Vancouver Canucks season preview

Updated: October 3, 2005, 12:14 PM ET
ESPN.com

THE BOTTOM LINE

Lest we forget, the Canucks were the Northwest Division champs last time out and just one win away from advancing past Calgary in the playoffs … without Todd Bertuzzi. Players there think there's some unfinished business to attend to.

Offense: It's all there, Bertuzzi, Markus Naslund, the Sedin twins, Anson Carter, venerable Trevor Linden and a kid named Matt Cooke, who shows real promise. This was a scary-good group in 2003-04 and it's largely intact.

Defense: Very good in the top four of Ed Jovanovski, Bryan Allen, Mattias Ohlund and Sami Salo, and solid the rest of the way through.

Goaltending: Dan Cloutier is solid in the regular season (three straight 30 wins or more), but still has some playoff demons that need to be erased.



WHERE THEY'LL FINISH
3rd YES … Because they are talented and driven, a potent combination.
BUT … Because getting over the hump is becoming a problem, and if they continue to wonder about Cloutier, it will wear on their confidence.

PLAYER TO WATCH
Ryan Kesler is young, but had explosive offensive potential and is a fine playmaking prospect at center. He had 30 goals and 28 assists last season with the club's AHL team in Manitoba.

HEY, COACH!
Marc Crawford won a Cup in Colorado, but has something to prove as a playoff performer with this squad. The whisper is he tenses in clutch situations and that translates to too much pressure on his players. He needs to erase that.



FACEOFFS
BEST OFFSEASON MOVE --> MINDING THE NETS
The Canucks brought up goalie Alexander Auld on a one-way contract to keep some pressure on Cloutier.

WORST OFFSEASON MOVE --> FLASHY D
They shouldn't have traded offensive defenseman Brent Sopel to the Islanders. You never have enough of these kinds of guys.

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Comings & Goings
Key Acquisitions:
RW Richard Park; RW Anson Carter; D Sven Butenschon; D Steve McCarty; LW Josh Green; D Prestin Ryan; G Brent Johnson; D Craig Darby.

Key Departures:
LW Brad May; LW Martin Rucinsky; G Johan Hedberg; D Johnathan Aitken; C Peter Sarno; RW Jeff Heerema; D Joe DiPenta; D Brent Sopel; D Marek Malik.

When we last saw them …
Markus Naslund, LW
Naslund was fourth overall in league points with 35 goals and 49 assists in 78 games.

Dan Cloutier, G
Cloutier was a rock during the regular season, posting a 33-21-6 record with five shutouts.
Quoteables
I've heard a lot of stuff about people thinking that I'm going to come back soft. That's not who I am. It's not how my parents raised me.
Todd Bertuzzi on how he'll play after the Steve Moore incident.