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Game On: Previewing the Northwest Division

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames
Untitled Document

It's Game On for the 2006-07 National Hockey League season.

And it's Game On in the Northwest Division, often referred to as the toughest division in hockey because it features contenders like Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Minnesota and Vancouver and because rivalries abound.

Over the past two seasons the two Alberta entries, Calgary and Edmonton, have advanced out of the division and into the Stanley Cup Final.

There were changes to every roster in the division, changes in management and changes in coaches, too.

Perhaps what makes the division so competitive is the rivalries within it.

"Having played in Colorado and now being here, I know there will be a lot of rivalries in the division and I will be ready for it," said Alex Tanguay, one of the Calgary Flames key off-season acquisitions."The division games are so important. You play each other so many times."

Below is a team-by-team preview of the Northwest Division, including key moves in the off-season and players to watch throughout the season.

Key Off-Season Signings/Acquisitions

May 10: Re-signed C Stephane Yelle.
June 6: Re-signed RW Chuck Kobasew.
June 19: Re-signed RW Kristian Huselius.
June 24: Acquired LW Alex Tanguay from Colorado for D Jordan Leopold, Calgary''s 2nd round pick in the 2006 Entry Draft (59th overall) and future considerations.
July 1: Signed D Andrei Zyuzin.
July 5: Signed LW Jeff Friesen.
July 6: Signed G Jamie McLennan.
July 12: Named Jim Playfair head coach and Wayne Fleming assistant coach.
July 27: Signed D Brad Ference.
Aug. 17: Re-signed C Matthew Lombardi.
Sept. 5: Signed 2001 2nd-round pick (41st overall), C Andrei Taratukhin.

Who''s the Story

Superstar RW Jarome Iginla led the Flames in goals (35), power-play goals (17), points (67) and shots (293). The Flames were 18-7-4 when Iginla scored and 13-1-1 when he had a multi-point game.

Most goals, past four seasons:

1. Jarome Iginla, Calgary 163
2. Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta 160
3. Markus Naslund, Vancouver 155

* * * * *

G Miikka Kiprusoff captured his first Vezina Trophy as the League's outstanding goaltender. Kiprusoff led the NHL in goals-against average (2.03) and shutouts (10), ranked second in victories (42) and was third in save percentage (.923). He backstopped the Flames to their first division title since 1994-95 by posting an 8-0-3 record in April with a 1.01 goals-against average and two shutouts. He also captured his first William Jennings Trophy as the goaltender on the club allowing the fewest goals during the regular season.

* * * * *

Dion Phaneuf earned a spot on the talented, deep Calgary defense corps and made a major impact at both ends of the ice in 2005-06. Phaneuf led all rookie defensemen in scoring with 49 points (20 goals, 29 assists), becoming the third blueliner in NHL history to score 20 goals as a rookie after the New York Rangers' Brian Leetch (23 in 1988-89) and Colorado Rockies' Barry Beck (22 in 1977-78). His big shot from the point was a major asset to Calgary's power play; Phaneuf tallied 16 of his 20 goals with the man advantage.

New head coach Jim Playfair is a familiar face, having served in the Flames' organization for six years, most recently as assistant coach since January, 2003.

Playfair joined the organization in August, 2000 as head coach of the Saint John Flames, Calgary''s primary development club of the American Hockey League. During the 2000-01 season, his first of three seasons behind the bench in Saint John, Playfair led the Flames to their first AHL Calder Cup championship and was named minor professional coach of the year by The Hockey News.

Prior to joining the Flames organization, Playfair was the head coach of the Michigan K-Wings of the International Hockey League. He served as an assistant coach with the K-Wings for three seasons before being named head coach on January 25, 2000. His other head coaching experience includes three seasons as bench boss of the Dayton Bombers of the East Coast Hockey League.

The 42-year old native of Fort St. James, B.C. played nine pro seasons, including 21 games in the NHL with Edmonton and Chicago. Playfair was Edmonton''s first choice, 20th overall, in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft.

