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McKenzie: Canucks a threat

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks

Make no mistake about it, Bob McKenzie is the NHL’s version of John Madden - just without the bus.

McKenzie knows all when it comes to the NHL. There’s a reason TSN relies on him for up to the freaking nanosecond updates on teams, players and issues throughout the season; he’s The Hockey Insider, he always knows what’s going on, he’s well informed, trusted and connected.

No one has a better lay of the land heading into the 2010-11 season than McKenzie, who was in Vancouver scouting the Canucks this week, and he likes what he’s seeing heading into the franchise’s 40th year.

“I think that they’ve obviously got a core group with the Sedins, Burrows, Kesler, Luongo, as well as some of the defence, who people think are continuing to grow and continuing to develop that they were real good at various times last year, but there’s still more to get from them and they’re capable of more,” McKenzie told Canucks.com.

The Canucks made a rash of moves in the dog days of summer bringing in the likes of Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, Manny Malhotra, Raffi Torres and others, all of which changes the complexion of the two-time defending Northwest Division champions and McKenzie is in favour of the facelift.

“I think there’s that sense and I think people generally think that the additions of Hamhuis and Ballard, as well as Malhotra, give them a different look on defence and a little more depth up front, Torres falls into the same category as Malhotra as trying to make the third line bigger and harder to play against.”

The Canucks will be a tougher overall team to face this season, according to the Gemini Award winning hockey analyst, but while bringing in the likes of Malhotra and Torres makes the bottom six a more responsible unit defensively, McKenzie questions if there’s much offensive upside there. If not, scoring could be difficult for the Canucks when their main weapons have off-nights.

“[Last year] Vancouver had guys, whether it was Bernier or Wellwood or Demitra, more offensive types that were in the bottom half of the line-up, so if the Sedins aren’t scoring, where’s that secondary offensive push coming from?

“I think most people think it’ll come from Kesler and Burrows to some degree, but some days it’ll be a question as to where the goals are coming from. A guy like Torres might score 15 or 20, but he might not.”

Goals will be scored, goals will be given up, games will be won, games will be lost. What Vancouver fans ultimately want to know is if this team, which looks to feature the best assembled line-up in a longtime, can power through the regular season and do some damage in the playoffs.

McKenzie?

“Yeah. I think so. The absence of Salo is going to hurt on defence, but Hamhuis has an opportunity to play the minutes in a type of role that maybe he didn’t get in the past and Ballard, we’ll have to see how he does coming off hip-surgery.

“They’re a good team and they deserve to be among the better teams in the Western Conference. The Canucks will get more than their fair share of pre-season picks to come out of the West and fair enough, they’re right in that group, but I don’t think anyone should presume that they’re in a class by themselves by any stretch.”

Wearing socks with sandals isn’t fashionable, it never is, what’s fashionable this fall is picking Vancouver to hoist the Stanley Cup next June. Is McKenzie following suit?

“Not yet, I haven’t figured it out yet. I need a week to sort through things.

“I feel it’s too early to say that, but they’re one of the better teams, one of the top four teams in the Western Conference.”

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