Great expectations

KEN WIEBE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

Dave Nonis chose continuity over change.

After watching his team fall three wins short of advancing to the Western Conference final last season, the general manager of the Vancouver Canucks gave his team a modest facelift rather than a complete makeover.

The core of the team remains intact, though Nonis did bring in some complementary parts, such as forwards Byron Ritchie and Brad Isbister and defenceman Aaron Miller and backup goalie Curtis Sanford.

"Maybe the lack of familiarity was one of the reasons we struggled out of the gate last year," Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa said.

That shouldn't be an issue this time around.

"We're all a year older," Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo said. "We've played a year together as a team, so I see us starting a step ahead of what we did last year."

Having the same coaching staff back for a second season is also a bonus.

Luongo loved playing for reigning Jack Adams Trophy winner Alain Vigneault.

"He implemented a great system," Luongo said. "The thing that I really liked the most about him is he holds guys accountable for what they do on the ice.

"When you do that, every player has a different role, feels that they're important with the role they have. It really creates a good atmosphere on the team."

Last season, most pundits had the Canucks barely making the playoffs, if at all, but there's plenty of hope surrounding the club for 2007-08.

"Expectations probably have changed a little bit this year, as opposed to last," Bieksa said. "We still have to work hard and as coach Vigneault says 'respect the process of getting into the playoffs.'

"Once we get there, there's going to be a lot more expected out of us. Last year was more or less a learning experience. This year, we're going to do something a little more significant."


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