanley Cup champion and the 17th man in Stanley Cup playoff history to score the Cup-winning goal in overtime.

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Anze Kopitar

#11 | 6′ 3″ | 224 lb | Age: 29

Born: August 24, 1987
Birthplace: Jesenice, SVN
Position: C
Handedness: Left

Bio

As the 11th overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Kopitar became the first Slovenian to play in the NHL. Kopitar has spent his entire NHL career with the Kings, and following the 2015–16 season, was named the Kings’ captain. Noted for both his offensive and defensive play, Kopitar was awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL in 2016.

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Drew Doughty

#8 | 6′ 1″ | 195 lb | Age: 26

Born: December 8, 1989
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: D
Handedness: Right

Bio

Bio: Doughty is a Canadian defenceman who was selected second overall by the Kings in the 2008 Draft. Doughty made his NHL debut in 2008 as an 18-year-old and was named to the All-Rookie Team. He is a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Kings, a two-time Olympic gold medallist with the Canadian national team, and a Norris Trophy finalist.

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Tyler Toffoli

#73 | 6′ 1″ | 200 lb | Age: 24

Born: April 24, 1992
Birthplace: Scarborough, ON, CAN
Position: C
Handedness: Right

Bio

Toffoli is a Canadian professional ice hockey forward, drafted by the Kings in the second round of the 2010 Draft. Toffoli scored his first career NHL goal in his second game in a 4–0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes in 2013. He was also named the 2012–13 AHL All-Rookie Team.
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Jeff Carter

#77 | 6′ 4″ | 215 lb | Age: 31

Born: January 1, 1985
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: C
Handedness: Right

Bio

Carter began his hockey career playing in the Ontario Hockey League in Canada before joining the AHL and playing for the Philadelphia Flyers. He was then traded to the Colombus Blue jackets before joining the LA Kings in 2012, where he has since won two Stanley Cups with the Kings.

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Jonathan Quick

#32 | 6′ 1″ | 218 lb | Age: 30

Born: January 21, 1986
Birthplace: Milford, CT, USA
Position: G
Handedness: Left

Bio

Bio: Quick is the current goaltender for the LA Kings and was selected by Los Angeles at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Previously, Quick was a silver medalist with USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics. He’s won two Stanley Cup championships with the Kings, along with being the most recent goaltender to be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.

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