Canucks up for Cup

Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler (2nd R) hugs goalie Roberto Luongo (R) after their win over...

Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler (2nd R) hugs goalie Roberto Luongo (R) after their win over the Boston Bruins in Game 5 of the NHL Stanley Cup hockey playoff in Vancouver, British Columbia June 10, 2011. (REUTERS/Andy Clark)

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:39 PM ET

There's a reason the Vancouver Canucks are the odds-on favourite to win the Stanley Cup.

Even over the team they lost it to just a few months ago.

The Canucks are still that strong, on paper.

Add that to the motivation of getting to Game 7 against the Boston Bruins and then losing it in embarrassing fashion, and you've got a hungry and talented group.

Those are the two elements a team needs most -- and maybe a little luck -- to win the NHL crown.

So talk all you want about the Washington Capitals finally living up to their regular- season hype or the Bruins proving they weren't a one-hit wonder. I'm banking on the Canucks.

Fans either love them or hate them, so there are already no doubt a large majority of haters moving on from this column.

For the record, I don't root for the Canucks. I haven't really rooted for anything but a good story for almost a decade -- ever since I came to grips with the fact my hometown Toronto Maple Leafs will never win a Cup in my lifetime.

The Canucks are my pick for all the right reasons.

Roberto Luongo is an elite goalie. You can stop laughing now. He has nights where he looks like anything but one of the best 'tenders in the league. However, most of the top goalies in the league look mortal every now and then.

Besides, his backup, Cory Schneider, is no slouch.

It wasn't Luongo's lacklustre performances that lost them the ultimate prize last spring. The Sedin Twins didn't live up to their top billing. In fact, the heavily armed Canucks offence shot blanks in the final against the Bruins. I don't expect them to wilt when they get back to the big stage.

And despite injuries that could keep Ryan Kesler from starting the season and definitely will keep speedster Mason Raymond out for a while, the Canucks are still loaded with weapons.

Daniel and Henrik Sedin will challenge for the Art Ross, and Alex Burrows, Mikael Samuelsson, Christopher Higgins and Marco Sturm provide plenty of secondary scoring.

Their defence took a hit when Christian Ehrhoff signed a 10-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres for way more money than the Canucks were prepared to shell out, but they still have Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler, Sami Salo and Keith Ballard anchoring the blueline.

Aaron Rome and Nolan Baumgartner are hurting, but Andrew Alberts, Christopher Tanev and Alexander Sulzer -- a free-agent pickup from the Nashville Predators -- provide depth.

It's still a winning roster -- a Presidents' Trophy candidate.

The only thing they didn't win last year was the Stanley Cup ... and they'll be doing everything they can to correct that this spring.

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca On Twitter: @SUNMacfarlane


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