The Vancouver Canucks and the Buffalo Sabres share an immutable bond. Both teams entered the league in the second round of modern-era expansion in 1970. Both teams have had more jeresey/logo changes and style woes than any fan cares to mention. Both teams have respectively won their division five times and both teams have been to the Stanley Cup finals twice and lost.
Buffalo was the team to beat two seasons ago. They had a small window to achieve the consummate hockey holy grail. Icing a ridiculously talented roster with a knack for scoring by committee, Buffalo was the team to beat. And they were beat. Not, however, before entertaining the hell out of fans. In the 2006-2007 season five players scored 30 or more goals for Buffalo. That is an amazing stat considering no one on the team finished in the top ten in scoring that year. They had their window, they did not capitalize.
Vancouver have a really good chance of perpetuating their bond with Sabres fans this year.
Enter Steve Bernier. Both Bernier and Daniel Sedin stand a legitimate chance of scoring 30 goals. There is fundamental promise for this line. Paring Bernier with the Sedins has the appearance of not just a flirtation, but likely a budding romance. In the past the Sedins have toyed with the idea of elite scoremanship. When management sat down to commiserate on what the Sedins need to put them over the edge and went out and acted they came up with a very wise, methodical choice. Bravo Mike Gillis on this move.
Enter Pavol Demitra. Demitra looks like an autistic genius finally let out of the asylum. He is skating, making plays, waltzing around defenders and generally playing a game of entertainment not seen in Vancouver in years. He looks like he’s having fun and its infectious. Whether he’s playing with Mason Raymond, Kyle Wellwood or Taylor Pyatt, he’s going to lite up the red lamp this year. He makes those around him better and his energy seems to rub off. If he plays with Raymond and Pyatt this year either guy stands a good chance of hitting the 30 goal plateau. Is this the secret to breaking the secondary scoring curse that has plagued the Canucks for so long? Expect this line to excel.
Enter Jannick Hansen. We’ll probably see, Ryan Kesler score 25-30 goals this year. Burrows will continue his point incline not to mention his nettlesome ways. Hansen will help hit the final nail into the secondary scoring casket. This guy works. Plain and simple. He gets the puck because he hustles. He creates opportunity because he’s smart and he thinks quickly. (I’ve already hear John Shorthouse dub him “The Great Dane” but i’m not sold.) This line has the talent and tenacity to score fifty goals for the team. Secondary just became even more of an afterthought.
Enter The Defense. If (emphasis on if) the blue-line stays healthy they are the deepest and most sinister in the league. Last year D-men 1 through 5 were the best in the league collectively. With the delightful early arrival of Alexander Edler last year the offensively minded defense corp has the ability to score fifty goals. Kevin Bieksa continues to improve and Sami Salo and Matthias Ohlund provide a stable cast of veterans guarding the zone. There might not be Norris callibre, but that’s an arbitrary award when you boast the best defense, collectivelly, in the league.
There is a real possiblity with this squad to ramp up the offense in the post-lockout, post-Naslund/Linden era. The Sabres, a few years ago, roared out of the gate with an offensive style that capitalized on a young, fast, puck-possession team that scored goals as a team.
The moral of the story is that the Canucks could mirror the goal scoring of the 06-07 Sabres. If they do this then they too have a small window to capitalize. If they are anything like the Sabres of old they will not win. But hell, the rides gonna be fun.
Jannick Hansen is Hamlet
I like Hamlet for Jannick’s nickname – it isn’t an accurate historical reference but the vague Shakespeare association works for me.
Shakespeare’s longest play and the play responsible for the immortal lines “To be or not to be: that is the question:” and the advise “to thine own self be true,” begins in Denmark with the news that King Hamlet of Denmark has recently died. Denmark is now in a state of high alert and preparing for possible war with Young Fortinbras of Norway. A ghost resembling the late King Hamlet is spotted on a platform before Elsinore Castle in Denmark. King Claudius, who now rules Denmark, has taken King Hamlet’s wife, Queen Gertrude as his new wife and Queen of Denmark.
For other nicknames: Pavol Demitra is “Micheal Stipe” and Steve Bernier is “Bernie” and Cap’n Lou is way better than Louis and waaay better than Lui.