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Well what do you know, the Vancouver Canucks are the surprise of the 2008-2009 preseason campaign thus far. If I recall, I was hearing, reading, and watching all the hockey experts around the league choosing the Canucks to finish 14th in the Western Conference. Not looking to freaking smart now are you guys? In the preseason alone, the Canucks are making those naysayers re-think their evaluation of the team. So far, a perfect 6-0-0 record, the best preseason record out there. I believe the word is undefeated. Not bad for a bunch of guys supposedly to finish as a bottom feeder.

I know, I know, these games don’t mean a thing, or do they? These games are to test out the waters and balance the teams out according to each individual coaching staff. The victories, the ability to come back,  or to really take charge of a lead means nothing. But, isn’t that what all the teams are doing? It’s not just for the Vancouver Canucks. So how does the team with the worst preseason record feel about their squad? I’m sure internally there are some concerns as to why they aren’t winning, or scoring, or stopping pucks. Yes, to the clubs, these preseasons do matter. It’s a great way to find out what motivates the team that takes the ice. Think about it.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin get some much needed scoring help this preseason

Henrik and Daniel Sedin get some much needed scoring help this preseason

Let’s look at the Canucks last season, shall we? Last season Vancouver’s top six defensemen combined for a total of 171 games missed due to a plague of injuries all throughout the season. Isn’t this defensive line up when healthy one of the best in the league? Aren’t they at least to be considered to be Top 5 material? Management ended up calling up every available Moose defensive player to take their roster spots last year. It was that bad. Alexander Edler proved he was worthy of a top six spot permanently because of this misfortune. Fortunately for the Canucks, Edler panned out and is now a regular. I guess that was the silver lining to season-long cloud.

Let’s move on to goaltending. Isn’t Roberto Luongo not one of the premier goaltenders in the league? Even with the heavy personal distractions of his then pregnant wife’s health, did he not come out to play each and every night? Roberto is a stud on the ice and has earned every reason to be named Captain Canuck. Sanford is a solid back up and does his job when called upon. We all know that rookie tender, Corey Schneider is going to get a lot of seasoning in Winnipeg back stopping the Moose, the Canucks AHL affiliate. I don’t see this position to be weakened at all. If anything it’s the exact opposite.

I think the biggest improvement with the Canucks has been the focus to get a more balanced attack in the offensive zone. Gone are long serving Canucks Markus Naslund, Brenden Morrison, and Trevor Linden. In are Pavol Demitra, Steve Bernier, Ryan Johnson, and Darcy Hordichuk. The team got younger, faster, and a little tougher. How is that so bad? How does that garner 14th place in the Western Conference, tell me?

So all off season, as the media types and fans alike were writing off the Vancouver Canucks, where they only headlines they were grabbing were of the negative nature. For example, reasons as to why Mats Sundin will not be in Vancouver or why Kyle Wellwood is out of shape during camp. Even with the announcement of Roberto Luongo as Canuck Captain, the eastern based media fed it to the fans that it  was a ludicrous decision. The Canucks could not shake off the underdog stigma.

What do the Canucks have to do to say, “Hey, did you guys just forget about us? Do we not matter?”

It might be a good thing for the Canucks to be under the radar and go undetected. They were three, that’s right three points off from making the playoffs. How are they that disastrous? It’s not.  Had they been with their top six defencemen missing even a quarter less of the 171 combined games that were missed, they would have been in the hunt for a playoff spot. Had they not lost their number two centre to a major injury, the line juggling that Alain Vigneault was forced to do, would not have been so necessary. Just maybe, if those things did or didn’t happen, the Canucks would have not looked like the kids that missed the car to the prom. Instead, they could have been media darlings. Who knows? But I’d still like to know why the majority fans, writers, analysts, and Vegas odds makers alike have them missing the prom this season? I would like to hear, see, read and watch some explanations of the Canucks good preseason fortune. Any takers?

That’s a view from a broad, a not too distant perspective.

On a side note: I want to give a shout out to Canucks Corner, and Brian Wawryshyn for having me on their boards. Canucks Corner is a great place to talk about Canuck hockey at a high calibre. Please don’t hesitate to visit, you never know what is just around the Corner.

Justine Galo

Chicago, IL