Since we're well into the dog days of summer as far as hockey news is concerned, the least we can do is offer a quick look ahead to what's coming for the seven Canadian NHL teams this season.
With a month to go until training camp, I've asked a blogger from each city to weigh in on how their team has changed since last season and where they believe they rank in their conference. We'll run one team every weekday, with the sixth part of our series today on the Vancouver Canucks.
Who's in? Marco Sturm, Byron Bitz, Alexander Sulzer, Andrew Ebbett
Who's out? Christian Ehrhoff, Raffi Torres, Jeff Tambellini, Tanner Glass, Rick Rypien
The Canucks were the kings of the regular season, shattering franchise bests in wins (54) and points (117) to win their first ever Presidents' Trophy as the league's top team.
Incredibly, Vancouver led the NHL in goals for, goals against and on the power play. Their penalty kill, meanwhile, tied for the second best in the league.
That success carried over to the playoffs as well, at least until the final, where they ran into injuries and the Boston Bruins, eventually losing the Stanley Cup in Game 7 on home ice.
For a few thoughts on what's in store for the Canucks this coming season, here's the venerable Tom Benjamin with reasons for optimism, pessimism and a midsummer prediction as to how they'll finish.
Reasons for optimism:
"The most important reason for optimism in 2011-12 is the season the Canucks put forward in 2010-11. They will miss Christian Ehrhoff and they need Keith Ballard to find his game to compensate for the loss. Otherwise Vancouver will be pretty much the same group and fans can reasonably expect excellent results from an excellent team."
Causes for concern:
"A reason for pessimism? The Canucks can hardly be better given that they won the Presidents' Trophy, scored the most goals, gave up the fewest and very nearly won a Stanley Cup. In other words, the only direction they can really go is down. That they will start the year with key players hurt may be signalling tougher luck next season and good luck was one reason for the success last year. They could have a very good year and still drop in the standings."
Predicted finish in the West:
"It is hard to imagine anyone but the Canucks winning the Northwest Division, so the worst they will finish is third in the West. I expect San Jose, Vancouver, and Detroit to scrap it out for the top spot again. I pick Vancouver, but only because they will gain a few points playing in a weak division."
Now I'll turn it over to you in the comments section: How do you think the Canucks will do this season?
Friday: The Winnipeg Jets