LB28: A Forever Canuck

As I sit here writing this, it is hard to believe that six years have gone by since the tragic death of Luc Bourdon. A life taken before his time and gone far too soon.

From growing up in small town Shippagan, New Brunswick to playing in the QMJHL to winning two GOLD medals in the World Juniors to being drafted 10th overall in 2005 by the Vancouver Canucks to finally playing in the NHL, Luc left his mark on this game that he loved as more than just a game.

Luc, we wanted to see many more moments like your first NHL goal or your developing dominance on the blue line. Many moments that we will never ever get to see because you are no longer here. We only have left what could have been.

Instead we have had to make these memories:

Did you ever wonder why Burrows shoots an arrow to the sky when he scores a goal?

Luc, stole the hearts of Canucks fans across the globe with his style of play on the ice and that smile! Maybe he would’ve become a Norris Winner, maybe he would have made his mark even more solidified during the 2011 SCF or maybe he would’ve played elsewhere but to me…Luc will always be a Canuck.

The truth is we will never know exactly how Luc’s career would have played out BUT we do know that his potential was limitless and he would have been one to watch. He may not have been in the league very long but his presence was felt by those he played with and the fans who watched from the sidelines.

6 years later and we still wonder what could have been. 6 years later and we still remember all that was. 6 years later and we still miss you, Luc.

Here’s to #LB28, a forever Canuck.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

Benning Times

Do you feel it? That sense of hope that was lost along the way this last season that is once again surrounding the Vancouver Canucks? I’m not saying that things will immediately be amazing BUT with the news of GM Benning becoming official that black cloud that has followed the team all year has been lifted ever so slightly.

In his official first day as GM, Benning was asked MANY questions on how he would improve the team (he answered them) BUT first he noted his excitement to be back with the team: “My family and I are very excited to come back to Vancouver.” Welcome back Jim, we’re happy to have you here!

On his thoughts about this team and if he likes them, we were not left in the dark long as was quick to state: “I like this team. I like the core players. This is a team we can turn around in a hurry.” Now perhaps that surprises some people that he would imply maintaining the core…but it shouldn’t. Benning does not want to completely dismantle this team but rather build it back up and bring depth back to support the core. Wouldn’t that be something?

So what about that pesky term “Boston Model”…what does it mean? Even Benning was confused on that notion, simply stating: “I don’t know what the ‘Boston Model’ is to be honest with you. Our goal in Boston was simply to make the playoffs ever year and roll four lines.” Basically the goal here in Vancouver should be the same…for the team to be a four line team that will play their best in every game all year while focusing on extending their season beyond April.

Will we see some confidence be brought back to the players on ice game? According to Mr.President that will be a priority: “Our priority will be to bring confidence and fun back in to the on-ice product and game.” – Linden

Do the new GM and Mr. President see eye to eye on the organization? “Trevor and I share the same values on players and team building.” Sounds like a match made to work together harmoniously on a level that the players will respect moving forward.

Benning re-iterated that he likes the team’s core: “I feel they are high character people. I believe in our core players, we’re going to try and help them out by adding more depth, playing four lines.” BUT made sure to make very clear that he will not be afraid to ask make that bold move if it helps the team: “We won’t be afraid to approach players and ask them to waive their no-trade clauses IF it’s the right decision for the team.” Linden and Benning are not going to make a trade or move a player just because it is speculated by the media BUT rather IF and ONLY IF it is the right decision for the team. Sounds like a refreshing concept, no?

Also on that note…he was asked for his thoughts on Ryan Kesler as everyone and their dog seems to suggest he should be traded or wants to be traded. Benning had this to say about Kesler: “He’s a warrior, he’s a big body guy, and good skater. We’ll sit down with him, see what his thoughts are and go from there. I love the way Kesler plays. He plays hard, he plays the way you win. If it’s up to me we KEEP him.” (Spoiler alert: Multiple times, Kesler, himself has already said he DOES NOT want to be traded!).

The aim that Benning would like to see become reality is to be able to roll four-lines next season: “We want to become a four-line team. We have some work to do. We want to be a complete team.” The ability to have four lines makes that team a contender on any given night and makes a massive difference come playoff time when every line can step up in any situation.

