Although the Canucks struggled offensively in 2013-2014, they still managed to be one of the better defensive teams. Despite finishing the season with the third-worst offense in the NHL, the Canucks only allowed an average of 2.63 goals against, which was 14th best in the league.
The Canucks were backed by the goaltending duo of veteran Roberto Luongo and 26-year-old Eddie Lack, who played 42 and 41 games respectively. Luongo, who was passed over for starting duties at the Heritage Classic, was traded to the Florida Panthers two days after the outdoor event at BC Place.
With some uncertainty surrounding the goaltending situation, the Canucks went out and signed 2010 Vezina winner Ryan Miller to a three-year deal in the 2014 off-season. The 34-year-old veteran enters the 2014-2015 campaign as Vancouver’s’ clear-cut starting netminder.
While goaltending wasn’t a big issue in 2013-2014, the lack of top-end production from defensemen most certainly was. The Canucks received a relevant 147 points from their blueline and no single defenseman recorded more than 33 points.
The team’s top defensive scorer Jason Garrison was shipped to Tampa Bay in the off-season, meaning the Canucks will be counting on former high-end contributors to rediscover their touch in 2014-2015.
The Big Guns
Ryan Miller, G
After the Blues chose not to keep Miller around following a disappointing first-round playoff exit, the 34-year-old signed a three-year deal with the Canucks in the off-season. The 2010 Vezina winner spent his first 11 seasons in the NHL with Buffalo, before being dealt to the Blues in a blockbuster trade at the 2014 trade deadline. Miller posted a 25-30-4 record split between the two teams last season, recording a .913 save percentage and a 2.60 GAA. Miller slots in as the number one goalie in Vancouver, but youngster Lack is sure to be knocking on the door. Expect Miller to play around 60 games, with the potential of returning to elite status behind a solid group of Canucks’ defensemen.
Projection: 30 Wins/ .916 SP/ 2.58 GAA/ 4 SO
Alex Edler, D
After seeing his production dip the previous season, Edler took another step backwards in 2013-2014. The 28-year-old defenseman struggled mightily, posting a league-worst minus-39 rating and notching only 22 points (seven goals) in 63 games. Edler saw only 2:51 of power-play time, almost a minute less than the previous year. He also posted a career-low 3.9 shooting percentage, recording his lowest goal total in five seasons. With the departure of Garrison to Tampa Bay, Edler has a chance to reclaim his role as the main quarterback on the power play. Only three years removed from a 49-point season, Edler still possess all the tools to be an elite fantasy defenseman. With some new offensive firepower added in Vrbata and Bonino, Edler is due for a massive rebound.
Projection: 9 G/ 31 A/ 40 points
Dan Hamhuis, D
After stepping up offensively over the previous two seasons, Hamhuis took a step backwards with his offensive production in 2013-2014. After posting 24 points in a lockout-shortened season in 2012-2013, Hamhuis managed only 22 points in a full 2013-2014 campaign. It’s hard to blame Hamhuis, though, considering the Canucks had the 28th worst offense in the league. Hamhuis still had a good all-around year, leading the team with a plus-13 rating, while averaging 23:57 of ice time. A previous power-play contributor, Hamhuis saw his man advantage time dip to 1:51 last season, managing only three assists. With the departure of Garrison to Tampa Bay, Hamhuis is likely to see more power play minutes this upcoming season. The 31-year-old 2014 Olympic gold medalist is a rock-solid defenseman who can be counted on for 20-30 points every season.
Projection: 5 G/ 22 A/ 27 points
Kevin Bieksa, D
After taking a step back in 2012-2013, Bieksa once again struggled offensively in 2013-2014. Only two years removed from an eight-goal, 44-point season, Bieksa only managed four goals and 24 points in 76 games last season. Penciled in as Vancouver’s top defenseman on the right side, Bieksa provides much fantasy value outside of point production. He led Canucks’ defensemen in 2013-2014 with 104 PIM, also proving his value with 144 hits and 130 blocked shots. With the departure of Garrison to Tampa Bay, there is an opportunity for Bieksa to step up the offense in 2014-2015. After a strong performance with Team Canada at the 2014 World Championships, Bieksa looks poised to make some improvements on his totals from last season.
