This Year IS NOT Last Year

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.

 

October Blues…says WHO?!

The month of October and the Canucks usually do not go together or at least that’s story for the last 7 seasons or so. Octobers have statistically not been kind to the Canucks.

Cue the hiring of head coach John Tortorella and everyone arriving at their own ideas of how this will go[many thought automatic disaster]. The schedule was released and featured a league high 9 games on the road including a LONG 7-game road trip in the middle of the month. It seemed that the month was doomed before the first puck dropped.

Based on history being against the Canucks, the injury bug and the road heavy schedule, most people did not have high expectations for the start of the season and many stated that they would be happy to just survive October with a 0.500 level.

Torts made it clear from Day ONE that he hates losing and wanted to instill the will to win to all of the players. Torts changed the mindset that a lousy October is acceptable or expected but rather that you should put your best effort forward and not listen to the naysayers.

Torts asked for the star players to step up and step up they did. Here;s a list of accomplishments that do not usually come in October but this team accumulated this year:

-The Sedins combined for 33 points: Henrik amassed 18 points [3 goals, 15 assists] + Daniel with 15 points [6 goals, 9 assists]

-The 7-game road trip that scared fans saw the team pick up 11/14 points and post a 5-1-1 record.

-The road trip saw the re-emergence of  Ryan Kesler’s #beastmode who picked up 9 points on the road (he now has 11 points [8 goals, 3 assists]).

-Luongo posted his FIRST shutout of the season (63rd of his NHL career)

-Torts plays everyone on the PK and expects everyone to block shots. Did I also mention that Torts has split the Sedins up more than once and nearly every time it yields results.

– #BeastMododo was formed: Kesler + the Sedins

-The unexpected signings of Mike “SANTA” Santorelli and Brad Richardson have looked very good representing the Canucks scoring some clutch goals.

-Kesler was shifted from his usual position at centre to wing & has thrived.

Here’s a glance at October 2013 where your Vancouver Canucks posted an impressive 9-5-1 record:

What month is that you say? Yes it's true, October came & went with NO October blues.

What month is that you say? Yes it’s true, October came & went with NO October blues.

Was it perfect? No…but it was a much better October than everybody predicted them to be. Here’s to the Canucks having a November to remember as we shift to the second month of the season. An area that needs massive improvement as the calendar flips to November is the power play. Perhaps when the power plays starts clicking we will get to see more goals like this one:

The game-winning goal from Daniel Sedin vs. the Capitals was a product of some incredible #sedinery cycling. [*the video hardly does justice to this beauty of a goal]:

ONE LAST THOUGHT: 33 combined points in 15 games…CAN we re-sign the SEDINS already?!

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

Quick Turnaround

From panic following the first loss of the year to MASS celebration over the first win.

Mind you, I know more than a few people panicked following Edmonton’s quick start on the scoreboard after which they were given a power play. Turns out there was no reason to panic as the Canucks were quick to respond by scoring short-handed to tie the game at one. By the end of 40 minutes the team had established a 5-1 lead and would go on to win the game 6-2.

The Canucks did a lot of good things in this game. Positives from Game 2:

  • Canucks put 44 shots on net [All Canucks registered a shot on net except Weber]…whereas after game 1 everyone was asking why they didn’t shoot the puck more.
  • A fiery Ryan Kesler accounted for 9 shots and a fight.
  • Luongo played solid with 21 saves.
  • 6 different Canucks scored goals [Richardson, Hamhuis, Hansen, Daniel Sedin, Kesler, and Garrison].
  • Special teams were once again in top form: accounting for 2 short-handed goals and a power-play goal.
  • 2 goals were scored 18 seconds apart.
  • The Sedins combined for some #sedinery racking up 5 points.
  • Torts once again establishes he doesn’t care what others say but rather the effort the team puts on the ice.
  • The win came in front of the home crowd.

Long story short, the team played one of the best games I have seen them play in nearly 2 years. Aside from the early goal by Edmonton, Vancouver was in control of this game. That being said, it was one game and one game does not make a season. We will take the win and move on to the next one.

There is little time to savor the victory as the team is back at it again in Calgary tonight. The focus shifts to Game 3 and looking to gain their first road win. Back to back games always represent a challenge. They will need to play with the same tenacity that won them Game 2 but also stay disciplined as special teams are always a factor in every game. Best of luck tonight Canucks!

