Time to face the music

BARRY MACDONALD -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

No more sleeps. The waiting is over. The marathon that is an NHL season begins tonight for the Vancouver Canucks.

One that offers up more questions than answers, and one that holds a great deal of curiosity in this market because the cast of characters has changed so dramatically.

To some fans, the changes were welcomed after the underachieving group that missed the playoffs last year. To others, they were too drastic. Bottom line, the status quo wasn't acceptable here anymore and Dave Nonis delivered on his promise to change the culture of his hockey team. Mission accomplished. But now what?

Nonis decided to build his team from the net out and got the best goaltender available, and certainly one of the best on the planet.

Roberto Luongo will win games for the Canucks this year. He will stop shots he should stop. Vancouver will not lose hockey games because its goaltender whiffed, or let in a deflating goal at an inopportune time. Great teams generally have great goalies. It's a good place to start.

Should Luongo get hurt... No, let's not go there.

What might happen in front of Luongo is anyone's guess. Unfortunately, part of the regular season will be used for auditions. Mattias Ohlund, Sami Salo and Willie Mitchell all have legitimate NHL resumes. Kevin Bieksa does not, but offers promise. The same can be said of Lukas Krajicek. As for Luc Bourdon, it remains to be seen whether he is more suspect than a prospect.

It is a little disconcerting that the Canucks go into the season without a proven, reliable fourth defenceman. Somebody has to emerge.

As for the forwards, well beyond the Swedish Touch, there are concerns. It is not a reach to suggest that Daniel, Henrik and Markus will develop a productive chemistry. But that is one line.

Assuming the Kesler-Cooke-Burrows trio develops some synergy that makes two. Just what the combination of Morrison between Bulis and Pyatt offers, remains to be seen. It would be asking a lot for this group to strike fear in the opposition, initially at least.

If the second and third lines can't produce, the top line will be broken up. You can't compete in today's NHL with one productive line.

This isn't lost on the man left with the challenge of tapping the most out of this crew. It is hard not to appreciate what we have seen of Alain Vigneault so far. But he has had a free pass. Nobody loses sleep over preseason results.

There are 82 games that matter. Starting tonight.

---

Barry Macdonald is co-host of BS in the Morning on Team 1040 from 6-9 a.m.


Videos

Photos