Sedins' supporting cast crucial to Canucks lineup

Tuesday, 08.26.2014 / 3:00 AM
Corey Masisak  - NHL.com Staff Writer

The John Tortorella era was brief and not without its share of tumult for the Vancouver Canucks.

After five straight seasons in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Canucks stumbled through Tortorella's lone season in charge, ultimately finishing with the third-worst record in the Western Conference. Even with Cory Schneider traded before the start of the season, goalie controversy consumed the Canucks. Shortly after Tortorella sat Roberto Luongo in the Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic at BC Place in favor of Eddie Lack, the Canucks' longtime starter was traded to the Florida Panthers.

There is now a new coach (Willie Desjardins) and a new goaltender (Ryan Miller). Some of the same problems remain, most notably scoring depth up front. Ryan Kesler being traded to the Anaheim Ducks didn't help with that.

Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin are aging but can still be elite players. Is there enough around them to get Vancouver back into the postseason?

Here's a look at the projected 2014-15 lineup for the Canucks:

FORWARDS

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Radim Vrbata

Chris Higgins - Nick Bonino - Zack Kassian

Alexandre Burrows - Shawn Matthias - Jannik Hansen

Derek Dorsett - Brad Richardson - Linden Vey

Dustin Jeffrey - Tom Sestito

Alexandre Burrows was not as bad as five goals and 15 points in 49 games would suggest, and he should remain an option to play with the Sedins. The Canucks might be short on the left side, though, so addition Radim Vrbata could end up there or Zack Kassian could earn another chance.

Nick Bonino and Shawn Matthias are likely to end up as the second and third centers, unless 2013 first-round pick Bo Horvat has a big training camp. Bonino was part of the package the Canucks got from the Ducks for Kesler. He's been productive in spurts, but this could be his chance to prove he's a legit No. 2 center.

If the Canucks are short on goal-scoring (and it looks like they might be), 2014 first-round pick Jake Virtanen could be an option, but he is more likely to spend another season developing in juniors. Linden Vey is another young player who could be interesting. Vey struggled to find a role with the Los Angeles Kings, but that's a tough roster to crack. He could push Brad Richardson for the final center spot or end up next to him.

DEFENSEMEN

Alexander Edler - Kevin Bieksa

Dan Hamhuis - Christopher Tanev

Luca Sbisa - Ryan Stanton

Yannick Weber

The top half of the Canucks defense is strong. Alexander Edler was speculated to be the next Vancouver veteran on the move, but Kevin Bieksa should join him on the top pair.

Dan Hamhuis made the Canada roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics in part because of the country's shortage of elite left-handed defensemen. But he is a strong, consistent two-way player. Christopher Tanev joined Hamhuis to form Vancouver's most-used pairing at even strength.

Jason Garrison is gone, with Luca Sbisa arriving as part of the Kesler trade. Ryan Stanton had a very nice season for the Canucks after being buried on the Chicago Blackhawks depth chart.

GOALTENDERS

Ryan Miller

Eddie Lack

Miller's save percentage at even strength last season was .923, as he mixed some excellent performances with the Buffalo Sabres with some uneven outings once he was traded to the St. Louis Blues. The Canucks do not need any more goalie controversies, but Miller's numbers weren't much better than Lack's, who had a .921 save percentage at even strength.

The season should begin with Miller getting the majority of the starts, but Lack could be one of the League's better No. 2 options. Jacob Markstrom, part of the return from Florida for Luongo, is still in the mix and has a one-way contract. Carrying three goaltenders isn't ideal for any franchise, certainly not one looking for less drama at the position.

ALSO IN THE MIX: F Bo Horvat, F Nicklas Jensen, D Frank Corrado, D Henrik Tommernes, G Jacob Markstrom

Follow Corey Masisak on Twitter: @cmasisak22

2014-15 FANTASY PREVIEW: CANUCKS

Undervalued: Radim Vrbata -- For the past five seasons, Vrbata was a member of the defensive-minded Arizona Coyotes. He played with Shane Doan, Martin Hanzal, Ray Whitney, etc., throughout his term. During those five seasons, Vrbata's 82-game average was 26 goals, 54 points and 258 shots on goal. Heading north to join the Canucks, Vrbata should slide onto the top line with Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin, which is certainly an upgrade and should result in better fantasy production. Vrbata, 33, is more than capable of reaching that five-year average, and for those of you seeking a dominant shots-on-goal specialist, look no further.

Overvalued: Henrik Sedin -- It wasn't long ago (prior to last season) when Sedin was viewed as a borderline top-10 fantasy forward. After a season when he had his fewest points (50 in 70 games) in a full-length season in 10 years, Sedin will fall in fantasy drafts. Many might peg him as a bounce-back candidate, but the truth is even before last season's rapid decline, Sedin was a bit overvalued in fantasy leagues. His lack of goal scoring, shots on goal and penalty minutes have always diminished his value, and this season should be no different. There's a chance he puts up close to 70 points, but he's no longer a lock for those elite point totals and his peripheral stats won't help much.

Sleeper: Alexander Edler -- Let's face it, Edler and John Tortorella just weren't a match. If Edler's 22 points in 63 games aren't evidence enough, his career-shattering-worst and NHL-worst minus-39 should do the trick. In his previous five seasons, he never had fewer than 22 points (he had 22 in the lockout-shortened season), he's had a minus rating once in his previous seven seasons, and was likely considered a top-20 fantasy defenseman for the past three years. With Tortorella out as coach, it's time for the 29-year-old to regain his fantasy value. You shouldn't hesitate to select him as your No. 4 defenseman. He could end up being a big-time bargain and regain his top-20 form.

Follow Matt Cubeta on Twitter: @NHLQubes

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