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Bouncing back

by Dave Tomlinson / Vancouver Canucks
For the Vancouver Canucks to reach their stated goal this year, that being a return to the playoffs, they’ll need significant bounce-back seasons by a handful of players that are considered a major part of the core of their team.

Without such performances the hockey club will struggle as it did throughout the latter part of last year, and more change could be in store for a squad that wants desperately to prove that 2013-14 was atypical.

More ABOUT TOMLINSON

Dave Tomlinson, radio Colour Commentator for the Vancouver Canucks, and analyst of all things hockey.

Follow Tomlinson on Twitter at @DTeam1040

From their top line down, the Canucks battled through injuries, suspensions and other things out of their control. Those things eventually caught up with the leaders of the club, so for this season, look for the Sedins, the two Alexs (Burrows and Edler), and Jannik Hansen, to rebound and recapture their forms of years past. How can that group of players do such a thing, especially a few years removed from career years? Let me explain.

The engine of the team is run by Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Both have previously led the league in scoring and both have an uncanny ability to prove their critics wrong, even in the harshest of lights. With new wing-man Radim Vrbata, the Sedins have rediscovered their knack for finishing plays with him alongside. Their domination in the pre-season, against arguably weaker competition, will carry over into the regular season because of the chemistry they have with their new linemate, and the line’s ability to read off one another. If they aren’t scoring at will like in years past, they will at least draw more penalties, and that is then where they’ll add to their point totals, because the Canuck power play will once again be a threat, having two right shot one-timer pass options (Vrbata and Vey), along with point man Alex Edler back on the blueline loaded and ready to fire.

Since we’re now on the subject of Edler, it’s enticing to believe he will regain the form that had him in Norris Trophy talk two years previous. The best thing that’s happened to him is that he now has a coach that handles the defenceman during games that can relate and explain to him how to handle certain situations, in a tone that Alex can digest. Doug Lidster has close to 900 NHL games to draw on, and can be a teacher and mentor. Add in that Lidster had consistent offensive output when he played, and it’s reasonable to believe that Edler can put into practice what the coach implores.

For the other Alex, that being Alex Burrows, just the fact he is healthy is a positive. He realizes that he can’t go back and re-do last year, but recognizes that he’s at his best when he is agitating, aggravating and generally being a pain in the butt to the opposition. He’ll flourish with the quick hands and playmaking ability of Nick Bonino in the middle, and that will lead to a straight ahead playing style that will help Burrows get and stay at the net to knock in more pucks.

With Jannik Hansen, the Canucks have another player that battled through a significant injury, and this year when he gets back to using his main attributes, speed and tenacity, the offensive output from his career year of 2012 is in reach. Keep in mind that Hansen led the Canucks in hits in 2011 (as Maxim Lapierre imported his from his previous team) and when he replicates that this season, more scoring chances will follow.

In all, when the aforementioned players follow through with what I’ve outlined above, the Canucks certainly have the ingredients to score more goals, prevent more against, all the while playing a more palatable style that the fans will enjoy watching. That in itself is a change from last year.

Hockey in late April never sounded so good.

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