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Potential & promise

The Vancouver Canucks have looked impressive in pre-season, now the real work begins

Tuesday, 07.10.2008 / 12:38 PM / Features
By John Garrett
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Potential & promise
Preseason is a time for optimism. It is a time to feel good about your team and the players on that team.

You can spin every game into a positive. You do not have to win, you can look at the good things that happen even in a loss but what happens if you do not lose.

The Canucks are in an enviable position to look at what has happened and be able to build on the phenomenal results of the preseason.

You could not have asked for a better script. They were a perfect 6-0 heading into their final preseason game with 20 goals for and only 12 against. The power play was third and the penalty killing was eighth.

And finishing the preseason 6-0-1 - good for second best in the League behind the reigning Stanley Cup champs, Detroit Red Wings, according to the NHL preseason standings - isn't a bad start for a team predicted to finish near the bottom by analysts, even if it is only the preseason.

Roberto Luongo looked to be in midseason form and the defensive corps was still, and I emphasize still, in perfect health. It looks as though the top three lines are set and the fourth line is close to being finished. Every goal you want to achieve before the season starts has been done and now the work begins.

REALITY CHECK

INSIDE THE BOX
John Garrett is a former Canuck and currently the colour commentator for Sportsnet.


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This is where you have to give yourself a reality check. You hope what you have seen in September carries into October and November and there obviously is cause for optimism but, and you knew there was going to be a but, do you have history on your side?

Steve Bernier is going to start on the top line with Henrik and Daniel Sedin. He has yet to score more than 16 goals in any NHL season or more than 32 points.

Pavol Demitra had 15 goals last season and is your second line centre. Will he be better? Likely but he is flanked by Mason Raymond and Taylor Pyatt. Raymond had 9 goals in 49 games and Pyatt had 16 and has cracked the 20 goal mark only once.

Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows had career years last season. Kesler had 21 goals and Burrows had 12. Jannik Hansen had 21 goals playing for the Manitoba Moose. He has great potential and I really like the way he plays but he has to do it at the NHL level.

The problem, as I see it, is that every team at this time of year looks at it the same way. Potential, promise, career years. Tampa finished last in the league. They had only 31 wins but right now they are tied for first and they have hope for their potential, promise, and career years.

They made a deal for Andrej Meszaros. He has great potential. Can he be a number 1 defenceman and play 26 to 30 minutes a game? Can Steven Stamkos be a Jonathan Toews? Who knows. Do Gary Roberts and Mark Reechi have anything left? Is Ryan Malone worth the kind of money he got from the Lightning?

THE POTENTIAL IS THERE

Chicago finished tied with the Canucks with 88 points yet most people think the Hawks are a shoe in to make the playoffs. Why?

Patrick Sharp scored 36 goals last year. He had 39 in his previous four. Will he score 40 this year or 14?

The potential is there. Jonathan Toews had 54 points in 64 games. The promise of an eighty point season is there but Toews is only twenty years old and this year he will be a target. Patrick Kane is still only 19 yet he counted on for a point a game. Will Cristbal Huet have a career year and win 40 games?

The Canucks have something to build on. They can feel good about what they have done. They have shown potential, promise and now they need some career years and they will not have to worry about packing their bags April 12th.