Don't get too excited

GUTS MCTAVISH, 24 HOURS VANCOUVER

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

I don't think anyone saw this team coming out of the gates 4-0. There was optimism during the off-season that this squad, given the right chemistry could make a serious run in the playoffs, possibly a trip to the conference finals. With that said, I'd like to give a big 24 hours 'well done' to the 4-0 Buffalo Bills. And the Canucks, too.

On the reality front, we certainly won't get too carried away with a 4-0 start in the pre-season just like no one's worried about the Rangers 1-5 start. The pre-season is a chance to see how a team's young prospects adapt to the NHL pace. So far the jury is still out on a few of the Canuck blue chippers.

Cody Hodgson has impressed at times but age aside looks like he may need to produce at a high rate the rest of the pre-season if he plans on sticking with the team for at least the first nine games.

Michael Grabner failed once again to live up to his billing and was sent down to the minors. I can't say I never saw it coming. Now to get another shot this season Grabner will have to play lights out just to get noticed again. Just look at the rest of the players ahead of Grabner on the depth chart that made the team's 37-man roster.

Jannick Hansen's wheels alone have caused the coaching staff to take a much longer look, Rick Rypien has made life difficult for opponents during the recent California back-to-back. Unfortunately he's also made life tougher for anyone else trying to secure one of the final spots on the fourth line. Hello, Jeff Cowan? Mike Brown?

So who are the veteran bubble forwards? Let's just assume there are nine spots available minus the positions held by the Sedins, Steve Bernier, Pavol Demitra, Ryan Kesler, Taylor Pyatt, Alex Burrows and Mason Raymond. That's eight spots. So auditioning for one spot on the starting roster is ... Matt Pettinger, Kyle Wellwood, Jason Krog and a handful of young prospects. With offence at a premium, there is no doubt you roll the bones with Kyle Wellwood.

For a coach that has preached defence since his arrival Alain Vigneault sure went on the offensive last week in regards to Kyle Wellwood's latest shape. Last Sunday the coach told the entire Canuck nation that the former Leaf failed his physical and will be given four pre-season games to show that he is capable of improving his stamina or face the consequences. So far, he has passed his third physical after dropping eight pounds in the last 10 days.

This much I know: For sure, Wellwood's hands are three-ply soft. If he hits all the conditioning benchmarks his coach has set out for him it will be tough to keep his talent and potential top-five point total out of this line-up.

Big question: Are the Canucks forwards better now than last year? No. At best it's a push.

Predicted finish in the Western Conference: 11th

OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN

CANUCK CAPTAIN ODDS

- Mitchell 2-1

- Bieksa 3-1 My choice

- Captain by committee 8-1

- Kesler 8-1

- Ohlund 15-1

- Rotating Sedins 25-1

- Sundin 5,000 -1

Who do you think should be the Canucks' new captain? E-mail us at feedback@24hrs.ca


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