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Andrea Woo
October 14, 2002
Few changes for a young team that was overpowering down the stretch
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October 14, 2002

9 Vancouver Canucks

Few changes for a young team that was overpowering down the stretch

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Bertuzzi, Naslund provide dazzling one-two punch



Look for a more mature Jovanovski to dominate



Cloutier must not allow as many soft goals



PP will be awesome; Chubarov, Cooke, Linden excel on PK



G.M. Burke assembled team with speed, size, skill

The season had barely ended, but general manager Brian Burke's decision was made—he was taking the summer off. The Canucks were the NHL's hottest team going into the playoffs last spring, finishing the regular season on a 28-9-3-3 run. They scored a league-best 254 goals and had the second-and third-leading scorers, Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi, respectively. Burke was not about to tinker with the chemistry of his high-powered club, which won the first two games in Round 1 against the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Red Wings, only to lose the next four. With the club's payroll already maxed out (about $31 million), Burke knew he couldn't significantly upgrade the team, let alone sign his own free agents, playmaking center Andrew Cassels and steady defenseman Scott Lachance. So heading into the season Vancouver is shaping up to be the same team it was last year—good, but not good enough.

"We had a weak start [14-21-4-0] and pretty much crawled into the playoffs," says Bertuzzi, a bruising left wing who had a breakout season with 36 goals and 85 points. "Knowing how tough the Western Conference is, it's key to come out of the gate strong." The Canucks, who finished last season 42-30-7-3, will again rely on their potent offense, with Bertuzzi, Naslund and center Brendan Morrison (67 points) forming a dynamic first line. But depth is a concern. Twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin, the second and third players drafted, respectively, in 1999, have yet to fulfill their promise, and with Cassels gone the team lacks scoring options.

On the blue line Vancouver acquired hard-shooting defenseman Sami Salo from the Senators for holdout winger Peter Schaefer. Salo will likely be paired with All-Star and Norris Trophy candidate Ed Jovanovski. "Salo's a good one-on-one player and has a cannon for a shot," says Dave Nonis, the director of hockey operations. "He gives us a threat on the power play."

If the Canucks want to be among the Western Conference's elite, they'll need solid play from inconsistent goaltender Dan Cloutier and strong performances from the supporting cast to complement their star power. "The bar has to be raised," says Bertuzzi. "We haven't raised it high enough, and I think it's time we started."

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]