* * * * *

LW Alex Tanguay, 26, has been a prolific NHL scorer since his League debut as a 19-year-old with Colorado. In 2005-06 Tanguay scored 78 points (29 goals, 49 assists) in 71 games with the Avalanche, finishing second on the club in points, goals and assists. In 450 career NHL games, Tanguay has posted 400 points (137 goals, 263 assists).

Selected 12th overall in the 1998 Entry Draft, Tanguay tallied 51 points (17 goals, 34 assists) in his rookie season of 1999-2000. In 2002-03, he tallied 26 goals and 41 assists and a +34 rating in 82 games, finishing the season third on the Avalanche in scoring. Between February 11 and March 7 of 2003, Tanguay recorded a 16-game point streak (10 goals, 16 assists in that span), the NHL''s longest of the 2002-03 season and the longest point streak in Avalanche history.

* * * * *

C Daymond Langkow played in all 82 games with Calgary in 2005-06 season, finishing second on the club in scoring with 59 points (25 goals, 34 assists). In 707 NHL career games with Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Calgary, the Edmonton native has 413 points (161 goals, 252 assists). Langkow has posted at least 30 assists and 50 points in each of the past six seasons, at least 20 goals in each of the past four, and has missed only two games due to injury in the past four campaigns (in 2001-02).

10-year NHL veteran C Stephane Yelle was the Flames' top face-off man in 2005-06 (55.4%) and ranked second on the club with a +10 rating. He appeared in 74 games, recording 18 points (4-14--18).

* * * * *

RW Tony Amonte enters the 2006-07 season with 870 points (406 goals, 464 assists) in 1,093 NHL games over 14 seasons with the New York Rangers, Chicago, Phoenix, Philadelphia and Calgary. In his first season with the Flames in 2005-06, the Hingham, Mass. native recorded 14-28-42 in 80 games.

* * * * *

D Roman Hamrlik, 32, is the Flames' most experienced defenseman. Hamrlik has appeared in 924 NHL games over 13 seasons with Tampa Bay, Edmonton, New York Islanders and Calgary, notching 467 career points (124 goals, 343 assists) and averaging 24:49 in ice time per game over the past seven seasons.

* * * * *

A fixture on the Calgary blueline, D Robyn Regehr managed to set career highs in goals (six), assists (20) and points (26) despite missing the first month of the season due to a knee injury. Skating in his sixth NHL season, all with the Flames, Regehr led the club in average ice time per game (23:08).

* * * * *

D Andrew Ference's third season in Calgary was his best, setting career highs in games (82), assists (27) and points (31). The 5-10, 196-lb. Edmonton native logged significant ice time in the Stanley Cup playoffs, placing second on the club with 23:08 per game.

Key Off-Season Signings/Acquisitions

May 24: Named Francois Giguere executive vice president and general manager.
June 20: Re-signed C Joe Sakic.
June 24: Acquired D Jordan Leopold, Calgary''s 2nd-round pick in the 2006 Entry Draft (59th overall) and future considerations for LW Alex Tanguay.
June 27: Re-signed LW Antti Laaksonen and D Ossi Vaananen.
June 30: Re-signed D Brett Clark and D Karlis Skrastins.
July 1: Signed C Tyler Arnason.
July 10: Re-signed D Kurt Sauer.
July 12: Re-signed D John-Michael Liles.
July 13: Re-signed G Peter Budaj and C Cody McCormick.
July 24: Signed D Ken Klee and 2005 2nd-round pick (44th overall), C Paul Stastny (University of Denver).
Sept. 5: Re-signed RW Marek Svatos.

Who''s the Story

C Joe Sakic, entering his 18th NHL season and 14th as team captain, has played his entire career with the Avalanche franchise, the longest such streak among active players. Sakic holds Avalanche franchise records for career goals, assists and points in the regular season and playoffs. He ranks 11th on the all-time list in points (1,489), 15th in assists (915) and 17th in goals (574). Only five players in NHL history have tallied more points with one organization (Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe, Ray Bourque and Steve Yzerman).

