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The 07/08 season stretches before us as pristine as a fresh sheet of ice. - OCT.03.07

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Nancy Henderson

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<table width=90% align=center border=0><tr><td><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/henderson_headshot.jpg align=left hspace=4>I love this moment right before the games begin, when fantasies are unmarred by the record, before hysteria sets in and the unruly un-faithful are demanding to rip the “C” off the captain’s sweater and trade everyone remotely connected to the team.

Now is the time of endless possibilities when a long-time fan can dare to dream.

And one can rightly be cautiously optimistic this year. The Canucks are quite well stocked with the ingredients that any winning team must have. We can certainly place a giant checkmark next to goaltending.

We have some desperate veterans, running out of time for glory. Our underrated, but very solid defensive core is in place, although we should keep an industrial-sized tub of grointment at the ready for those inevitable injuries caused by the type of play demanded by the defence-first team philosophy.

<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/10/Oct0207_LuongoClose_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/10/Oct0207_LuongoClose_t.jpg border=0 align=right vspace=1 hspace=4></a>

Speaking of which, since I’m a gal who, while appreciating effective defensive systems, always prefers an offence-first mantra, I’m happy to see that our award-winning Coach seems to be gently embracing the notion of speedy, creative playmaking.

Yes, it’s more dangerous than endlessly cycling in the corners, but it’s infinitely more fun to watch. My theory is you have to take chances to make chances.

And yes, it may result in a rush in the other direction but, presumably that’s why you’re paying $7 million to the “best goalie on the planet” (Really? The planet!? What, Iran has secret desert camps for netminders now? It’s like calling what the Americans do every October “The World Series”).

To quote zippy Ryan Shannon, “playing in an energy role with grinders, where you're just dumping and chasing, it kind of seems like a waste of energy sometimes”. Amen, brother! And a waste of talent besides.

I want to see the Sedins, Nazzy and any young lad who can manage it, skate the puck up the ice and finish with a flourish. Any team that hopes to win it all simply must have that ability in their arsenal.

<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/Sep2007_Twins_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/Sep2007_Twins_t.jpg border=0 align=left vspace=1 hspace=4></a>

Unfortunately, unless Mason Raymond, Ryan Shannon and Mike Weaver can locate a “Zoltar Speaks” fortune-telling machine in a remote corner of Playland and make a collective wish to become big, the days of up-tempo, free-wheeling offence may be quickly numbered.

At the other end of the spectrum, the euphemistically named “energy” guys who are “helping to fire up the team” are still making their way into the news in a negative way. I’d rather hear positive “Give a Goon a Chance” stories, like last season’s inspiring saga of our own Jeff Cowan.

What part of Steve Downie’s career-to-date made what happened last week a surprise? If you want to end blows to the head in hockey, you are going to have to make the changes higher up, rather than expecting the players, especially the ones on the bubble trying to make the team, to police themselves.

Consistency in punishment would be a start. Downie gets a 20 game suspension for cleaning Dean McCammond’s clock. For whomping both McCammond and Tomas Holmstrom, Chris Pronger gets a two game suspension, a championship ring and a new role as team captain.

<a href=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/09192007_flames04_b.jpg target=_blank><img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2007/09/09192007_flames04_t.jpg border=0 align=right vspace=1 hspace=4></a>

I think if you really wanted to send a message about the acceptability of concussing your opponents, Pronger should have been in a suit and tie in the press box watching his team win the Stanley Cup.

But I don’t expect anything like it to happen soon.

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