NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three questions facing the Vancouver Canucks.
The Vancouver Canucks face a lot of big-picture questions as they embark in earnest on a rebuild after finishing 28th and 29th in the NHL standings the past two seasons. But in the short term, the answers to these three will go a long way in determining whether Vancouver can be competitive this season.
[CANUCKS 31 in 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the numbers]
1. Can Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin bounce back?
Henrik and Daniel are coming off their worst season in more than a decade and turn 37 in September. They dismissed age as a reason for last season's drop-off and pledged a bounce-back season as each enters the final year of his contract. But they conceded shortly after last season that their days of leading the NHL in scoring (Henrik in 2009-10 with 112 points; Daniel in 2010-11 with 104) are behind them.
"I think next year I see ourselves going back to putting up numbers," Henrik said. "It's not going to be 80, 90 points … but [putting] up 60, 65, 70 points is not out of the question."
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2. Do they have a No. 1 goaltender?
For the first time since Roberto Luongo arrived in 2006, the Canucks don't have an experienced No. 1. Ryan Miller's decision to sign with the Anaheim Ducks as a free agent left a tandem of Jacob Markstrom and free agent addition Anders Nilsson.
Each is 6-foot-6, 27 years old, and at a similar point in his career. But Markstrom has the inside track after playing for coach Travis Green in the 2015 Calder Cup Final with Utica of the American Hockey League.
"I know [Markstrom] well," Green said. "I had him at a time of his career that is very similar to now, at that stage where he was ready to take the next step, and that step was dominating the AHL and proving he is ready for the NHL. He's done that, he's played well up here when he has played, and now he's ready for another challenge, and that's to see if he's a No. 1 goalie."
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3. Can a new coaching staff fix the power play?
Vancouver's power play ranked 30th during the past five seasons combined (16 percent), and the one constant has been a top unit anchored by Henrik Sedin on the right boards. Expect to see different looks this season.
"You don't want to be predictable," Green said.
In addition to signing versatile free agent forward Sam Gagner, who had 18 of his NHL career-high 50 points on the power play for the Columbus Blue Jackets last season, the Canucks also brought back assistant coach Newell Brown, who was in charge of their power play from 2010-13, a stretch when it ranked second in the NHL (20.7 percent; San Jose Sharks, 21.6).
"We are going to make changes," Green said. "We'll probably employ a couple units we haven't seen before. There are going to be some concepts Newell and I have talked about."