Supporting cast crucial to Canucks' line-up
After five straight seasons in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Canucks stumbled through Tortorella's lone season in charge, ultimately finishing with the third-worst record in the Western Conference. Even with Cory Schneider traded before the start of the season, goalie controversy consumed the Canucks. Shortly after Tortorella sat Roberto Luongo in the Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic at BC Place in favor of Eddie Lack, the Canucks' longtime starter was traded to the Florida Panthers.
There is now a new coach in Willie Desjardins and a new goaltender in Ryan Miller. Some of the same problems remain, most notably scoring depth up front. Ryan Kesler being traded to the Anaheim Ducks didn't help with that.
Here's a look at the projected 2014-15 lineup for the Canucks:
Alexandre Burrows was not as bad as five goals and 15 points in 49 games would suggest, and he should remain an option to play with the Sedins. The Canucks might be short on the left side, though, so new addition Radim Vrbata could end up there or Zack Kassian could earn another chance.
Nick Bonino and Shawn Matthias are likely to end up as the team's second and third centers, unless 2013 first-round pick Bo Horvat has a big training camp. Bonino was part of the package the Canucks got from the Ducks for Kesler. He's been productive in spurts, but this could be his chance to prove he's a legit No. 2 center.
If the Canucks are short on goal scoring (and it looks like they might be), 2014 first-round pick Jake Virtanen could be an option, but he is more likely to spend another season developing in juniors. Linden Vey is another young player who could be interesting. Vey struggled to find a role with the Los Angeles Kings, but that's a tough roster to crack. He could push Brad Richardson for the final center spot or end up next to him.
Dan Hamhuis made the Canadian roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics in part because of the country's shortage of elite left-handed defensemen. But he is a strong, consistent two-way player. Christopher Tanev joined Hamhuis to form Vancouver's most-used pairing at even strength.
Miller's save percentage at even strength last season was .923, as he mixed some excellent performances with the Buffalo Sabres with some uneven outings once he was traded to the St. Louis Blues. The Canucks do not need any more goalie controversies, but Miller's numbers weren't much better than Lack's, who had a .921 save percentage at even strength.
The season should begin with Miller getting the majority of the starts, but Lack could be one of the League's better No. 2 options. Jacob Markstrom, part of the return from Florida for Luongo, is still in the mix and also has a one-way contract. Carrying three goaltenders isn't ideal for any franchise, certainly not one looking for less drama at the position.
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2014-15 FANTASY PREVIEW: CANUCKS
Undervalued: Radim Vrbata -- For the past five seasons, Vrbata was a member of the defensive-minded Arizona Coyotes. He played with Shane Doan, Martin Hanzal, Ray Whitney, etc., throughout his term. During those five seasons, Vrbata's 82-game average was 26 goals, 54 points and 258 shots on goal. Heading north to join the Canucks, Vrbata should slide onto the top line with Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin, which is certainly an upgrade and should result in better fantasy production. Vrbata, 33, is more than capable of reaching that five-year average, and for those of you seeking a dominant shots-on-goal specialist, look no further.
Overvalued: Henrik Sedin -- It wasn't long ago (prior to last season) when Sedin was viewed as a borderline top-10 fantasy forward. After a season when he had his fewest points (50 in 70 games) in a full-length season in 10 years, Sedin will fall in fantasy drafts. Many might peg him as a bounce-back candidate, but the truth is even before last season's rapid decline, Sedin was a bit overvalued in fantasy leagues. His lack of goal scoring, shots on goal and penalty minutes have always diminished his value, and this season should be no different. There's a chance he puts up close to 70 points, but he's no longer a lock for those elite point totals and his peripheral stats won't help much.
Sleeper: Alexander Edler -- Let's face it, Edler and John Tortorella just weren't a match. If Edler's 22 points in 63 games aren't evidence enough, his career-shattering-worst and NHL-worst minus-39 should do the trick. In his previous five seasons, he never had fewer than 22 points (he had 22 in the lockout-shortened season), he's had a minus rating once in his previous seven seasons, and was likely considered a top-20 fantasy defenseman for the past three years. With Tortorella out as coach, it's time for the 29-year-old to regain his fantasy value. You shouldn't hesitate to select him as your No. 4 defenseman. He could end up being a big-time bargain and regain his top-20 form.
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Author: Corey Masisak | NHL.com Staff Writer