Don't worry, 'Nucks won't suck

BARRY MACDONALD -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

This much we know about the 2008-09 edition of the Vancouver Canucks:

There is a new general manager in place, who still boasts an unblemished record. Markus Naslund won't be the captain anymore. Trevor Linden won't play anymore. Neither will Mats Sundin ... at least not as a Canuck. As for any other guarantees, sorry, can't help you.

Usually, there is a sense of gloom or boom when entering a new season, whatever the sport. Currently, I quite honestly don't have a feel. I mean, has there been a time in recent Canuck history where it was really difficult to gauge just what the hell there actually is here? I just don't have a feel for what this year is going to offer ... what the identity of the group is going to be.

I know what I have heard. Hosting a talk show allows you to get a pulse of sorts, if not an accurate random sample of what the locals are feeling. Fans aren't too comfortable when it comes to embracing the unknown ... it leaves them a little on edge.

"Who is Mike Gillis, and what is an ex-player agent doing trying to run my hockey team? Why didn't they hire Trevor to be GM? Darcy Hordichuk? Ryan Johnson? Steve Bernier? Pavol Demitra? Huh?"

I've been left with the feeling that another year of Morrison, Naslund, Linden, et al would have been just fine. Well, this just in, folks: The status quo had to go.

I know I am in the minority offering up the opinion that this team is not going to be as competitively challenged as many think. With his focus tightened up, and with his wife and newborn here, Roberto Luongo seems dialed in. Assuming the defensive corps don't get racked with injuries again, I see no reason why the nucleus of Mitchell, Ohlund, Bieksa, Edler and Salo (when healthy) won't be dependable. But that assumes a bounce back year from Bieksa, and the continuing maturity of Edler. Might be asking too much.

The forward situation is a little more muddled. The Canucks are optimistic that they have found a triplet who won't go Magnus Arvedson or Jesse Schultz on them. Steve Bernier might just be Anson Carter with some snarl attached, which would make him the perfect fit alongside the twins. That has the makings of a really productive, top line.

Then there is Demitra, who can be a brilliant player when playing alongside those equally gifted. With the Canucks, he will be working with players who have potential, but aren't in his class just yet. Can Demitra be patient in helping the likes of Mason Raymond and Alexandre Burrows evolve? Worth monitoring.

What is the next step in the development for Ryan Kesler? Is Cody Hodgson ready for the NHL now? There are too many questions to feel comfortable at this point.

But that is part of the appeal. Get used to it, folks.

An era came to an end with the firing of Dave Nonis and the retirement of Trevor and the move of Naslund.

Don't expect miracles, but don't expect the 1974-75 Washington Capitals either.


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