Wearing the Orca Killer Whale on his chest for the rest of the season, Mats Sundin makes the Canucks an instant Cup contender. Now they have lines like Sedin/Janssen/Sedin, Demitra/Sundin/Wellwood, Kesler/Raymond/Burrows, and Pyatt/Bernier/Hordichuk.
The scratches could include Jason Jaffery, Rick Rypien and Mike Johnson, it speaks to some real depth offensively and poses some real dilemmas for the opposition. Which line do you put your checkers out against? The Sedins or the Sundin/Demitra line? What about the shut down defensive pair, do they go against Sundin or Daniel? The opposition coaches cannot double shift all game long. Then the Canucks have the "energy line" of Kesler/Raymond/Burrows, three of the fastest skaters in the league and each one of them has demonstrated they can put the puck in the net, shorthanded and at full strength.
The Achilles heel right now is on the blue line, traditionally one of Vancouver's strengths. Injuries have thinned the back line somewhat, Sami Salo is back on IR with a broken rib, suffered Wednesday night against Edmonton. Shane O'Brien is nursing a charlie horse from the same game, but should be back in the lineup shortly. The core four however are intact, shut down d-man par excellence Willie Mitchell, rugged reliable Kevin Bieksa, rising star Alex Edler and the best "unknown nationally" d-man Mattias Ohlund provide the Canucks with picture perfect defensive execution and have allowed the goaltenders good looks at most of the shots against them and generally keep the opposition to the perimeter. The fact Sundin signed for less than the offer on the table to, in his own words, "allow some room for the Canucks to make a deal later on to improve for the playoff run" says a lot about Sundin's character and it also gives the Canucks the ability to augment the blue line if necessary.
Finally in goal, Curtis Sanford has stepped in admirably and has given the team NHL caliber goaltending, and it has also allowed top prospect Cory Schneider a taste of NHL experience. He has shown flashes of his potential, but has been erratic at times. However, he has a couple wins under his belt and the duo has kept the team in first place during Luongo's absence. Once Roberto is healed and back between the pipes, the Canucks look like a legitimate Stanley Cup contender with room under the cap to add another veteran defenseman if needed.
Things are looking very good for Canuck fans today.