Vancouver Canucks: Not as Bad as it Looks

Keith LundquistCorrespondent IJuly 8, 2008

It has been one week since the free agency period began, and a lot of disappointment has been shed over the media and fans of the Vancouver Canucks.

GM Mike Gillis stated that he would be making bold moves, leading people to believe that he would sign some big names like Marian Hossa, Jaromir Jagr, Sean Avery, Mats Sundin, Ryan Malone, or Pavol Demitra. As you know, none of these players have signed with Vancouver, however, Demitra is expected to sign with the team soon and Mats Sundin is on hold as he makes a decision on his career's future.

It was clear at the end of the Canucks' disappointing season that the top priority for improvement was offense and scoring. It seemed like a simple task at first, but many other teams like the Oilers, Rangers, Red Wings, and Lightning had the same objective as the Canucks and they managed to sign the top forwards in free agency or trade for some.

Leaving the team's lineup so far this summer are forwards Brendan Morrison and captain Markus Naslund. Despite having disappointing seasons, these two forwards will certainly be missed in the changing room and on the ice.

However, the absence of the veteran forwards has left room for young players with tons of potential and scoring ability to flourish. Mason Raymond, Ryan Shannon, Michael Grabner, Patrick White, and Cody Hodgson are several names that highlight the Canucks roster of young, offensive prospects.

Some additions to the forward lineup are Kyle Wellwood, Steve Bernier, Ryan Johnson, and Darcy Hordichuk. Wellwood and Bernier are two young forwards who can bring the offense that the Canucks need while Johnson brings some attributes similar to Morrison's (penalty killing, face-offs, and speed).

As for Hordichuk, this player brings grit and toughness, which is vital in a very competitive and tough Northwest Division. Mark Cullen was also signed as a free agent, but is expected to play between the Canucks and the Manitoba Moose.

Already in the lineup are the Sedins, Taylor Pyatt, Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows, Jeff Cowan, and Matt Pettinger. Each of these players are dispersed among the four forward lines and provide much needed depth, especially the checkers like Kesler and Burrows.

It's comforting to know that the team's strengths haven't been tampered with this offseason as the defense and goaltending remains the same as last season. However, the tragic death of Luc Bourdon has dampened the Canucks' bright future for defensemen. With one of the best goalies in the world and a solid and experienced defense, the Canucks have filled two areas key to a winning team.

There is still hope for the team's lack of experienced scoring forwards. As I mentioned before, Pavol Demitra has declared that Vancouver is his preferred destination.

Mats Sundin is also available still and it will be extremely difficult for the 37-year-old Swede to reject a two-year $20 million deal with the Canucks. In my opinion, it's too much for a player out of his prime. But, if the Canucks could land him, it would be a huge boost to the experience of the team.

Now that Naslund has left, there remains a question of captaincy. I feel that Mattias Ohlund deserves the "C", whether Sundin or Demitra sign with the team or not. He has been on this team the longest and carries the most experience of all of the d-men.

As Gillis mentioned, there is no need to panic. The Canucks can still be a competitive team this season and for many more to come.