2013 NHL Season: 5 Items the Vancouver Canucks Need to Address

Riley Kufta@@RileyKuftaContributor IIIJanuary 13, 2013

2013 NHL Season: 5 Items the Vancouver Canucks Need to Address

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    The NHL lockout is finally over, after Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr (or their employers) shockingly realized that their egos are not worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

    In addition to me no longer having to spend hours thinking about what to write, this means that NHL teams can finally stop worrying about how much money they're losing and get back to real hockey issues and decisions.

    For the Vancouver Canucks, those real hockey issues and decisions are explored in this slideshow. Enjoy. 

5. No. 1 Defender

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    As I wrote in a recent article, Alexander Edler told The Province that although he has been cleared to play following months of rehab from a chronic back injury, he is not, and most likely never will be, 100 percent. 

    Last year, Edler was the best defender on the Canucks and one of the best in the league. He was exactly the type of player the Canucks need now to lead their defensive squad. 

    The question is: Does this change how his future with the Canucks will pan out? Edler claims that he was not 100 percent last year either, when he tied Shea Weber for seventh among defenders with 49 points. 

    Given that stat, it's conceivable that general manager Mike Gillis will give Edler the benefit of the doubt and hold off from acquiring a new top defenseman. But then again, if a potential star defender is offered in another trade, it might be hard to turn down. 

    Prior to the start of the season, the Canucks may acquire a defender via trade. However, it likely won't be to replace Edler but serve as a simple piece to a bigger deal. 

    If Edler performs poorly or misses time due to injury, then we can be on the lookout for Gillis' response. 

4. Daniel, Henrik, ?

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    As the Canucks prepare for the season to begin, it seems as though there's a question mark to the right of Daniel and Henrik Sedin—where we used to find Alexandre Burrows. 

    According to The Province, there has been speculation that the Canucks will experiment with Zack Kassian on the first line.

    During the NHL lockout, I closely covered and followed the Canucks farm team, the Chicago Wolves. I can tell you that although Kassian had his moments, I would question whether he is ready for the NHL at all, let alone the top line. 

    But then again, perhaps playing with the Sedins could give Kassian the kick-start he needs—and perhaps Kassian's grit is what the Sedins need to bring the Art Ross Trophy back to Vancouver. 

3. Backup Goalie

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    As it stands right now, the Canucks probably have the best backup goaltender in the NHL in Roberto Luongo, but those days appear to be limited, according to thestar.com.

    If Luongo is traded prior to the Jan. 19 season opener, who will back up Cory Schneider?

    Will a goalie be coming the other way in a trade? Will Vancouver look to Brent Johnson or Dwayne Roloson in free agency? Will Dan Ellis finally get his wish? Or will it be Eddie Lack's time to shine?

    At this point, it really could go any direction. And who knows, Luongo might even stick around. 

2. No. 2 Center

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    Going into the 2012-13 season, the Canucks are looking a little thin down the center once you get past Henrik Sedin on the first line. 

    Ryan Kesler, who normally fills that spot, remains but is sidelined after suffering a setback while recovering from offseason surgery. He is not expected to return for several months, according to the Toronto Sun

    Previously, the centers below Kesler were Cody Hodgson, Samuel Pahlsson, Manny Malhotra and Maxim Lapierre.

    Hodgson was traded last year to the Buffalo Sabres, while Pahlsson left the NHL to play in Europe. Malhotra is healthy, although an unimpressive 2011-12 campaign have some wondering if he ever fully recovered from the eye injury he suffered two years ago. And lastly we have Lapierre, who is healthy but belongs on the fourth line. 

    So will Malhotra center the first line, or will Lapierre step up? Or could we see Andrew Ebbett carry his strong play in the AHL up to the big league? 

    Perhaps even more likely, could a center be joining Vancouver via trade before the season starts?

1. Roberto Luongo

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    Above all, the top priority for the Canucks entering the 2012-13 season is to trade Roberto Luongo. Jonas Siegel of TSN reports that numerous rumors surround the veteran goaltender, with the Toronto Maple Leafs leading the mix.

    Toronto general manager Brian Burke was recently relieved of his duties, and speculation swirls that his reluctance to trade for Luongo played a key role. His predecessor, Dave Nonis, was the general manager of Vancouver when it first acquired Luongo from the Florida Panthers, further fueling the trade rumors. 

    If Luongo is traded to the Maple Leafs, we can expect something along the lines of Tyler Bozak, Mike Komisarek and a draft pick coming in return, which could address some other needs on this list at the same time. 

    Of course, this deal isn't set in stone, as the Florida Panthers, Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks have also been suggested as potential suitors, according to Yahoo! Sports.

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