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Sez who?

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks

According to famed Toronto Maple Leafs coach George "Punch" Imlach, “predictions are for gypsies.”

This may be true, but it hasn’t stopped everyone and their dogs from dusting off the ol’ crystal ball to predict how the 2010-11 NHL season will play out. From those in the know to those who know nothing, everyone is offering up division winners, MVPs, playoff picks and Stanley Cup winners; the Internet has never been so convoluted with hockey forecasters.

The good news for the Canucks is that popular option towards the team is far less cantankerous than in previous seasons, a few even have Vancouver hoisting a certain silver trophy come June.

Let’s start with Canada’s Sports Leader, TSN. Jamie Bell covered the Canucks as part of their 30 teams in 30 days segment and he might as well be on Vancouver’s payroll with how positive he was about the squad.

“The Canucks are as stacked as any team in the NHL with great depth at forward complemented by a solid group of defenceman and an All-Star goaltender who will receive a considerable push from their hotshot rookie backup,” Bell wrote. “The Canucks biggest issue may be how they handle the increased expectations while attempting to satisfy a rabid fan base who feels the time is right for the team's first championship.”

To Bell, the difference maker with be Roberto Luongo. It’s not that the season is riding on his shoulders, but he has the ability to take the Canucks above and beyond where they’ve ever been.

“With the Olympic distraction out of the way, and Cory Schneider knocking on the door, look for Bobby Lu to bounce back in a big way and the Canucks to challenge for the Cup.”

Staying in Canada, Sportsnet.ca polled their eight Hockey Central panelists for division champions, major trophy winners, breakout team, breakout player and coach on the hot seat.

Although every analyst picked the Canucks to win the Northwest Division, they got the most love come playoff time from Doug MacLean and John Garrett as both have Vancouver winning the Cup; MacLean says over Pittsburgh, Garrett says over Washington.

It should be noted that Daren Millard, Nick Kypreos and Mike Brophy all have the Canucks losing in the finals to the Capitals, Penguins and Capitals.

In the individual awards categories, MacLean and Garrett penciled Luongo in for the Vezina Trophy, while Millard named Raffi Torres his Breakout player.

I’m a big Puck Daddy supporter and have been ever since I shared an Ethernet cable with Puck Daddy himself, Greg Wyshynski, during men’s hockey at the 2010 Olympics. Although Wyshynski didn’t write Vancouver’s season preview, the Puck Daddy blog still gave the Canucks their due respect.

Sean Leahy, Puck Daddy contributor, took care of Vancouver’s prediction and he spiced it up with some old school wrestling comparisons likening Vancouver to Shawn Michaels circa 1996.

“The up-and-coming young talent needed extra time in an Iron Man match to defeat Bret Hart for his first WWE/(F) Championship. It's about that time for the Vancouver Canucks. All the pieces are in place for their first Stanley Cup championship. They've got the look, they've got the moves, but can they superkick themselves through the Western Conference first?”

Leahy’s Canucks 2010-11 Preseason Report Card reads as follows: Forwards: A; Defense: A; Goaltending: B+; Special Teams: B+; Coaching: B+; Management: B+; with these final words to sum up Vancouver’s chances: “Now with a loaded arsenal, an improve defense and a goaltender with a potentially heavy monkey off his back, there are no excuses anymore in Vancouver.”

If a Puck Daddy prediction doesn’t float your boat, a boost from ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun is sure to do the trick.

In Canucks: 10 Things You Need To Know, LeBrun points to changes Vancouver made on the blueline over the past two seasons as a big reason for the team being considered a major contender.

The revamped second line and the team’s added scoring depth also made the cut, but again, it comes down to Luongo.

Roberto Luongo had a charged offseason, dropping the captaincy, changing goalie coaches, adjusting his playing style and once again dealing with critics who say he was mostly to blame for the Canucks' playoff loss to Chicago. Sink or swim, much of Vancouver's success this season will once again depend on its star goalie.”

Prediction: “The Canucks will romp through the Northwest, finish first in the division and top the tough Western Conference. It's time to get giddy, Canucks fans.”

Oh we’re past giddy by now.

Sticking with ESPN, prior to last season Barry Melrose successfully predicted the Chicago Blackhawks would beat the Philadelphia Flyers in six games to win the Cup. Clearly the guy knows what he’s saying so you'll be pumped with his prediction this year.

I really like what I’m hearing from Melrose.

He tips his hat to Luongo being one the best netminders in the game, to the defence being the best in the West and to an offence that is going to score a lot of goals. In the end, he’s taking them to beat Washington and capture Lord Stanley.

“O Can-ada,” proclaimed Melrose. “Vancouver, that’s a good hockey team.”

Why will they beat the Capitals, though?

“Because they’re better defensively. Like how Montreal beat them. If you can shut down Washington’s offence, you shut down Backstrom and Ovechkin, you’re going to beat them and that’s what Vancouver will do, they’ll put Kesler on somebody, they’ll have Hamhuis out there, they’ll have Bieksa in your face; they’ll make life misurable for those scorers of Washington. They’re just too good defensively for Washington’s offence.”

Well said. Same goes for NBC Sports, a station that typically doesn’t know two cents about hockey.

In a well laid out look at the Canucks, Joe Yerdon of NBC Sports’ ProHockeyTalk provided a Best Case Scenario and Vancouver’s Stanley Cup Chances, both of which are must-reads for anyone doubting the Canucks.

“Best-case scenario: This one is easy. They get the same kind of season from the Sedins (or better) while Burrows continues to be the dirty kind of 30-goal scorer he was last year. The defense does what they're built for and makes Luongo's season easier to play in nets while Cory Schneider makes sure he's well rested. The Canucks steamroll through their division and through the playoffs to the Stanley Cup finals and lifting Lord Stanley's Cup for the first time in franchise history.

“Stanley Cup chances: On a scale from 1-5, with one being the worst and five being the best, the Canucks are an absolute 5. This team is deep, they are very talented and they've got superstars all around the lineup. They've got all the parts in place to win the organization's first Stanley Cup and considering it's their 40th anniversary season, it'd be all too poetic of a finish to get it done this year.”

Obviously this is all just jaw-time and while Vancouver is hoping all the above pundits are correct, there’s no way to really know until the Cup is handed out.

Or is there?

A simulation of how the 2010-11 season will play out was just released by EA Sports NHL 11 and, sticking with the theme of this story, the Canucks win it all.

It’s just a game, I’m with you there, but last year this same game predicted Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup victory.

According to the EA Spots press release: “The Vancouver Canucks look to dominate the season and leave all teams in their wake en route to their first Stanley Cup victory since they were named the Millionaires back in 1915.”

After a President’s Trophy 50+ win and 109-point season for the Canucks, they’ll take down the Flames in the first round 4-1 before silencing the Blues in seven games. The Kings will be crowned by the Canucks in the West Final, 4-2, leaving the Canucks to face the Boston Bruins, the champions of the East, for the Cup.

“In the finals, it will take all seven games and a career performance from Conn Smythe Trophy winner Daniel Sedin for the Vancouver Canucks to defeat the Boston Bruins in front of an ecstatic crowd at Rogers Arena.”

If predictions are for gypsies, then I’m a gypsy because I can’t get enough of what is being forecast for the Canucks this season.

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