10 Predictions for the Vancouver Canucks in 2011/2012

Michael StuartCorrespondent IJuly 4, 2011

10 Predictions for the Vancouver Canucks in 2011/2012

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    With free agency well underway, I am going to start a 30-part series with 10 predictions for each team that could transpire over the next calendar year.

    We will begin this series with the Northwest Division as they are host to the reigning President's Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks.

    The Canucks are a great team.  They have skill, depth and heart.  It will be interesting to see whether or not the Canucks can repeat the success they had this past year and take it to the next level and win the Stanley Cup.

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The Canucks Will Win the Northwest Division

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    This really can't come as a surprise to anyone.

    While the Oilers have gotten better, they are still young and without a solid goaltender.  The Flames are just brutal right now and the Avalanche are in shambles. 

    It could be interesting to see whether or not the Minnesota Wild can make a run with their recent improvements, but I think it's safe to say that the Vancouver Canucks will repeat as Northwest Division Champions.

Ryan Kesler Will Score More Than 41 Goals

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    Ryan Kesler will better his goal total from a year ago.  He is such a dominant player, and he knows how to put the puck in the net.

    In my opinion, he has one of the most underrated wrist shots in the entire league.  He can just wire them from the circle.

    He'll better his goal total, and I think that he has a shot to be more than a point-per-game player for the first time in his career.

The Sedin Twins Will Combine to Score More Than 200 Points

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    The Sedins will combine to score more than 200 points.  I think that's a real possibility. 

    These guys realize that the time is now and that they need to bring their "A" game in order to bring the cup to Vancouver.  They are on the dark side of their prime and pretty soon their careers will be on the downslope.

    I think that the Sedins will power the Canucks to having one of the more potent offenses in the entire league once again.

Alex Edler Will Score More Than 50 Points

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    Alex Edler is going to help make Vancouver fans forget all about Christian Ehrhoff.

    Not only will he eclipse the 50-point mark as Ehrhoff did, he will be far more defensively sound and physical.  At a fraction of the price, Edler is a much better defenseman and one of the more underrated ones in the league.

Roberto Luongo's Stats Will Fall

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    Roberto Luongo's stats will fall this season.  They won't fall to career lows, but they won't be what they were last season. 

    You can still bank on Luongo having some of the best stats in the league, but it would be hard to repeat what he did this season. 

    Still, I think Luongo has what it takes to bring Vancouver the Stanley Cup.

The Canucks Will Lack Grit to Start the Season

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    With the loss of Raffi Torres to the Phoenix Coyotes, the Vancouver Canucks are lacking a big presence on their third line.

    Torres brought the kind of grit and timely offense needed to make a deep playoff run.  I believe that the Canucks will miss his play to start the season and they will be forced to make a move for someone like him at some point during the season.

    The Bruins proved that you have to be tough to play against to win the cup.

Marco Sturm Will Stay Healthy and Score 50 Points

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    After numerous ACL surgeries and injury-plagued years, it looks as though Marco Sturm is finally ready to go. 

    He scored 56 points as a member of the Boston Bruins a couple years ago, and I believe that he has a chance to eclipse the 50-point mark again.

    Playing with Ryan Kesler can surely spark his offensive skills.  Don't forget the odd shift out with the Sedins.  This could be a great season for Sturm, and it could work out to be a bargain for the Canucks.

Sami Salo Will Retire Win or Lose

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    Sami Salo had a great career.  He is undoubtedly one of my favorite players in the league.  He plays the game with skill, integrity and a lot more heart than people give him credit for.  Most importantly, he is just so solid and rarely makes mistakes.

    With the injuries that have plagued his career, I believe that Sami Salo will be forced to hang up the skates for good whether the Canucks win the cup or not.

    For that reason, I'm telling the Canucks, win it for Sami!  He deserves it.

Keith Ballard Will Emerge as a Top 4 Defender

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    I suppose it is a little bit unfair to say "emerge as a top four defender" as Keith Ballard was a top four guy up until he joined the Vancouver Canucks.

    However, with the loss of Ehrhoff, I believe that Ballard will step up and fight for that top four job.  He plays with an edge, has speed and can pivot really well. 

    He'll play on the power-play, penalty kill and in every other situation imaginable.  Look for a great season from Keith Ballard.

Cory Schneider Will Have More Than 30 Appearances

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    This season is going to be so important for Cory Schneider and the Vancouver Canucks.  If Roberto Luongo falters in the playoffs, they may want to look at him as a No. 1 option. 

    However, I think this season is important for Schneider because he is sure to get a lot of playing time so that the Canucks can increase his trade value.  The more he plays, the more he plays well, the more the Canucks can get in return for the young star.

    Look for Schneider to get traded to the Eastern Conference.  The Canucks would hate to have this guy come back to haunt them.