Vancouver Canucks: 30-43-9, missed the playoffs, $2 million in cap space
Biggest changes: The rebuild under general manager Jim Benning received a notable shot in the arm with the signing of valued veterans to affordable contracts. Forwards Sam Gagner and Thomas Vanek signed team-friendly deals while defenseman Michael Del Zotto could help solidify a unit that is the strength of this team. But the biggest change came with the hiring of Travis Green, who takes on his first NHL coaching challenge after spending four seasons grooming Vancouver's American Hockey League prospects in Utica.
Case for: After finishing last in the Pacific last season and missing the playoffs in three of the past four seasons, the Canucks have to be poised for progress. Buoyed by its new coaching staff, the team is deep at center with Henrik Sedin, Bo Horvat, Gagner and Brandon Sutter, who enjoyed a bounce-back season after struggling with injuries in 2015-16. The Canucks also boast a speedy, if underrated, defense that added Del Zotto after witnessing the emergence of Troy Stecher. Like teammate Chris Tanev, Stecher was an undrafted college free agent signed by Vancouver, and he developed into a competent NHL defenseman. Expectations should remain fairly modest for the Canucks, who will be keeping a close eye on prized prospect Brock Boeser, a first-round pick in 2015 who starred at the University of North Dakota last season before impressing with four goals in a limited, nine-game stint with the Canucks.
Case against: Despite finding offense from unlikely sources, this team continues to rely heavily on Henrik and Daniel Sedin for goals. When the twins don't score, the Canucks don't score. As such, it comes as no surprise that Vancouver couldn't score when the Sedins labored through a 2016-17 season that was among the worst of their respective careers. With them struggling to get on the scoresheet, the Canucks ranked 29th in offense last season, ahead of only the last-overall Colorado Avalanche. The Canucks also ranked 29th on the power play, a figure that was only magnified by a penalty kill that ranked 28th with a 76.7 success rate. Continuing to lean on the Sedins for offense is an untenable position, especially considering they just turned 37. The Canucks must establish a more balanced offense in order to find any success, and there's no indication that additions Gagner, Vanek and Del Zotto will help do that. After being cast off by the Calgary Flames, Sven Baertschi and Markus Granlund found their places in Vancouver, establishing career highs with 18 and 19 goals, respectively. But it will be incumbent upon them to prove that they can maintain that production. Even if they do, there's no guaranteeing that the Canucks will be able to muster enough offense to compete.
Trade bait: Let's first dispel any notion that the Sedins are on the trading block. The twins have adamantly stated that they have no plans to leave the only NHL team they've ever played for. With the club relying on a fleet-footed defensive unit featuring emerging talents such as Stecher and prospects such as Olli Juolevi and Jordan Subban, Erik Gudbranson could be available as he enters the final year of his contract.
Goalie situation rating: 6. A pair of 27-year-old Swedes, Jacob Markstrom and Anders Nilsson, enter the season looking to establish themselves as NHL goalies. Meanwhile, prized prospect Thatcher Demko waits in the wings.
Scout's take: "Bo Horvat is a guy they'll bill as a No. 2 center, but I suspect you'll get a more significant contribution from him than from Henrik Sedin. Depending on who flanks Horvat from night to night, I think they'll be a lot to reckon with. Sam Gagner is a guy for me who has yet to hit his full potential at the NHL level and may find a fit under the right circumstances. Travis Green is guy who may be able to tap into his true potential."
Prediction: Seventh in Pacific