The best laid plans...
It's no secret that the Vancouver Canucks have squandered their best chance to win a Stanley Cup. Last year, to put it lightly, was the year. Detroit was wounded, San Jose was thin on the back end, Chicago had been gutted and tired from a short offseason full of partying, Boston was without two of their best offensive players in Marc Savard and Nathan Horton, Pittsburgh was without Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, the list goes on.
This year, San Jose is still relatively thin on the back end, but they do have a bonafide shut down pairing of Brent Burns and Dan Boyle, if Todd McClellan decides to play the two together. Chicago had a short off season and added some key parts to make another run, and Detroit has had time to recover as well.
The Canucks, however... can you really say they are better than they were last year? I've already gone over how much Christian Ehrhoff will be missed, as will Raffi Torres. Even worse, the Canucks big free agent signing was Marco Sturm, who I'm pretty sure has no knees. To add to the mess, Ryan Kesler may miss the first month of the season after undergoing hip surgery. He may also be back for opening night, but expect the Canucks to make sure he is fully, 100% healthy before putting him on the ice. It's a marathon, not a sprint people. Mason Raymond will be coming back frail as well, after breaking his back in the Cup Final.
So what can the Canucks do to improve? Ehrhoff can be replaced by Keith Ballard, a hard nosed offensive defenseman who had a horrid year last season. More interesting, however, is Cody Hodgson.
He's finally healthy. He's reporting to training camp in the best shape he's been in a Canuck uniform, and he's motivated because there is a plum second line center job open for the beginning of the season. Can Cody claim it? The Canucks have to be hoping he can. If Hodgson can live up to his expectations, lowered as they are, then Ehrhoff leaving doesn't sting as much. Kesler gone for the first month doesn't hurt so bad.
Can he do it? If he can, then the Canucks are suddenly a lot better than they were last year. That was the one element missing from their game; production from a young talent.
Is it fair to say that the Canucks fortunes may lie on the shoulders of a oft maligned former blue chip prospect? It's not fair, but it's certainly true.