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Canucks could face sloppy shortened season when lockout ends

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If and when the lockout ever ends, and teams race back to the ice with pulled hamstrings and exploding groins everywhere, it would be wise to temper expectations with regards to the local one.

Certainly not “Nathan MacKinnon is ours” tempered, but not “ We can plan the parade route now” either.

The conventional wisdom back in August and throughout September and October was that a lockout shortened season could benefit an older Canucks roster that was nursing an injured Ryan Kesler.

By starting later Kesler could rehab, the team would incur less wear and tear prior to the playoffs (their physical breakdown now an annual sign of the passage of Spring into Summer), and key young players like Zack Kassian and Chris Tanev could incubate in the minors with heavy minutes and inflated roles, hyperdriving their development and joining ship at a sprint, rather than a stumble.

It made some sense, in part, but it’s really all bunk, in sum — at least in terms of giving the team a better shot at ‘winning it all’ this year.

When combined with the stagnating effects of the lockout, the challenges of a compressed shortened-season, and the ‘everybody gets points all the time’ standings distribution, the Canucks as they’re currently constructed are sitting in the path of a possible perfect storm. One that could dash all playoff hope, let alone any Cup ones.

Start with a quick jump around the surrounding landscape. The lockout has ensured that absolutely no one is in game shape, and that any salvaged season will mean stuffing as many games (and travel) as possible into a shorter schedule. Every team will have to wrestle with both of those realities in their own ways, but the Canucks are in especially tough.

Start with the Canucks’ goaltending, which thanks to its unique combination of hope and unpredictable dread is really the Luke Skywalker position of this years roster.

Cory Schneider’s potential is the hope, as is Roberto Luongo’s trade-value, and the pivot from one to the other is the clean slate so many have been waiting for. But Schneider hasn’t played a competitive hockey game in over seven months, and if the season starts in late January (which isn’t out of the realm of possibility) he’ll have only six to eight weeks of Swiss League games under his belt. He’s also never been an NHL starter and as of this moment has no NHL proven backup, meaning all of the pressure for this teams success rests on his shoulders and his alone.

He’s an impressive player, but there’s a large dose of danger there. And it’s amplified by the uncertainty surrounding Luongo’s pending exit.  

Many are expecting Roberto to be on his way out of Vancouver the moment the CBA is finalized. It’s hoped the return he brings in trade will put the Canucks ‘over the top.’

But an equally likely scenario is that a potential trade will linger in rumor and conjecture for X-number of weeks and eventually return comparatively little (Tyler Bozak being the principal, rumored return). In the mean time, one of the most contentious players in Canucks history will be riding the pine while Schneider could be struggling to find his game after 7 months of practice and a few weeks of Swiss League action.

Imagine the Vancouver sports media feeding frenzy in an ongoing Luongo Limbo Trade Watch.

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