Coming in to this season, the Vancouver Canucks have high expectations.
The highest, in fact, of all the Canadian teams.
Edmonton fans are just hoping that their team remains competitive for the entire season. Before a 4-0 start, fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs were hoping that 10th or better was a reality.
Now those who mock Leaf fans are making the "they're planning the parade" jokes.
Ottawa came into the season eying a playoff spot, but they also had to wonder if their team could keep a goalie healthy for more than five games. Montreal was in the same position, although the over/under on Carey Price suffering a mental breakdown was three weeks.
Then there were the Flames, whose fans were just simply confused at what happened during the offseason.
The Canucks, meanwhile, have one of the best goalies in the league, the reigning Art Ross and Hart trophy winner, his twin brother, one of the prized free agent defenseman from this off-season to augment one of the deeper defenses, and cap-trouble that no one really needs to talk about until their two long-term injuries are healthy enough to come back.
Other than the cap-space thing, that sounds pretty good.
1) Daniel Sedin Outproduces Henrik
Henrik got an unfair advantage on Daniel last year when he was felled by injury.
With the whole "Twin thing" in full effect, Daniel finishes with 30 points more than Henrik so that they're near-identical in terms of career points. I would say this is a joke, but last year was the first time ever that they finished more than 12 points apart to finish a season (27 points).
In fact, they've been five points or closer in their year-end totals six times in nine seasons. Weird.
2) Mikael Samuelsson Drops Back to 22 Goals
Samuelsson was the big breakout performer that everybody predicted last year, and they got their wish: The 33-year-old had his first 30-goal season, shattering his previous career-high by seven.
Some are probably expecting him to do it again, while others will take a "wait-and-see" approach to see if he can repeat it, or if he's a solid player who simply hit it big once. I'm thinking it's the second one.
3) Cody Hodgson Finds His Way to the NHL by January
Hodgson is really too talented to keep down.
He's been held off the scoresheet to start this AHL season, but don't expect that to last either. Keep in mind he had 20 points in 13 OHL games last year after missing the entire season with a back injury, that many THIS offseason had debilitating his career.
Why people said that, I'm not sure (because it's not like he's been out of hockey for a calendar year). But even if he doesn't get that call-up, he's one to keep an eye on.
4) Christian Ehrhoff Hits 45 points and 15 goals
Did you know that he was 12th among defensemen in shots taken last year, had the fifth-most points of those 12 and had the third-most goals?
He's had back-to-back 40-point campaigns, so that shouldn't be a problem, and 14 goals in 80 games? Who says he can't tack on one more?
5) Dan Hamhuis Barely Creeps past 30
I've been a fan of Hamhuis for years, but he's gone from sitting behind Ryan Suter and Shea Weber to playing behind Ehrhoff and Alexander Edler.
While the 1:17 of power-play time a game should also go up a bit as the season wears on, anything monumental on the offensive side of things looks unlikely for now.
6) Daniel Sedin Takes the Team Lead in Power-Play Goals
He was four off leading the team last year behind Ryan Kesler's 12, and he played 19 fewer games.
If he's going to have a big year, it's more than likely he knocks off the man who's led the team in that category each of the past two seasons (Kesler) on the way to that big year.
7) Mason Raymond Finishes with More Goals than Kesler
Apparently I've decided to pick on Ryan Kesler.
Originally, this was Alexandre Burrows getting trumped by Raymond, but he decided to go and get hurt, so Kesler takes his place. Obviously, with the injury to Burrows, Raymond's responsibilities go up, as do the expectations.
Is it a lot to expect from a fourth-year pro who scored 20 for the first time last year? Yes—especially considering that Kesler has at least 20 each of the past three years—but this is the time to prove that it wasn't a fluke.
8) Ryan Parent Gets Traded Twice More
Poor guy. He never seems to get settled in anywhere.
9) Manny Malhotra, Raffi Torres, and Dan Hamhuis Improve the Penalty Kill
Malhotra and Torres are far less glorified signings than Hamhuis was, but they're two veterans who know how to get it done in their own end with toughness and an edge.
An overlooked aspect of the penalty kill is having an agile puck-moving defender who can get to loose pucks quickly and dump them out, which is what Hamhuis should be able to provide the team.
10) The Canucks Finish Closer to the 2008-09 Team Goal Total than the 2009-10 One
The Canucks scored 243 goals that year, which should be a more realistic total than last year's 260+.
That's counting a Burrows injury and a Samuelsson re-adjustment, while Jannik Hansen, Tanner Glass, and Jeff Tambellini will chip in every so often.
The Stretch (Remember to Laugh):
Roberto Luongo, missing the team captaincy, pre-empts all of Henrik Sedin's pregame speeches WWE style.
Fed up with it, Sedin challenges Luongo to a standoff at centre ice. Luongo, remembering his time in Florida, does this.
Bryan Thiel is a senior writer and a columnist for Hockey54.com—The Face of the Game! If you want to get in contact with Bryan, you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter at BryanThiel_88.
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