Hockey News mid-season report

January 9, 2006

Nothing too surprising at the start of their Western Conference overview:

THE DEMISE OF THE DETROIT RED WINGS was greatly exaggerated heading into the season, as the club is still among the NHL’s elite. Hot on their heels in the Central are the Nashville Predators, who may be a top scoring center away from challenging for the Cup. The other two divisions in the West are sans sub-.500 participants, as the Northwest and Pacific divisions are the most competitive in the NHL. Hats off to great first halves in L.A., Dallas, Calgary and Edmonton.

It’s not until you get to the end that they lay a surprise prediction on you.

 VANCOUVER Canucks   
2nd place in Northwest (23-14-5, 51 points)

The Canucks started off the season in fine fashion, but have been in a downward spiral in recent weeks. Goaltending has become an even greater issue in B.C., since the usually inconsistent Dan Cloutier is currently on the sidelines because of a knee problem. In his place, Alex Auld has not proven to be capable of handling the load. Also, the team’s once-dominant first line of Markus NaslundBrendan MorrisonTodd Bertuzzi has been only a shadow of its former self. In fact, they were outplayed by the second unit (Daniel SedinHenrik SedinAnson Carter) on most nights in the first half. Big changes could be on the horizon in Vancouver.

Will they make the playoffs?

As it stands right now, Vancouver is sixth in the conference but only 4 behind Calgary for 1st in the NW.  They lead Edmonton by 1.  Yes, that division is fierce.  Yes, they’re goaltending is lukewarm to be kind.

But to claim they won’t make the playoffs is almost Ted Montgomery-like. Their “Who to Watch” section also predicts a Bertuzzi trade to “South Florida.”  Maybe it’s me, but if they trade Bert to Florida, the logical guy in return would be Luongo.  If Vancouver has Luongo, aren’t they considered–even without Bertuzzi–a Cup contender?

More from THN…

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