9 Vancouver Canucks Few changes for a young team that was overpowering down the stretch

October 13, 2002

The season had barely ended, but general manager Brian Burke's
decision was made--he was taking the summer off. The Canucks were
the NHL's hottest team going into the playoffs last spring,
finishing the regular season on a 28-9-3-3 run. They scored a
league-best 254 goals and had the second- and third-leading
scorers, Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi, respectively. Burke
was not about to tinker with the chemistry of his high-powered
club, which won the first two games in Round 1 against the
eventual Stanley Cup-champion Red Wings, only to lose the next
four. With the club's payroll already maxed out (about $31
million), Burke knew he couldn't significantly upgrade the team,
let alone sign his own free agents, playmaking center Andrew
Cassels and steady defenseman Scott Lachance. So heading into the
season Vancouver is shaping up to be the same team it was last
year--good, but not good enough.

"We had a weak start [14-21-4-0] and pretty much crawled into the
playoffs," says Bertuzzi, a bruising left wing who had a breakout
season with 36 goals and 85 points. "Knowing how tough the
Western Conference is, it's key to come out of the gate strong."
The Canucks, who finished last season 42-30-7-3, will again rely
on their potent offense, with Bertuzzi, Naslund and center
Brendan Morrison (67 points) forming a dynamic first line. But
depth is a concern. Twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin, the second and
third players drafted, respectively, in 1999, have yet to fulfill
their promise, and with Cassels gone the team lacks scoring
options.

On the blue line Vancouver acquired hard-shooting defenseman Sami
Salo from the Senators for holdout winger Peter Schaefer. Salo
will likely be paired with All-Star and Norris Trophy candidate
Ed Jovanovski. "Salo's a good one-on-one player and has a cannon
for a shot," says Dave Nonis, the director of hockey operations.
"He gives us a threat on the power play."

If the Canucks want to be among the Western Conference's elite,
they'll need solid play from inconsistent goaltender Dan Cloutier
and strong performances from the supporting cast to complement
their star power. "The bar has to be raised," says Bertuzzi. "We
haven't raised it high enough, and I think it's time we
started." --Andrea Woo

COLOR PHOTO: ANDY CLARK/REUTERS Todd Bertuzzi

FAST FACT
Markus Naslund's second-place finish in the NHL scoring race
last season was the best in franchise history.

INSIDER

CATEGORY SI RANKING SKINNY

OFFENSE 3 Bertuzzi, Naslund provide dazzling
one-two punch
DEFENSE 10 Look for a more mature Jovanovski to
dominate
GOALTENDING 20 Cloutier must not allow as many soft
goals
SPECIAL TEAMS 3 PP will be awesome; Chubarov, Cooke,
Linden excel on PK
MANAGEMENT 4 G.M. Burke assembled team with speed,
size, skill

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)