In 2005-06, Sakic registered his eighth career and second consecutive 30-goal season, his first back-to-back 30-goal seasons since 1989-90 (39) and 1990-91 (48). His 87 points and 55 assists led the Avalanche in both categories and he finished tied with Marek Svatos for the club goal-scoring lead. He appeared in all 82 games for the third time in the past five seasons and has missed just one game in his last two campaigns. In the Stanley Cup playoffs, Sakic passed the legendary Maurice Richard by scoring his NHL-record seventh career overtime playoff goal.

New GM Francois Giguere, 42, returns to the franchise with which he began his hockey career over 16 years ago. Before spending the past five years with the Dallas Stars as Assistant GM, Giguere served as VP of Hockey Operations for the Avalanche in 2000-01. His roots with the organization date to 1990, when he served as controller in the finance department with the Quebec Nordiques. Giguere moved to hockey administration (1992-95) and served as Assistant GM from 1995-2000.

* * * * *

Clutch goal scoring marked the rookie season of RW Marek Svatos. Nine of his 32 goals were game-winners, matching Steve Larmer''s rookie record in 1982-83. In addition, 13 of his 32 goals tied the game or gave the Avalanche the lead.

Svatos, 24, tallied a hat trick in his second game of the season and had compiled 50 points (32 goals and 18 assists) in 61 games before a fractured shoulder sidelined him for the remainder of the season. At the time of his injury, his 32 goals trailed only Alex Ovechkin among rookies and his 50 points ranked him third behind Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. Svatos tied for club goal lead with Joe Sakic ranked third among NHL rookie goal scorers.

"Along with Alex Ovechkin, Dion Phaneuf and Sidney Crosby, Svatos was a part of the outstanding and exciting new brand of NHL players that made their debut last year. We are expecting him to be a huge offensive contributor to our team again this season." - Avalanche GM Francois Giguere, Sept. 5, 2006.

* * * * *

D John-Michael Liles, 25, surpassed his rookie totals in every scoring category last year, compiling 14 goals, 35 assists and 49 points. One of six Avalanche players to skate in all 82 games, Liles finished second among Avalanche defensemen in points and tied Rob Blake for first in goals. Liles became the first NHL defenseman to record 30 or more points in each of his first two seasons since New Jersey's Brian Rafalski (''99-00, ''00-01).

A product of the U.S. National Under-17 and Under-18 programs and an All-American selection in his senior year at Michigan State, the Zionsville, Indiana native made his Olympic debut with Team USA at the 2006 Winter Games, playing in all six contests for the United States (0 goals, 2 assists).

* * * * *

D Jordan Leopold, 25, will be playing in his fourth NHL season and first with Colorado. Leopold played in 74 games with Calgary last season, recording 20 points on two goals and 18 assists. He posted a +6 plus/minus rating and finished second on the team in average time on ice (22:19). He skated in all seven playoff games for the Flames, notching one assist.

Before joining the Flames, the Golden Valley, Minn. native starred for four seasons at the University of Minnesota, serving as team captain during the 2001-02 NCAA championship season. Leopold posted 48 points (20 goals, 28 assists) in 44 games en-route to capturing the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as college hockey's outstanding player.

G Jose Theodore is entering his 10th NHL season and first full campaign with the Avalanche. Acquired from Montreal at the trade deadline last season, Theodore missed the bulk of late-season action due to injury but sparkled in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Theodore started all nine playoff games for the Avalanche, winning each of his first three starts and going 3-0 in overtime games against Dallas in the Conference Quarterfinals, including a 50-save performance in a 3-2 overtime victory in Game Five to close out the Avalanche's first-round series against the Stars.

* * * * *

RW Milan Hejduk, one of the NHL's most dangerous offensive players, returns for his eighth season in Colorado. Among the long list of Hejduk's career accomplishments are a spot on the NHL All-Rookie Team in 1999, the NHL Second All-Star Team in 2003, consecutive NHL All-Star Game appearances in 2000 and 2001 and the Maurice Richard Trophy as the NHL's top goal-scorer in 2003.

