Backhand Shelf’s previews for the 2013-14 NHL season are going to work like a choose your own adventure novel, because fans only hear what they want to hear anyway, so we might as well embrace it.
You’ll get the flippant barstool prediction, the push-the-glasses-up-your-nose numbers take, the team is going to be good take, the team is going to be bad take, and then we’ll try to bring it back full circle at the bottom. Let’s get to it.
Added: John Tortorella, Brad Richardson, Mike Santorelli, Yannick Weber
Subtracted: Alain Vigneault, Cory Schneider, Derek Roy, Maxim Lapierre, Andrew Ebbett
The Canucks are going to be good
You serious? Of course they are. Everyone talks about “the Sedins” like they’re one guy, but it turns out they actually have two near point-per-game guys on their top line. Former Selke winner (and 40 goal guy) Ryan Kesler is a perfect fit for John Tortorella’s style. Roberto Luongo is one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, and he’s playing behind one of the better d-corps in the league. How about a top four of Hamhuis, Edler, Garrison and Bieksa? I mean, what a brutal team to play. Chris Higgins is an underrated stud, Alex Burrows has goal scoring seasons of 28, 35, 26, and 28, and David Booth has mixed in a 30 goal-scoring season himself. They’re straight-up stacked.
The Canucks are going to be bad
Bad? They’re going to be bruuutal. The Sedins are so far past their prime they can’t even see it in their rearviews. They’re in decline, and were soft to begin with, so who cares. The team is a bunch of band-aids. Kesler can’t stay healthy (and is overrated to begin with). Booth can’t stay healthy (and rode one decent season to a payday). Their starting goalie literally – literally! – does not want to play for the team. But at least he posted a whopping .907 save percentage last year. Burrows is an overrated pest because he played with two passers, Zack Kassian is a bust, and the team, as a whole, is just easy to hate. This team’s peak was Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2011, and they’ve been on a descending roller coaster screaming towards the basement ever since.
Flippant barstool prediction
The Canucks aren’t what they once were, but they’ve got enough to be a playoff team, and a nuisance if healthy. I see them as a road team round one in playoffs.
The 2013 numbers with the Canucks are kinda surprising. Something about the Sedins has blinded me to a few realities: they’re in the bottom half of the league in goals-per-game (19th, 2.54 per), their powerplay is 22nd overall, scoring only 15.8% of the time, and they only generate 28.1 shots per night, also good for 19th in the league.
The positives aren’t even crazy positive for a team I still consider one of the better ones: they give up 2.4 goals-per-game (10th), they kill 84% of their powerplays (8th), and they give up 28.9 shots per game (14th). Turns out the ‘Nucks are d-first?
Okay, but seriously:
It really comes down to health with the Canucks. They’re a different team with a healthy Kesler, and David Booth is a valued contributor that they’d really like to see get 70 games in. Luongo is another huge factor – is he into it, do they keep him, does he still have it, etc. I think he’s steady enough to provide league average goaltending at worst though, and they have a solid d-corps and some scorers. Probably on the very, very fringe of the word “Cup contender,” but a safer guess is just “playoff team.”
Your NHL.com round up: