|Is this the year the Sedin twins lead the Canucks to Lord Stanley's cup? (Getty)|
The window on the Vancouver Canucks might be closing, but it's not shut. Not yet.
The Canucks came so close to finally winning the Stanley Cup two seasons ago only to be thwarted by the Boston Bruins in Game 7 on their home ice. Not too worse for the wear, they came back and earned the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's No. 1 team in the regular season for the second year in a row. They were bounced in short order by the buzzsaw Kings, though, putting a damper on the enthusiasm for this club.
But lest we remind you, the Canucks are still a true Cup contender.
Let's start at the top: They have one of the best first lines in all of hockey. It helps when two-thirds is made up by twins Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin. Throw in their lucky linemate in the pesky-but-effective Alex Burrows, and it's still as good a line as you'll find in the game.
There are some serious concerns right now on the second line, no doubt about that. Centerman Ryan Kesler remains on the sideline along with speedy winger David Booth. Those losses, especially that of Kesler, are huge. But at some point, they should be back and ready to play, and perhaps they will be fresher because of it when the stretch run and playoffs come, assuming they had some time to shake off the rust beforehand.
The Canucks don't have to win the Presidents' Trophy again, just make the postseason.
Even without those two players, there is some secondary scoring. They have done what many thought wasn't possible at this point: made Chris Higgins a productive scorer again. He had 18 goals and 43 points last season, a far cry from his stints with the Rangers and Flames when everybody thought he had burned out.
The Canucks are giving Jannik Hansen more of a shot to prove himself by putting him on the top power-play unit in camp and surely giving him second-line time while Booth and Kesler are out. He had 16 goals on the third line last season. There's Mason Raymond, who was a 25-goal scorer a few seasons ago.
The point is, the Canucks have some offensive help even without Kesler and Booth.
That brings us to the defense, where they have some great talent at the top. They certainly aren't as deep as you'd prefer, as evidenced by their signing of Cam Barker, but what they do have is pretty outstanding.
Between Alex Edler, Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa, the Canucks have three very reliable -- and offensively-productive -- defensemen. Add in Jason Garrison, whom I love as a player and not just because of the offense that showed up last season in Florida but his overall defensive abilities, and those are two great pairings. The Achilles' heel could come in the third pairing, where Barker, Chris Tanev and Keith Ballard are expected to see time, but the top two units could be minutes-eating machines.
Finally, you come to perhaps the most important ingredient in a championship hockey team: goaltending. The Canucks have two great ones in Cory Schneider, the presumed starter, and Roberto Luongo, the former Vezina finalist. If Luongo stays with the team all season, the Canucks will be able to balance the starts and keep each goalie in form by the time the postseason rolls around. It's a great problem for coach Alain Vigneault to have. They'd be wise to not deal Luongo this season at all, presuming the goaltender is OK with that (and he hasn't shown any indication that he wouldn't be).
The Canucks have been on the precipice of winning the Cup for years, and I still don't see a window that's shut. With no time to feel the malaise that sometimes hits this team, this could be the year they finally meet Lord Stanley's cup.
If they do, hopefully Vancouver can act like it has been there before, even if it really hasn't.