In 2005-06, Hejduk finished fourth on the team in both goals (24) and points (58), marking his sixth consecutive 20-goal season. He led the Avalanche with 14 power-play goals and was a team-best +13. In the Stanley Cup playoffs, he tied for the team lead with nine points -- including 2-5--7 in the five-game Conference Quarterfinals victory against Dallas -- and led the team with a +3 rating.

* * * * *

D Karlis Skrastins is a familiar face in the Avalanche lineup - he's never out of it. Skrastins, obtained from Nashville in June, 2003, appeared in all 82 games for the fifth consecutive season in 2005-06 and has played in 433 consecutive games -- the longest active streak in the NHL and the second-longest streak by a defenseman in NHL history. Blueliner Tim Horton set the record of 486 consecutive games with the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1961 to 1968.

* * * * *

LW Andrew Brunette was a valuable addition to the Avalanche offense in 2005-06. Brunette established a career high with 24 goals and ranked third on the team with 63 points, the second-highest point total of his 11-year NHL career.

In the Stanley Cup playoffs, Brunette tied for the team lead with nine points (three goals, six assists) in nine games, including the series-clinching goal in overtime in Game 5 of the Conference Quarterfinals at Dallas. Brunette joined Florida's Martin Gelinas (three) and Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis (two) as the only active players to record two series-clinching, overtime goals in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Key Off-Season Signings/Acquisitions

July 1: Re-signed G Dwayne Roloson and RW Fernando Pisani.
July 3: Obtained RW Joffrey Lupul, D Ladislav Smid, Anaheim's 1st-round pick in the 2007 Entry Draft, 2nd-round pick in 2008 and a conditional draft pick from Anaheim for D Chris Pronger.
July 4: Signed C Marty Reasoner.
July 6: Signed D Daniel Tjarnqvist.
July 14: Re-signed C Shawn Horcoff.
July 20: Re-signed head coach Craig MacTavish.
July 21: Re-signed C Jarret Stoll.
July 25: Re-signed RW Ales Hemsky.
Aug. 11: Signed C/W Petr Sykora.
Aug. 17: Re-signed C Toby Petersen.
Sept. 5: Signed 2000 1st-round pick (17th overall), LW Alexei Mikhnov.

Who''s the Story

Selected sixth overall by Edmonton in the 1994 Entry Draft, LW Ryan Smyth has been an Oiler throughout his 11 NHL seasons and 717 career games. The Banff, Alberta native has recorded seven 20-goal seasons, including a 36-goal campaign in 2005-06, the most since a career-high 39 in his sophomore season of 1996-97.

'It's a mystery. We try and figure out how he scores so much all the time. He has got a horrible shot, terrible stick. I don't know. He's a hockey player. He knows how to play the game." - Oilers LW Ethan Moreau, June 12, 2006.

"If I want to keep my job, it's best not to trade Ryan Smyth. He forever has epitomized what an Oiler is and what a hockey player is, particularly in Canada, in this case, western Canada. I mean, those guys don't come around every day ...
He should be an Oiler forever." - Oilers GM Kevin Lowe, June 7, 2006.

* * * * *

RW Ales Hemsky returns for his fourth season with the Oilers. The 23-year-old is one of the NHL''s young offensive stars, as he led all Edmonton scorers in 2005-06 with 77 points (19 goals, 58 assists) in 81 games. He established single-season career highs in most offensive categories and led the Oilers in assists.

His offensive contributions continued during the Oilers'' Stanley Cup playoff run, as he scored 6-11--17 in 24 games to finish fourth on the Edmonton scoring list and 11th in the NHL. Hemsky tied Fernando Pisani for the team scoring lead in the Stanley Cup Final against the Carolina Hurricanes with six points (two goals, four assists) in the seven-game series.

