5 Vancouver Canucks An offensive juggernaut with a heavy Swedish accent is talking of nothing less than the Cup

October 12, 2003

Expectations are high in Vancouver or, as some like to call it,
Stockholm West. There are seven regulars from Sweden on the
Canucks' roster, including captain Markus Naslund. They join
monster right wing Todd Bertuzzi and Norris Trophy-caliber
defenseman Ed Jovanovski on a team that should comfortably return
to the playoffs. But a premature exit, like the shocking
second-round loss after being up three games to one to the Wild
last spring, is no longer acceptable. "Our expectations have to
be higher," says Bertuzzi.

And well they should, given that Vancouver has the NHL's most
explosive linemates--Bertuzzi and Naslund combined for 94 goals
and 201 points last season. But the Canucks will remain
vulnerable in the playoffs unless they develop a second scoring
unit. They added free-agent wing Magnus Arvedson, a checker with
the Senators but a projected second-liner in Vancouver. He could
flank identical twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who have virtually
been spectators in Vancouver's steady rise from the Canuckleheads
who missed the playoffs from 1996-97 through 1999-2000 to Stanley
Cup threats.

After three years in the league the brothers have averaged a
combined 65 points per season, but many observers think this will
be their breakout year. "I expect nothing but outstanding play
from them," Bertuzzi says. "Daniel's a 30-goal scorer and Hank's
a 60-point guy."

The biggest problem for the Canucks is that they give up too many
goals at pivotal moments. For the third straight postseason Dan
Cloutier ranked near the bottom among playoff goaltenders in save
percentage. Thus, to give coach Marc Crawford a viable
alternative if Cloutier falters again, Burke acquired--what
else?--a Swede, Johan (the Moose) Hedberg, in a trade with
Pittsburgh.

Burke says he does not check passports, just hockey ability, and
Vancouver has enough of that to make it to the Western Conference
finals, maybe beyond. Given the popularity of the Maple Leafs,
the Canucks probably wouldn't become Canada's Team even if they
won the Cup. Being Sweden's Team is a nice consolation. --M.F.

COLOR PHOTO COLOR PHOTO: JEFF VINNICK (NASLUND) MARKUS NASLUND

SI RANKING
( 1 Best - 30 Worst )

OFFENSE 3
DEFENSE 11
GOALTENDING 22
POWER PLAY 3
PENALTY KILLING 9
G.M. AND COACH 9

INSIDER

Ed Jovanovski might be the most feared two-way blueliner in the
league. He jumps into the play well and is also a devastating
bodychecker.... Over the last two years G.M. Brian Burke has done
a good job of adding complementary players such as defensemen
Sami Salo and Marek Malik and F's Mats Lindgren and Magnus
Arvedson.... The Canucks must play with more self-control early
in games. They're overly aggressive and take too many penalties,
often putting themselves in a hole.

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)