No one needs to tell Vancouver hockey fans that we've never won a Stanley Cup. We know that. Better than those that seek to use that to add to our despair.
There was the heartbreak and stupidity of a riot in '94. The four-game sweep of '82, when no one thought that team would go anywhere.
Here are five reasons why the Vancouver Canucks are on a path to be the first Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup since Montreal in '93.
It's simple here. The Canucks have 10 defensemen on NHL deals right now. Of those, eight should stay, with Mathieu Schneider starting on the IR. I think the Canucks should play with seven defensemen this year on their 23-man roster.
You would have to think the Canucks will waive Lawrence Nycolat and Aaron Rome to get them to Manitoba—Vancouver's AHL affiliate. Both played in Colorado and Columbus, though. Will they make it through?
The Canucks have as least as much depth and talent on the blueline as their Northwest rivals, the Calgary Flames. After Jay Bouwmeester and Dion Phaneuf, they have Robyn Regehr and Cory Sarich...and we all know how injuries can happen.
Again, there are moves to be made. But, from all reports, the competition in camp has been great so far. That will make the team better in the long run.
These guys all know that management identified their group as worthy of improvement. They want to make everyone forget their early playoff exit from 2008-09, as well.
Look for the Vancouver Canucks defense to collectively be in the top five in the league in scoring.
The power play, with Schneider and Christian Ehrhoff joining Sami Salo, Alexander Edler, and Kevin Bieksa as guys that can shoot cannons from the line, will definitely better their 17th rank from last year.
Roberto Luongo. There are those that scoff at the shiny new contract he received this offseason. Twelve years and $64 million is pretty hefty.
People say he hasn't won anything. He allowed seven goals against Chicago in the playoffs. How can we be so confident?
It's simple. Luongo gives the Canucks a chance to win every night. He has a career .920 save percentage after playing on teams in the first six years of his career that were, shall we say, not Cup contenders.
Luongo also has a .930 save percentage in 54 playoff games. Everyone focuses on the last game played. Canuck fans—most of them, anyhow—can see past that now. Or should be able to.
I will even assert that the Canucks' drubbing in their last playoff game may be the best thing to happen to the team's Cup hopes. Luongo has talked about that game as a motivating factor throughout the offseason.
That, combined with the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, and the Canucks have a motivated and talented goalie that wants to make everyone forget that night in Chicago.
And remember the playoffs to come.
Cory Schneider and Andrew Raycroft are topics of discussion for another time. Both looked great in their first outing in Terrace.
Whether it's Schneider or Raycroft behind Luongo, the spot will go to the best guy. Let's hope they both play great in the preseason and make that decision tough.
The forward positions are another area where the new management has improved this team.
Of course, there are players who were already on the roster, like the Sedin twins, Ryan Kesler, and Alexandre Burrows. I am not totally discounting the contributions of Brian Burke and Dave Nonis.
But when you have guys like Steve Bernier signing a great cost deal and coming to camp in the top shape of his life, you have to be impressed. Kyle Wellwood dropping 17 pounds and being faster and stronger on the puck is another reason for excitement.
Most Canuck fans are sold on the Sedins. Ridiculously consistent every season. Ten points each in 10 playoff games last year. They have someone they love playing with in Burrows, and another that they should have success with, if the coach so chooses, in Mikael Samuelsson.
Personally, I think they end up with Sammy. Burrows and Kesler will form the meat of a second line. Anyone from Bernier, who is fast enough now, to Mason Raymond, Pavol Demitra, Cody Hodgson (Hod-sin folks, the "g" is silent), or my favorite prospect, Sergei Shirokov.
Put two of the above mentioned with Wellwood and you have a third line that can score. We already know the Canucks have a great fourth line. Look for guys to move in and out when the team is not playing tougher lineups.
Having a better power play will let other teams know the Canucks will make them pay for penalties. The 65 majors the Canucks had last year shows other teams they will stand up for themselves.
Last year, the Canucks had a power play that should have finished better than 17th overall. The Sedins and an assortment of Bernier, Kesler, Mats Sundin, and others could move the puck around. In fact, that was sometimes the problem.
Teams knew that Demitra, Mattias Ohlund, Bieksa, and Raymond were not the same point threats as Salo and Edler. That allowed them to pinch down on forwards.
Now, when the coach looks for options, they include Ehrhoff, another bomber, and Schneider, one of the best in the league over the last five years at getting his shot through.
Samuelsson should help with his hard and accurate right-handed shot, as well. Look for him on the first power-play unit with the Sedins.
Penalty killing is a different story.
We should all remember that the Canucks were best in the NHL three years ago. They can get there again this season.
Being middle of the pack the past two years is a little troubling, but I also take solace in the fact that there seem to be more guys that can help than just Kesler and Burrows. Ryan Johnson, of course, but Raymond also showed he can use his quickness to be effective.
It's funny with the Canucks and their fans.
When Mike Gillis was first hired, there was a backlash from fans. Nonis and Burke were held in high esteem in Vancouver, for some reason.
Personally, I thought they both had uneven drafting skills and traded too much youth for that "missing piece" at the deadline far too often.
Miracle of miracle, it turned out Francesco Aquilini knew what he was doing after all.
Gillis showed that he wasn't just blowing smoke with his talk of building a winning culture. One only has to look at the statements of guys like Schneider and Samuelsson, who targeted the Canucks as their first choice in free agency.
How happy the two ex-Sharks were to be traded here, even though they have to compete for a spot, is not certain.
Working with Dave Gagner, the Canucks increased their player development budget. That benefited Hodgson greatly last year. It will do the same with the variety of young talent growing in that same winning culture.
Let's also not forget Stan Smyl, who scouted both Evan Oberg and Eric Walsky, two young players that look closer than anyone could have thought. And while Nonis did draft Shirokov, it was the work of Smyl and Gillis that got him in the Blue and Green.
As for head coach Alain Vigneault, he is a victim of that same creative myopia that Gillis is. There will be some that will always want Marc Crawford or Pat Quinn.
But remember, Vigneault already has had more playoff success than Crawford, and in a shorter period of time. It's not Quinn in '94.
But the Canucks have a coach that can adjust and change. Last year, he showed he is more than a defense-first coach. Going back to it died in Game Four of the playoffs last year.
But a team that is deep and coached to be defensively responsible and still play with offensive verve is the kind that has success.
Look no further than the last two Cup winners, the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins, for that.
Almost every team that has had success has had that emotionally-devastating playoff loss on the way. I look for the Canucks to use their past to motivate them to higher success this year.
I predict a top-three finish in the Western Conference and a spot in the Western Conference Finals.