What about the head coach conundrum? What are Linden and Benning looking for in the newest Canucks HC? According to Benning they have a list and the interview process will begin stat! – “We’ve compiled a list of names and will probably start the interview process next week. We want a coach who has won and had success at all different levels.” **note that Barry Trotz is no longer on this list as he has officially been named the Head Coach of the Washington Capitals.

How does he feel about the current Canucks prospects? He named one Bo Horvat specifically: “I really like Bo Horvat, I think he’s going to be an important player here going forward.” He did note that he will be working with the Canucks scouting staff (he does have a lot of pro-scouting expertise after all!) helping to strengthen the scouting team in their search for prospects that will add depth to the organization at all levels.

Long story short, Benning simply said this: “We’re going to work hard to get this thing back in the right direction.” It will not be an easy task and they DO have a lot work in front of them BUT it does give one a sense of hope that things are beginning to look not so dark on the Canucks horizon.

What did the first 48 hours as the Vancouver Canucks GM look like? Something like this:

Jim Benning has a BIG task in his hands but something tells me he is more than up for this challenge. Are ready for what comes next Canucks fans? Can you feel the hope that is beginning to sneak it’s way back into the Canucks?

***The countdown is ON: 125 days until the leaves change and October arrives bringing with with it a new NHL season.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

And So Begins the LINDEN Era (AGAIN)

The Canucks season was definitely not their best and warrants many changes to come. The first of the major variety is the return of Trevor Linden to the organization. Welcome home Mr.President!

Shall we start at the beginning? Rumor has it that is best place to begin any story. Flashback to the 1988 NHL Draft where on June 11th the Vancouver Canucks drafted Trevor Linden second overall (behind Mike Modano). Who would have guessed that young rookie would become a franchise leader, captain, fan favourite, and now the President of Hockey Operations for the club where he spent 16 of his 19 NHL seasons?

Linden’s hockey playing career spanned 20 years in 1,382 regular season games played (1140 of those were with the Canucks). In his 1,382 games played, Linden amassed 375 goals and 492 assists for a total of 867 points. He hung up his skates June 11, 2008 and walked away from the game to focus on various business ventures before coming back to where it all began. The first Linden era had come to a close and many wondered if he would ever consider returning in a management position.

Even before the news broke of Mike Gillis being let go, the rumors of Trevor Linden returning the Vancouver Canucks organization began swirling through both the local media and social media. Rumor became fact on April 9, 2014 when the Canucks announced they had named Trevor Linden as the President of Hockey Operations. As he put it, he never wanted to  work for another organization, he is a Canuck and wants the organization to win just as much as, if not more than the fans. (**Admit it, how epic would it be to see the Canucks with Linden at the helm win the cup one day? Is your answer amazing?…because THAT would be incredible to see one day).

ONE very notable change from the very moment that Linden was introduced as the President is the fact that he IS willing to talk to the media and the fans in such a personal manner that Gillis NEVER did in his entire 6-year tenure with the team. One of his first comments was a promise to the fans in bringing back excitement to the Canucks game that got lost somewhere along the way during this last season. He followed that up with some very important comments on when and why the team will make a change and how he believes that despite what many have said that the team CAN be competitive next season.

“We’re not going to make a change just to say we’ve made a change. It’s got to be the right change and it’s got to be for the right reason. It’s got to be for the right pieces, that’s important. Making a change because people want it or expect is not going to the way we’re going to do things.” -Linden

“I think we CAN be competitive next year. In fact I know we CAN. I know we’ll be exciting and I think we’ll have a real good opportunity to be in the tournament as they say and that is where you want to be.” -Linden

There will be endless questions of whether hiring the former Captain Canuck was a the right decision until results from any decision Linden makes is seen. Two immediate decisions that will be judged and over analyzed when they are announced: the name of the new General Manager and the new Head Coach. On May 21, 2014 the search for the new GM came to a close with the breaking news that former Bruins Assistant GM, Jim Benning had agreed to terms with the Canucks.

Benning has been at the top of the list from the very beginning of the search so the announcement came as no surprise. Even though Benning was the frontrunner, it was a process as he had to await getting special permissions to talk to many of his candidates and for the second round of the 2014 playoffs to come to a close before he could speak with Benning (as the Bruins went all the way to 7 games deep with the Montreal Canadiens). Yes he comes to the Canucks after working for the Bruins for 8 seasons (& yes that includes the 2011 Stanley Cup) but prior to that as a player he played for the Vancouver Canucks for 4 years (1986-1990). Jim Benning will be joining that Canucks immediately and among his first tasks, he will be attending the NHL combine.

