For most Vancouver Canucks fans, the 2016-17 season is expected to be an excruciatingly long and rough campaign. Despite all the last place predictions from fans and media alike, there are still plenty of positives going into this season.
Once you’ve finished laughing at that notion, I’ll continue.
The Canucks had a relatively quiet offseason, save for the signing of Loui Eriksson on July 1 and the trade of budding prospect Jared McCann. This led most people to assume that the 2016-17 season is already a lost cause. But I’m here to tell you that no matter how many losses the Canucks might pile up, there are reasons to enjoy the season ahead. So without further ado, here are the reasons why this Canucks season is worth getting excited about.
The Canucks have been spoiled with fantastic goaltending ever since Roberto Luongo took to the Canucks crease in 2007, and that trend continues into this season. The team once again starts the year with two starting caliber goalies in Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom, who were far and away Vancouver’s most valuable players in the disappointing 2015-16 campaign. Miller has been pegged as the No.1 goalie by Canucks General Manager Jim Benning, and he’ll look to improve his 17-24-6 record from last year. There’s a lot at stake for Miller with his three-year deal set to expire in the summer, so there’s no doubt he’ll be playing for keeps in order to earn his next paycheck.
On the flipside, Markstrom is playing to solidify his spot as the Canucks starting netminder for next year, when either Thatcher Demko or Richard Bachman make the jump to the big club. Markstrom is at the beginning of his own three-year extension with Vancouver, and has been improving season after season since arriving in 2014. Markstrom’s 13-14-3 record showed he’s ready to play more games this season, and it should lead to a friendly competition between the two goalies for ice time. The Canucks will have a fighting chance in every game this season if Miller and Markstrom play at the level we know they’re capable of.
Bo’s time to shine
There’s no player who best represents the future success of the Vancouver Canucks than Bo Horvat. Horvat played the full 82 games for the Canucks last season, scoring 40 points as one of the brightest spots in an otherwise dark year. Horvat will likely start the season centering the Canucks’ third line due to Brandon Sutter’s return from injury, but a few solid outings could see him jump back up to the second unit in no time.
This season is going to be a stepping stone year for Bo. He’s now officially a full-time NHL player, and will be asked to step up and fill a bigger role on a team that’s building for its future. If Horvat can continue to develop (especially in the faceoff circle) while also climbing the Canucks scoring ladder, he’ll be able to fully earn his title as Vancouver’s next franchise player.
The kids have arrived
The youth movement has officially arrived in Vancouver, and developing them into a cohesive unit is the main project for the franchise. Horvat is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the talent currently building in the Canucks’ prospect cupboard. Vancouver will start the season with five major prospects on the opening day lineup; Horvat will be joined by returning players Jake Virtanen, Sven Baertschi, Brendan Gaunce and Markus Granlund on offense, while Ben Hutton and Nikita Tryamkin are back on defense.
That list doesn’t even include the players awaiting their turn either in the press box or in Utica with the Comets. Troy Stecher, Thatcher Demko and Andrey Pedan headline the prospects who’ll be clamouring to get their chance with the Canucks this season, but most will continue to train under the tutelage of Comets coach Travis Green this season. If there’s anything to gather from this season, it’s that the future is near and it looks great.
You might’ve not realized it yet, but the Canucks are pretty loaded defensively. I went in-depth on the Canucks defensemen collection last week, and it appears this team won’t have too many issues keeping pucks out of the net. Scoring goals is a whole other story, but Vancouver will be able to stay alive in games solely due to a fantastic Canucks back end. Biega, Stecher and Pedan are the defenders next in line should a player get hurt, and that screams nothing but good news for Canucks Nation.
Ben “Smiley” Hutton
If that smile doesn’t get you excited about Canucks hockey, nothing will.
The element of surprise
Considering all the lowball predictions, the Canucks have nothing to lose regardless of the outcome. Vancouver’s newfound youth and tough defense will make them harder to beat than most teams perceive, all of which sets the tone for some upset victories this year.
But the most exciting prospect for the season ahead is the fact that the young players will always put on a great show for Canucks fans. If Vancouver were to lose a game, despite the fact Horvat and Virtanen exploded offensively while Hutton showcased his inner Erik Karlsson, would you still be disappointed? I don’t think so.
Tre Konor line
Remember the The people predicting the Canucks expected failure seem to forget the fact that the club has a first line that rivals the best in the league. The Sedins playing with newcomer Eriksson will be a killer trio for opponents to deal with, even if they’re not chipping in offensively. As teams scramble to line match against the “Tre Konor Line”, the door will open for depth players like Brandon Sutter and Jannik Hansen to put the pressure on against weaker defensive pairings.
Dreams of draft day
To call a spade a spade, the Canucks are in for a rough year. But that doesn’t mean the suffering will be for nothing if the Canucks can secure a top five pick in the upcoming 2017 NHL Draft. Even in last year’s nightmare of a year the Canucks still won the right to draft defensemen Olli Juolevi, which makes me feel like the losses were a little more worth it. Currently Nolan Patrick is considered the top prospect for the 2017 Draft, and the Canucks will likely have a pretty solid chance at drafting him. So whenever you watch an incredibly frustrating Vancouver Canucks game this season, just remember #NoWinForNolan and you’ll feel much better.
LITC Blog Poll: What are you most looking forward to in this #Canucks season?
— Lachlan Irvine (@LachInTheCrease) October 13, 2016