"He's one of those guys that on the bench you get caught watching him and we look at each other every game and just shake our's unbelievable the skill level he has." - Oilers LW Ethan Moreau, June 13, 2006.

The Oilers obtained two top prospects from Anaheim in the Chris Pronger trade, 22-year-old RW Joffrey Lupul and 20-year-old D Ladislav Smid:

* Lupul, who hails from Edmonton, established career highs in goals (28), assists (25) and points (53) in 2005-06, his third NHL season, and led the Ducks in shots on goal with 295. The Ducks' first pick, seventh overall, in the 2002 Entry Draft, Lupul became the first player in League history to score four goals in a playoff game, with one being the overtime winner, on May 9, 2006, in Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinal at Colorado.

* Smid, the Ducks' first pick, ninth overall, in the 2004 Entry Draft, played his first season in North America with the AHL''s Portland Pirates in 2005-06 after playing three seasons with HC Liberec in the Czech Elite League. Smid notched 3-25--28 in 71 games with the Pirates and represented the Czech Republic at the 2006 World Junior Championships in British Columbia, registering 1-1--2 in six games.

* * * * *

Born and raised in Edmonton, favorite son RW Fernando Pisani was a playoff hero, leading all postseason players with 14 goals and five game-winning goals. He also topped all players in the Stanley Cup Final with five tallies.

Most Goals, 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs:

14 - Fernando Pisani, Edmonton
12 - Rod Brind'Amour, Carolina

Most Game-Winning Goals, 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs:

5 - Fernando Pisani, Edmonton
4 - Rod Brind'Amour, Carolina

Most Goals, 2006 Stanley Cup Final:

5 - Fernando Pisani, Edmonton
3 - Rod Brind'Amour, Carolina
- Ray Whitney, Carolina

The acquisition of G Dwayne Roloson from Minnesota at the trade deadline paid significant dividends, as the 36-year-old native of Simcoe, Ontario native provided the Oilers with stellar netminding during the final month of the regular season and was key to the team''s drive to the Stanley Cup Final.

In the Stanley Cup playoffs, Roloson compiled a 12-5 record with a 2.33 GAA and one shutout before being sidelined with a knee injury in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against Carolina. Prior to the injury, Roloson was among the NHL playoff leaders in several categories and ended the post-season ranked second in wins (12), save percentage (.927) and shutouts (one) and was fifth in goals-against average (2.33).

Roloson started 19 consecutive regular-season games from Mar. 9 - Apr. 13, falling one short of the team record for most consecutive complete games shared by Bill Ranford and Grant Fuhr. Roloson registered an 8-7-4 record with a 2.42 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage.

* * * * *

D Jason Smith, 32, enters his 13th NHL season, eighth with the Oilers and fifth as captain. The Calgary native played an average of 22:38 per game in the Oilers' playoff run in 2006, third on the club, and contributed 1-4--5 and a +5 rating in 24 games.

"You're never going to see puppy dog eyes on him. He's never going to crack, never give up, and that's what drives everybody else. You have to make sure your part in the chain isn't going to break." - Oilers D Matt Greene, to the Edmonton Journal, June 5, 2006.

* * * * *

Two Oilers 1st-round picks, C Rob Schremp (25th overall in 2004) and LW Alexei Mikhnov (17th overall in 2000) will be in camp competing for a roster spot.

* Schremp, 20, was one of the top players in Canadian major junior hockey last season, recording 145 points (57 goals, 88 assists) in 57 games with the OHL's London Knights. The Syracuse, NY native added 10-37--47 in 19 playoff games.

* Mikhnov, 24, matched his career high with 14 goals in 40 games with Russian club Yaroslavl and led his team with 4-4--8 in 11 postseason games. Mikhnov also represented Russia at the 2006 World Hockey Championships in Latvia, ranking second on the team in goals and tied for third on the team in points with 4-2--6 in seven games.

