Northern Exposure: Looking Ahead to 2011-12: Vancouver Canucks


The majority of the free agent dust has settled, and teams are almost complete with the overhauls and are left with fine-tuning their rosters.  Northern Exposure will take the next few weeks to examine each Canadian club in depth and identify what their off-season plans have done to their chances to compete next season. This week, we start on the West Coast with the Stanley Cup finalist Vancouver Canucks.



D SedinH SedinA Burrows
C HigginsR KeslerM Samuelsson
J HansenM MalhotraM Sturm
C HodgsonM LapierreM Mancari
SparesM Raymond (injury)
V Oreskovich

BOLD – new addition to the club

The Canucks are even deeper up front than they were last season.  When Mason Raymond comes back from his back injury, the battle for top line minutes will be intense.  Higgins, Samuelsson, Sturm, Hanson and possibly Hodgson will all be in the mix to play with Ryan Kesler.


K BieksaD Hamhuis
S SaloA Edler
A RomeA Alberts
SparesK Ballard

The departure of Christian Ehrhoff puts more pressure on the remaining d-men to produce offensively.  Keith Ballard needs to do something to get back into the good graces of coach Vigneault, or he needs to find a new place to play.  For his $4.2 M cap hit to avoid being  a 7th defenseman, he must find his game.  Vigneault had lost all confidence in Ballard late last season.


R Luongo
C Schneider

Goaltending, most notably Roberto Luongo, let the Canucks down in the Finals against the Bruins.  The marriage between the Canucks and Luongo is a long one, so Luongo is going to have to win a cup to prove his worth.  Until that happens, he will continue to be an underachiever despite his 2010 gold medal and 2011 Finals appearance.


D Chris Tanev:  A late season call up managed to play 29 games for the Canucks, and also got into 5 playoff games.  He will not blow you away with offensive creativity, but can be a solid shutdown guy on the Cancuks’ third pairing.  Is still on entry level deal so will likely start in AHL Chicago, but he could displace Ballard on the depth chart before too long, and get some regular NHL action.


1.  Will Cody Hodgson develop into the player that was tagged with the “can’t miss” prospect label?

Hodgson is considered the Canucks #1 prospect, but his development has stalled due to injury and personality conflicts within the Vancouver organization.  The Canucks avoided trading him for 2 years despite numerous offers, but if Hodgson can’t find a scoring touch at the NHL level soon, he will be approaching “bust” status.

2.  How much of a leash will Roberto Luongo have?

With top prospect Corey Schneider pushing for playing time, it might not be too long before there is an outright goaltending controversy in Vancouver. It seems ridiculous considering Luongo was a Vezina finalist and took the club to the Finals last year.  Expectations are high for Luongo and he has failed to deliver so far.  When these factors come together, the most popular player in the city becomes the back-up goaltender.

3.  Is this Kesler’s year for MVP?

Two seasons ago, it was Herik Sedin winning the Hart, last season it was Daniel Sedin who was runner-up.  Ryan Kesler is Vancouver’s best all around player and his breakout offensive season combined with winning the Selke Trophy makes him a player to watch this season.

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Now, as usual we take a quick journey around the rest of the Canadian teams to see what they have been up to in the past week.

Calgary Flames

The Flames signed Brendan Morrison to a one way contract with a cap hit of $1.25 M (850 base salary + $400 k bonus potential).  Morrison was one of the biggest bargains in the NHL last year and it is surprising he didn’t get more somewhere on the open market.  The Flames also locked up their highest profile RFA, Brendan Mikkelsson and last year’s 2nd round pick Max Reinhart to contracts.  They also acquired Pierre-Luc Letourneau Leblond from the Devils for a 5th round pick.

Edmonton Oilers

Like I said last week in this space, the addition of Eric Belanger reduced Andrew Cogliano‘s leverage in contract negotiations, and in fact it eliminated his role in Edmonton.  The Oilers shipped Cogliano to the Ducks for a 2nd round pick. The Oilers also signed RFAs Ryan O’Marra and Taylor Chorney to one year deals.

Winnipeg Jets

The Jets rounded out their coaching staff by adding former Oilers assistant Charlie Huddy, Wade Flaherty and Tony Borgford to the staff.  Reports are that the Jets’ new logo is nearly ready, but will not be made public anytime soon.  The city is waiting in anticipation of seeing the new jersey and logo.  The Jets are scheduled to got to arbitration with Blake Wheeler on August 3rd, but both sides hope to have a deal reached before the hearing.

Toronto Maple Leafs

A very quiet week in Leafland.  The Maple Leafs still have a major piece of the puzzle unsigned, as Luke Schenn is still a RFA.  The Leafs have re-signed a couple of depth players, bringing Darryl Boyce and Mike Zigomanis back for minor league depth.

Ottawa Senators

Bryan Murray has been hard at work, signing draft picks, prospects and veteran depth for Binghamton.  Sixth overall draft pick Mika Zibanejad signed just days before the July 15th deadline that would have made him ineligible for the NHL next season.  RFA Bobby Butler inked a new 2 year deal and will be counted on for offensive support next season.  Depth in Binghamton was also addressed as Mike McKenna was signed to be Robin Lehner’s backup and veteran forward Mark Parrish was also signed to a 1 year deal.

Montreal Canadiens

The Canadiens swapped minor league defensemen with the Ducks, shipping Mathieu Carle to Anaheim in exchange for former 1st round pick Mark Mitera.


Jared Crozier is also a contributing writer for SenShot on the Fansided Network.  He can be reached on twitter @alfieisgod or by email at