Projection: 7 G/ 30 A/ 37 points
On the Rise
Chris Tanev, D
Tanev was one of the lone bright spots for the Canucks in 2013-2014, positing a career-high six goals and 17 points in 62 games. He was arguably the most consistent Canuck throughout the season, recording a plus-12 rating, while averaging a career-high 20:44 of ice time. At only 24 years of age, the best is yet to come for this defenseman on the rise. Although he hasn’t been used on the power play, Tanev has become a fixture on the Canucks’ penalty kill, averaging 3:00 of shorthanded ice time per game last season. Tanev also delivered for fantasy owners with two game-winning goals and a shorthanded tally, proving his clutch ability. While it’s hard to see Tanev turning into an elite offensive defenseman, he is well on his way to becoming a premier blueliner in the NHL. With the departure of Garrison to Tampa Bay, Tanev’s role will only expand this upcoming season.
Projection: 8 G/ 24 A/ 32 points
Don’t Sleep On
Yannick Weber, D
Weber found some success in his first season in Vancouver, recording six goals and 10 points in 49 games. His main value came with the man advantage, where he used his lethal shot to score three power-play tallies. What’s most impressive about Weber’s five power-play points was that he recorded them despite averaging only 1:34 of man advantage time per game. With Garrison departed to Tampa Bay, Weber should land a permanent spot on one of the power-play units this upcoming campaign. The 25-year-old has offensive capability, but has never played more than 60 games in a season. He’ll likely battle for a spot on Vancouver’s second or third defensive pairing.
Projection: 7 G/ 15 A/ 22 points
Lucas Sbisa, D
Sbisa was traded alongside Nick Bonino to the Canucks in exchange for Ryan Kesler during the 2014 off-season. Sbisa is coming off an injury-riddled season where he managed only six points (one goal) in 30 games. At 24 years of age, Sbisa is only three years removed from his breakout five-goal, 24-point season. He still possesses upside and will likely slot in as Vancouver’s fifth or sixth defensemen. Beware though, aside from his 24-point campaign, Sbisa has never recorded more than 11 points in a season.
Projection: 3 G/ 13 A/ 16 points
Ryan Stanton, D
Stanton was a pleasant surprise in his first season in Vancouver, tallying 16 points (one goal) in 64 games, while also recording a plus-5 rating. Not known as a big offensive contributor, Stanton is a solid defenseman that can play decent minutes and be counted on defensively. While there is the potential for him to be an impact fantasy player, it’s hard to see him putting up big numbers behind the likes of Edler, Hamhuis, Bieksa and Tanev. Not helping his case is the fact he struggled towards the end of last season, notching only one assist in his final 14 games. The 25-year-old will likely battle for the sixth or seventh spot on Vancouver’s blueline.
Projection: 3 G/ 17 A/ 20 points
Eddie Lack, G
It looked like Lack would be Vancouver’s starting goalie heading into the 2014-2015 campaign, but the off-season signing of Miller puts Lack in a backup role once again. The 26-year-old did okay in his first full season in Vancouver, posting a 16-17-5 record, while recording a .912 save percentage and 2.41 GAA. His slow transition into the NHL was thrown out the window following a blockbuster deal at the 2014 trade deadline that sent Luongo to the Panthers. Lack proceeded to start the following 19 games, getting worn out while managing only eight wins. He should see a fair amount of starts next season, with 20-30 games being a realistic expectation. The only concern would be current-third string goalie Jacob Markstrom, who could challenge Lack for some ice time.
Projection: 14 Wins/ .910 SP/ 2.55 GAA/ 2 SO