Key Off-Season Signings/Acquisitions

May 1: Signed 2005 1st-round pick (4th overall), LW Benoit Pouliot (Sudbury, OHL).
June 1: Signed G Niklas Backstrom.
June 19: Exercised option on C Brian Rolston.
June 21: Re-signed D Kurtis Foster.
June 24: Acquired C Pavol Demitra from Los Angeles for C Patrick O'Sullivan and Edmonton's 1st-round pick in the 2006 Entry Daft (previously acquired, 17th overall).
June 24: Re-signed RW Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
July 1: Signed RW Mark Parrish, D Keith Carney and D Kim Johnsson.
July 5: Re-signed RW Marian Gaborik.
July 6: Signed RW Branko Radivojevic and re-signed LW Derek Boogaard.
July 10: Re-signed D Brent Burns.
July 13: Re-signed LW Pascal Dupuis.
July 18: Re-signed C Mikko Koivu.

Who''s the Story

LW Marian Gaborik, 24, posted a career-high and team-leading 38 goals in 2005-06, his fifth NHL season, despite missing 17 games early in the campaign due to a nagging groin injury. It marked the third time in the past four NHL seasons that the first Entry Draft selection in franchise history and its all-time scoring leader had reached the 30-goal plateau.

* * * * *

LW/C Pavol Demitra, 31, joins fellow Trencin, Slovakia native and close friend Marian Gaborik in a highly anticipated partnership. In addition to three 35-plus goal seasons, Demitra has eclipsed the 50-assist mark twice, registering 52 in 1998-99 and a career-high 57 in 2002-03 en route to a personal-best 93 points and a sixth-place finish in the NHL scoring race. The 12-year veteran has amassed 581 points (241 goals, 340 assists) in 611 career regular-season games with Ottawa, St. Louis and Los Angeles.

G Manny Fernandez assumes the number one goaltending role following the departure of Dwayne Roloson to Edmonton at the trading deadline last March. It marks the first time Fernandez will expect the receive the bulk of the workload; he split goaltending duties with Jamie McLennan in the club's inaugural season of 2000-01 and had worked in tandem with Roloson since 2001-02.

In 2005-06, Fernandez established career highs and club records for appearances (58) and wins (30), while posting a 2.29 goals-against-average and a .919 save percentage. He ranked sixth in the NHL in both GAA and save percentage and set franchise records for consecutive starts (13) and minutes played (3,412).

In 249 career NHL games over 10 seasons with Dallas and Minnesota, Fernandez owns a 103-97-31 record with a career 2.46 GAA and 11 shutouts.

* * * * *

Free agent RW Mark Parrish, a six-time 20-goal scorer, brings more firepower to the Minnesota lineup. Parrish, 29, scored 29 goals in 76 games with the New York Islanders and Los Angeles Kings in 2005-06, one shy of his personal best of 30, set in 2001-02 with the Islanders. He also has recorded a 26-goal season and three 24-goal campaigns.

A native of the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington, Parrish becomes the most prominent NHL player born in Minnesota to don the Wild sweater. He won back-to-back state high school hockey championships with Bloomington Jefferson in 1993 and 1994 before spending two seasons with St. Cloud State. He also represented the United States at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, the 2001 and 2005 World Hockey Championships and the 1996 and 1997 World Junior Hockey Championships.

* * * * *

C Brian Rolston enjoyed a career year in his first season with the Wild, establishing a career high and franchise record for points in a season with 79 and setting career highs with 34 goals and 45 assists. In addition, Rolston led the team with a career-high +14 rating, 15 power-play goals and five shorthanded markers, and shared the club lead with 20 multi-point contests and seven game-winning goals. He ranked second on team in average time on ice (20:21) and appeared in all 82 games. Wes Walz was the only other Wild player to participate in all 82 games.

The Flint, Michigan native and three-time Olympian has tallied 511 points (224 goals, 287 assists) in 818 career games with New Jersey, Colorado, Boston and Minnesota. He was a member of the 1995 Stanley Cup champion New Jersey team coached by Wild head coach Jacques Lemaire.

The Wild shored up their blueline with off-season free agent signings Kim Johnsson and Keith Carney.

