Had I been told last January I’d be preparing a season preview in the next, I wouldn’t have believed it. Or maybe I would’ve, who knows, the lockout’s ruined time and space for a lot of people. Thankfully, with the new CBA impending ratification (a word I assume means Gary Bettman has to read it), those of us who have been utterly lost in the void that hockey left in our lives can begin the eventual, dreamlike descent and sudden, terminal freefall back to earth.
Last year in my 2011-12 recap and preview we touched on the future of Roberto Luongo, and in fear of immolating ourselves in that resurrected media wildfire, we’ll barely touch on it again. Bobby Lu will be traded (to Toronto or Florida according to everything including the tealeaves at the bottom of the cup) for any human other than himself, or will likely backup resident whippersnapper Cory Schneider and become inexplicably melancholy towards things like the movie Brave, or orange pekoe tealeaves.
That said, the new CBA does offer a buyout clause, but the Canucks won’t explore that option with Luongo as he still holds trade value over someone like Scott Gomez, for whom the new clause is likely named behind closed, revolving and open doors.
Instead, fans and head coaches with the last name Vigneault have been setting up that tee ball with Keith Ballard’s head on it since he came to Vancouver in the trade for the apparently super-important Steve “Steve Bernier” Bernier & Michael “Mason Raymond” Grabner. However, the unfortunate Ballard really is the obvious candidate GM Mike Gillis should pull the trigger on considering: Vigneault hardly plays him; Jason Garrison was signed; he costs a whopping $4.2 million per year; Alex Edler needs to be re-upped to (gulp) Shea Weber-money; and finally, because Vancouver has defensive prospects who are ready to make the jump to sixth- and seventh-positions.
Chris Tanev looked shaky in the ’11-’12 playoffs, but like any good young hockey player, he was simply trying to emulate his betters. The whole roster played terribly, and Tanev, who had been once quoted by Kevin Bieksa as being able to “play with a cigarette he’s so cool on the ice” will drop the shades and deal with it, earning the third-pairing with Andrew Alberts.
Frank Corrado was jarringly cut from Team Canada’s roster this past World Juniors, suggesting he’ll be able to challenge for a position on the big team this season. He’ll be up against prospect bust Cam Barker who is a longshot, and metaphorically relative hookshot Kevin Connauton who, despite making progress, still needs to shore up his defensive game. Corrado should be looking at making the seventh-man position unless Gillis signs Barker only to immediately trade him to Florida for something immensely better.
Speaking of, expect Mason Raymond to finally be traded this year. After a lengthy arbitration which saw him receive a pay cut and the abundance of better left wingers, Raymond would be best suited to take his talents elsewhere and try to redeem his offensive ability in order to get picked up with a raise in his first UFA contract year. Watch for Vigneault to shelter him à la Cody Hodgson in order to improve his trade value to start the season. There’s just nothing funny to say about him anymore.
Finally, the predictions for the top-nine last year were: D. Sedin – H. Sedin – Burrows; Booth – Kesler – Kassian; and Higgins – Schroeder – Hansen. Seeing as Kesler is injured to start this season, let’s go with Kassian and the Sedins on the first, Higgins to center natural finishers Booth and Burrows on the second, and Schroeder to alternate centering the third line beside Lapierre with Hansen on their right.
Here’s to a successful 2013 Canucks fans!