For the Canucks, training camp was like one of those classic-rock
stations that plays Stairway to Heaven over and over. It was
all-Sedins, all-the-time. Here were the 20-year-old twins, Daniel
and Henrik Sedin, being mobbed in Stockholm when Vancouver kicked
off its preseason schedule in their native Sweden. There they
were deluged with interview requests in Toronto on the day after
they arrived in North America. Here they were being prodded,
poked and examined in a frenzy of attention that the NHL hadn't
seen since Eric Lindros appeared on the scene almost 10 years
ago. The irony is that few observers believe that the 6'1",
200-pound left wing Daniel and 6'2", 200-pound center Henrik, the
second and third draft choices, respectively, in 1999, will make
or break the Canucks' fortunes this season.
With top center Mark Messier gone through free agency, Vancouver
plans to be a four-line team, which should relieve some of the
pressure on the Sedins. "The expectations are that we'll want
them to chip in," says assistant coach Mike Johnston about the
twins, who were impressive in the preseason. "The more they chip
in, the better we're going to be. But we're not necessarily going
to count on these guys to save Vancouver."
Post-Messier, the new No. 1 center is Andrew Cassels, a career
No. 2, who was paired in camp with team captain Markus Naslund
(27 goals and 38 assists last season) and improving 23-year-old
wing Peter Schaefer (16 and 15). "We have a lot of young guys
competing for a few spots," says Naslund. "They're hungry, and it
makes for a different atmosphere."
The Canucks, who were 30-37-15-8 in 1999-2000, begin the season
in much better shape on defense than a year ago, when
hard-hitting Ed Jovanovski and hard-shooting Adrian Aucoin were
unsigned and All-Star Mattias Ohlund was hurt. All are happy and
healthy now. In the second half of last season Vancouver's play
took a quantum leap, thanks in large part to the return to form
of 29-year-old goaltender Felix Potvin, who was acquired from the
Islanders in December and went 12-13-7 with a 2.59 goals-against
average with the Canucks.
Since losing in the 1994 Stanley Cup finals, Vancouver has not
had a winning season, and it has missed the playoffs for four
years running. Sedinmania will make this team more attractive at
the box office, but it remains to be seen how much difference it
will make on the ice.
Last season the Canucks lost nine games in overtime, tying the
league record set by the Hartford Whalers in 1992-93.
CATEGORY SI RANKING SKINNY
FORWARDS 21 Bertuzzi could be an impact player
DEFENSE 21 Not nearly enough depth on the back line
GOALTENDING 15 Potvin has to challenge shooters
SPECIAL TEAMS 19 Power play should get a lift from
MANAGEMENT 22 Crawford gets the most out of his