* In Johnsson, the Wild have acquired a blueliner with plenty of offense. Jonsson scored six goals and 19 assists last year in 47 games with the Philadelphia Flyers despite missing 31 games and the Olympics with post-concussion symptoms.

Johnsson was named the Flyers' most outstanding defenseman in 2003-04, when he led team blueliners in scoring with 13-29--42. He also led Flyer rearguards in points in 2001-02 (41) and 2002-03 (39). Johnsson has notched 194 points (51-143--194), including 22 power-play goals, in 442 career NHL games during six seasons with the New York Rangers and Philadelphia.

* In Carney, Minnesota gets size and veteran leadership. The 36-year-old is a 14-year NHL veteran who boasts a career plus/minus rating of +134. The 6-1, 216-lb. native of Providence, R.I. has recorded 200 points (40 goals, 160 assists) in 877 NHL games.

The Wild will be Carney's sixth NHL team. He appeared in 61 games with the Anaheim Ducks last season before being sent to Vancouver at the trade deadline. He finished the year with two goals and 18 points.

* * * * *

LW Pierre-Marc Bouchard, 22, is coming off his best and most promising season. Minnesota''s first pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft (eighth overall), registered 59 points (17 goals, 42 assists) in 80 games. The totals were all career highs, and his 42 assists ranked second on the club.

* * * * *

Named the first-ever head coach of the Wild in June, 2000, Jacques Lemaire begins his sixth season in Minnesota. With 410 games behind the Wild bench, Lemaire's tenure as the original coach of an expansion team is second all-time to Nashville's Barry Trotz, who enters 2005-06 with 574 games. Lemaire owns a career head-coaching record of 412-344-129 in 885 games over 12 NHL seasons with Montreal, New Jersey and Minnesota.

Highlighting Lemaire's tenure in the State of Hockey was the 2002-03 season, when he led the Wild to a 95-point regular season (second all-time among third-year clubs to Edmonton's 111 points in 1981-82) and, in the post-season, to the Western Conference Final. He received the Jack Adams Trophy, awarded the NHL''s top coach, for the second time in his career.

Lemaire is the only person in NHL history to have competed in 100 or more Stanley Cup playoff games as a player (147) and as a head coach (101).

Key Off-Season Signings/Acquisitions

May 4: Signed 2005 1st-round pick (10th overall), D Luc Bourdon.
June 20: Named Alain Vigneault head coach.
June 23: Obtained G Roberto Luongo, D Lukas Krajicek and Florida's 6th-round pick (163rd overall) in the 2006 Entry Draft from Florida for RW Todd Bertuzzi, G Alex Auld, D Bryan Allen and a conditional pick in 2007.
June 30: Re-signed LW Daniel Sedin and C Henrik Sedin.
July 1: Signed D Willie Mitchell.
July 14: Obtained LW Taylor Pyatt from Buffalo for Vancouver's 4th-round pick in the 2007 Entry Draft.
July 18: Named Rick Bowness, Mike Kelly and Barry Smith assistant coaches.
July 20: Signed C Marc Chouinard.
July 25: Signed C Jan Bulis.
July 28: Signed D Yannick Tremblay.
Aug. 17: Re-signed D Kevin Bieksa and C Tyler Bouck.
Aug. 18: Signed D Rory Fitzpatrick.
Sept. 8: Re-signed LW Alex Burrows.

Who''s the Story

G Roberto Luongo, 27, appeared in a League-leading 75 games with the Florida Panthers in 2005-06, posting a record of 35-30-9 with a 2.97 goals-against average and a save percentage of .914.

In 2003-04, Luongo was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the League's top goaltender, posting single-season career bests in several categories, including goals-against average (2.43), shutouts (seven) and save percentage (.931). He led all goaltenders in saves, eclipsing the previous League record of 2,214 set by Toronto''s Felix Potvin in 1996-97, ranked third in save percentage and fifth in shutouts.

