Keep in mind that these are assessments made without painstaking research and are not meant to be "official" predictions. Whatever that means, anyway...
The Vancouver Canucks' hopes are hitched to three workhorses for the forseeable future. For at least the next 5 years, Vancouver goes as Roberto Luongo and the Sedins go. Whatever you may say about the crazy lifetime contracts being thrown around, there are worse players to have locked up for the remainder of their best days than Bobby Lou.
So, the good news is that the Canucks locked up their best players for fairly reasonable cap hits.
The bad news is that the 2010 Olympics are going to completely screw them over.
In last year's BoC bubble updates, my main theory was that the main thing non-elite teams was the difficulty of their remaining schedules. Well, by that train of thought, it's very difficult for me to justify the idea of the Canucks winning their division.
On the bright side, though, I find it hard to imagine Vancouver missing the playoffs entirely. This team is considerably stronger than Edmonton, Minnesota and Colorado even with the handicap of their fairly insane road schedule.
Photoshop by Katchop
The Canucks won't be blowing many teams out, as even their best forwards (Sedins, Kesler, Burrows) tend to get their points by grinding other teams to dust.
Even after losing heart-and-soul D Matt Ohlund to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Canucks have one of the deepest groups of blueliners in the NHL. It doesn't get much better than Kevin Bieska - Sami Salo - Wille Mitchell -Alex Edler - Mathieu Schneider - Christian Ehrhoff - Shane O'Brien. It wouldn't be surprising if one of those seven ended up in a salary dump, but either way that's a versatile bunch.
And, of course, the Canucks feature arguably the world's greatest goaltender in Luongo. To make him look even more world class, they brought in Andrew Raycroft, a guy who inexplicably remains in the NHL while guys likeManny Fernandez wait in UFA limbo. If Luongo is injured again next season, it's pretty hard to imagine the Canucks opting for Raycroft over their solid prospect Corey Schneider.
Overall, there's a lot to like about the Canucks but a rough schedule will derail Vancouver's division title hopes.
Lightly researched, impulsive prediction: #2 in the Northwest Division, #5 in the Western Conference