From having a new head coach, another new system to learn, injuries piling up on the blueline and a tough schedule down the stretch, the comparisons to last year have NOT stopped. In case you missed it, THIS YEAR IS NOT LAST YEAR. Much like last season there are a lot of expectations for THIS team. Last season started with a lot of potential but somewhere around a mid January hallway tirade everything changed.
LAST SEASON: The Canucks were under the leadership of head coach John Tortorella and GM/President Mike Gillis.
THIS SEASON: The Canucks are under the leadership of rookie head coach Willie Desjardins, newly minted GM Jim Benning and President Trevor Linden.
LAST SEASON: After 56 games played the Canucks had amassed 63 points with a 27-20-9 record. They did NOT register their 30th win of the season until March 12th, and their 32nd did not come until March 19th.
THIS SEASON: After 56 games played the Canucks have amassed 67 points with a 32-21-3 record. They registered their 30th win of the season on February 11th, and their 32nd on February 16th.
LAST SEASON: The Sedins under Tortorella were not as predictable as everyone has come to expect over the years and BOTH missed extended periods due to injuries. Henrik amassed 50 points (11 goals, 39 assists) in 70 games played. Daniel amassed just 47 points (16 goals, 31 assists) in 73 games played. Questions were raised if they would be able to find their way back to playing the way they did before or if their best days were behind them.
THIS SEASON: The Sedins under Desjardins have shown us that they are not done yet making many mind dazzling SEDINERY plays whether playing with Radim Vrbata or yes that ever familiar winger, Alex Burrows. Through 56 games, they have nearly matched their points totals from last year; Henrik has amassed 48 points (10 goals, 38 assists) points and counting while Daniel has amassed 47 points (13 goals, 34 assists). Yes they are not quite on a point-per-game pace BUT they are beginning to resemble their steady reliable play that Canucks fans have been lucky enough to watch develop over the last 15 years.
LAST SEASON: The injury bug came in waves for Alex Burrows and limited his playing to just 49 games and 15 points(5 goals, 10 assists). The ever tenacious player was unable to gain ANY sort of rhythm between injuries and Torts never understanding his role.
THIS SEASON: Alex Burrows told Desjardins before the season even began that as long he was able to play, he did not care which line he was used on but that he would play wherever called upon. Burrows has been successful in each situation that Desjardins has used him from the first line to the fourth line, to the penalty kill to the power-play. Through 51 games Burrows has amassed 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists). Burrows is having fun again playing the game he loves while consistently contributing, a trend that he will look to continue down the stretch as the Canucks make a playoff push.
LAST SEASON: Not ONE player registered a hat trick.
THIS SEASON: Two players have registered a hat trick through 56 games. Jannik Hansen scored his first career NHL hat trick on November 23, 2014 versus the Chicago Blackhawks. Shawn Matthias scored his first career NHL hat trick on February 13, 2015 versus the Boston Bruins. Both hat tricks were scored in front of the home crowd making hats rain down on the ice of Rogers Arena.
LAST SEASON: The goalie drama of will they or won’t they trade Roberto Luongo came to an end. Luongo was eventually traded back to Florida leaving the Canucks with no veteran presence in net. Eddie Lack was forced to take on the veteran load the rest of the way. It was hardly an ideal situation but in typical Eddie Lack fashion, he was the epitome of professional all the way to the end.
THIS SEASON: Ryan Miller was brought it in as veteran presence and surprised more than a few people with his solid play in net while registering 6 shutouts through 42 starts (26-15-1). Millsy has brought in some much needed stability for the Canucks on the back end and been a pillar for Eddie Lack as they share the load this season. Lack and Miller have formed a great repertoire so far this season and hopefully they can continue to build on that down the stretch.
And yes it is true that there are a few echoes that sound nearly identical from last season:
LAST SEASON: The injury bug followed that hallway tirade took endless casualties until the final game of the season.
THIS SEASON: The injury bug has come to the blueline once more this year, but unlike LAST season, the team IS finding ways to play as a TEAM despite the injuries. The multiple injuries to the defensive core has forced the Canucks to rely upon younger players and prospects stepping up to fill in. (Ronalds Kenins anyone?!)
#17 once again LEADS the team in goals scored.
LAST SEASON: Ryan Kesler (25 goals in 77 games played).
THIS SEASON: Radim Vrbata (21 goals and counting in 53 games played).
LAST SEASON: Henrik Sedin played his 1000th game (March 12, 2014).
THIS SEASON: Daniel Sedin played his 1000th game (November 23, 2014).
And yes much like last year, there are many questions still remaining:
Will the Canucks find a second gear in the final 26 games? Will the Canucks have more than one 20+ goal scorer by season’s end? Will the Canucks stand pat at the trade deadline or will they be deal makers to find that last puzzle piece to help them down the stretch? Will the Canucks make the playoffs?
No, THIS year is NOT LAST year but the questions will continue to be debated as the season winds down but until all is said and done, we will not have a definitive answer. There is still a lot of hockey left to be played between now and April, but how the Canucks play between now and then is up to them. Will they make the playoffs? They certainly have the potential to do so but it won’t be an easy task as the Western Conference playoff race is a tight one and will probably go down to the wire.
The Canucks have 26 games left to prove just how far they have come from last year beginning with their 5-game Eastern Conference road trip (New York, New Jersey, Long Island, Boston and Buffalo) that will be a great challenge as they look to pick some important points.
As always, until next time, nuck said.
Sarah E. L.