Over his five-year NHL career with Florida and the New York Islanders, Luongo is 115-168-41 with a 2.72 GAA and a save percentage of .919 in 341 games. Luongo has posted 27 shutouts, or one every 12.6 appearances.

Alain Vigneault, 45, becomes the 16th head coach in Canucks history. Vigneault joins Vancouver from the club''s AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose, where he led the club to a 44-24-7 regular-season record and to within one game of the conference finals in the postseason.

He previously served in the NHL as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens from 1997-2001, becoming, at 36, the second-youngest coach in club history. Vigneault has compiled an NHL record of 109-122-35, reaching the Eastern Conference Semifinals during his first season behind the Canadiens bench. In 1999-2000 he was voted a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the Year.

The Gatineau, Quebec native began his NHL playing career with the St. Louis Blues from 1981 to 1983. Drafted by the Blues in the eighth round, 167th overall, in the 1981 Entry Draft, the defenseman recorded two goals and five assists in 42 career NHL games. Vigneault went on to serve as a scout for the Blues for two seasons and as an assistant coach with the Ottawa Senators from 1992 to 1996.

* * * * *

LW Markus Naslund, 33, enters his 13th NHL season, 11th with the Canucks and sixth as team captain. Naslund is one of the NHL's top scorers in recent seasons. The five-time NHL All-Star has led Vancouver in scoring the past seven NHL seasons, beginning with his breakthrough 36-goal campaign of 1998-99.

Most goals, past four seasons:

Jarome Iginla, Cgy 163
Ilya Kovalchuk, Atl 160
Markus Naslund, Van 155

Most assists, past four seasons:

Joe Thornton, Bos/S.J. 257
Brad Richards, T.B. 220
Markus Naslund, Van 202

Most points, past four seasons:

Joe Thornton, Bos/S.J. 367
Markus Naslund, Van 357
Jaromir Jagr, Wsh/NYR 353

Twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who turn 26 on Sept. 26, enter their sixth NHL season. Each set career-high point totals with Vancouver in 2005-06; Henrik tallied 75 points (18 goals, 57 assists) in 82 games and finished second on the club in scoring, while Daniel recorded 71 points (22 goals, 49 assists) in 82 games and was the Canucks' fourth-leading scorer.

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C Brendan Morrison is the Canucks' 'ironman,' having played in 430 consecutive regular-season games, 422 with Vancouver and eight with New Jersey, dating to the 1999-2000 season. It is the second-longest active streak in the League, behind that of Colorado Avalanche D Karlis Skrastins (433). Morrison has tallied 50 or more points in each of his five full seasons in Vancouver, including 56 (19 goals, 37 assists) in 2005-06. The Vancouver-area native (b. Pitt Meadows, B.C.) also has posted a cumulative +53 rating in that span.

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D Willie Mitchell, 29, brings a hard-nosed game to the Vancouver defense corps. The 6-3, 205-lb. native of Port McNeill, B.C. played a total of 80 games during the 2005-06 season with Dallas and Minnesota, recording 10 points (two goals, eight assists) and a +19 rating. Over his six-year NHL career, Mitchell has recorded 61 points (nine goals, 52 assists) in 322 games.

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C Trevor Linden, 36, enters his 18th NHL season and 15th in Vancouver. Linden played his 1,000th game in a Canucks uniform April 13 at San Jose, becoming the first player in franchise history to reach the milestone. Linden is the all-time franchise leader in games (1,001), goals (306) and points (712).

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D Mattias Ohlund, 30, has played his entire eight-year NHL career in a Canucks' uniform. The 6-2, 220-lb. Pitea, Sweden native receives considerable ice time, having averaged more than 25 minutes per game in each season. In 2005-06, Ohlund tallied 33 points (13 goals, 20 assists), including a career-high eight power-play tallies, in 78 games. Ohlund ranks fourth on the all-time Canucks scoring list for defensemen with 67-178--245 in 558 games, trailing Dennis Kearns (321), Jyrki Lumme (321) and Doug Lidster (308).

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