The official  introduction by the Canucks will to take place first with a fan Q & A (11:15 AM) followed by a press conference at 12:00 PM on Friday May 23, 2014. We can now call him GM Benning! Welcome back Jim!

His next decision that will come under fire will be the hiring of the newest head coach. Everyone will have an opinion on who they think should be named coach and will express it loudly as they always do. There are many candidates for that position including Barry Trotz (former Nashville Predator coach) and John Stevens (LA Kings assistant coach). Benning will be assisting Linden in his search for the RIGHT coach that will be the RIGHT voice for the team moving forward.

Among his most important qualities that he is looking for in a coach, Linden said: “I’m a believe that a coach with experience is critical. We want a coach that shares the same values as myself and Jim do.” The process of hiring the next coach may take weeks or it may take months but however long it does in fact take, Linden wants to make sure that whoever comes in IS the best fit for the team.

The NHL draft in which the Canucks have the 6th overall pick will be yet another choice made that will be over-analyzed by the fans and the media alike until the results are seen. In regards that 6th overall pick Linden has made it very clear that the type of player he wants to select WILL be a franchise player. The list of decisions does NOT end with the draft as there are many many more decisions that will need to be made prior to the start of the new season. We are in for an interesting off-season to say the least as each day gets us closer to October and the new NHL season.

And so begins the Trevor Linden Era (again) as he has the difficult task of showing WHY he IS the right fit for this organization.

Are you ready for what comes next, Canucks fans?

As always until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

So Long, Farewell Torts

How many ways can one say this season was NOT picture perfect in any way? Well after over 3 weeks of fans waiting to hear will he or will he not be fired, the Vancouver Canucks made it official with the announcement that John Tortorella had been relieved of his coaching duties. Some people will be incredibly ecstatic about this news, some will be upset and some will likely not care at all.

The team released the follow press release (May 1, 2014):

Vancouver Canucks President of Hockey Operations Trevor Linden announced today that Head Coach John Tortorella and Assistant Coach Mike Sullivan have been relieved of their coaching duties.

“Today we are making an important change in the direction of our team,” said Linden. “On behalf of the entire organization, we extend our thanks to John, Mike and their families for their commitment to the Canucks and wish them the very best.”

“We have a lot of important work to accomplish this off-season as we build our management and coaching staff, improve our roster and connect with our fans,” added Linden. “Our General Manager search is well underway and we will begin assessing head coaching candidates immediately.”

I’m on the fence on this one as I genuinely like Torts. I know he’s not everyone’s cup of tea by any means and I didn’t always agree with him but I loved that he wasn’t afraid to stick up for his players or to tell the media how it is. I know that he made some mistakes (don’t all coaches?) but in a year that nearly his entire roster was bogged down by injuries to the point where we only had ONE month of the season that they were all healthy hardly seems enough to judge fairly on. I would have liked to see what would have happened with Torts if he was given the opportunity with a healthy roster. It was a year in which everything that could go wrong did and Torts being at the helm of the ship, is facing the brunt of the consequences. Torts may not have been perfect but he is not solely responsible for everything that went wrong this season with the team.

Torts is not the only coach who was relieved of his duties this season and he won’t be the last. The Canucks are not the only team in the search for a new coach but it is one more task added to their growing list of things to do in preparation for the new season around the corner. The Florida Panthers, Washington Capitals, and the Nashville Predators are also looking to fill coaching vacancies prior to next season. No coach no matter what their contract is ever safe from the being let go club. Most notably on this year’s just relieved NHL coach list is Barry Trotz. Barry Trotz saw his 15-year tenure with the Nashville Predators come to an end this year. There are many names the team can look at coaching wise: (John Stevens, Kevin Dineen, Peter Laviolette, etc.) and you can bet that Trotz will also be in that candidate mix. Time will tell if ANY of those names ends up being name as the Canucks head coach or if they will bring in someone else that no one has yet considered.

Love him or hate him, Torts has never been one afraid to speak his mind and he will find his way behind the bench of another NHL team again. One thing is certain, Canucks press conferences will never be the same again. There was never a  dull moment in his short tenure with the team but it is time to say so long, farewell to Torts and I wish him the best of luck in the future!

We’re in for many changes over the next months…are you ready for what all that will mean come October, Canucks fans?

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.