Will you be watching tonight? Puck drop is at 5:00 PM [pacific time] on Sportsnet.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

Canucks 2013-2014 Season Headlines

It’s that time of year to take a look at the season ahead and the story lines that will inevitably surround the Vancouver Canucks. The headline possibilities are endless, here are a few that are sure to revolve around the Canucks this season.

NHL Re-Alignment has officially been activated for the start of the 2013-2014 season. The re-alignment will see the new 2 Conference system fall into place featuring 4 divisions rather than 6. Each team team will play each other at least twice [every team will play in EACH arena at least ONCE]. The top 3 teams in EACH division will automatically qualify for the playoffs leaving 4 wildcard spots [2  wildcards per conference go to the teams that have the next highest points below the top 3 in each division; –either there could be 4 qualify from each division OR 3 in one and 5 in the other].

Eastern Conference- Atlantic Division:

  1. Boston Bruins *The Bruins have locked up Rask following a very good season, eventually locked up Iginla and will be looking to build on the success they had last season.
  2. Buffalo Sabres *The Sabres will be looking to have much stronger season and get back to the playoffs.
  3. Detroit Red Wings *The re-alignment moves Detroit from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference. Teams should never take Detroit lightly because despite what some call their ‘aging’ roster, they never stop competing.
  4. Florida Panthers *Florida signed the ever colorful Tim Thomas following his absence from the NHL for more than a year and will be looking for the success they had during the 2011-2012 season.
  5. Montreal Canadiens *Montreal will be looking to build upon the success of last season when they won their division and push themselves further in the post-season.
  6. Ottawa Senators *Ottawa may have lost Alfie to Detroit BUT they gained an offensive weapon in acquiring Bobby Ryan. New captain, Spezza will be hoping to help the team go all the way.
  7. Tampa Bay Lightning *Tampa will be looking to return to the playoffs this year. Despite missing the post-season last year, St.Louis led the league in scoring.
  8. Toronto Maple Leafs *Toronto returned to the playoffs for the first time in 9 years and will surely want to return to the post-season to erase that game 7 memory.

Eastern Conference- Metropolitan Division:

  1. Carolina Hurricanes *Carolina with a healthy lineup and dependable goal-tending could be dangerous.
  2. Columbus Blue Jackets *Columbus surprised a lot of people last season as they only missed the playoffs by a single point. The Blue Jackets will look to keep themselves as a contender this year.
  3. New Jersey Devils *Brodeur & Schneider in the net give New Jersey impeccable goal-tending.
  4. NY Islanders *Newly named captain, John Tavares will be looking to lead the Islanders straight back to the playoffs.
  5. NY Rangers *The Rangers will look to push themselves to their best under new coach Alain Vigneault.
  6. Philadelphia Flyers *Philadelphia will look to have a turn around year and get back to the post-season.
  7. Pittsburgh Penguins *Pittsburgh will want a much a different ending to their season this year and will bring a new determination to their game.
  8. Washington Capitals *Alex Ovechkin will be looking to build upon the success the Caps had in the second 1/2 of last season and hopefully help lead them to a long post-season.

Western Conference- Central Division:

  1. Chicago Blackhawks *The 2013 Stanley Cup Champions will be looking to carry their success from last season into the current one. With most of their SC roster still in place, they will make a very tough opponent. 
  2. Colorado Avalanche *Patrick Roy returns to the Avs as the new Head Coach and hopes to lead the team back to the post-season.
  3. Dallas Stars      *Lindy Ruff takes over as Head coach, Tyler Seguin joins Dallas & Jamie Benn named Captain.
  4. Minnesota Wild *The Wild will be looking to push themselves further.
  5. Nashville Predators *Trotz will be looking to get the Predators back on track following a year when they were not at their best.
  6. St.Louis Blues *The Blues have solidified their defense and will look to build upon their last two seasons pushing further in the post season.
  7. Winnipeg Jets *The re-alignment moves them from the Eastern conference to the Western Conference.

Western Conference- Pacific Division:

  1. Anaheim Ducks *Getzlaf and company will be looking to make Selanne’s final season a memorable one.
  2. Calgary Flames *It’s a new era in Calgary with Iggy in Boston and Kipper retiring, they will be looking to find new ways to win.
  3. Edmonton Oilers *A new coach and a talented young core will make Edmonton a competitor as long as all stay healthy.
  4. Los Angeles Kings *LA is a team that no opponent can over look, they are competitors that make their opponents pay.
  5. Phoenix Coyotes *Ownership now in place, Phoenix will look to gain back some momentum that they had in the 2011-2012 season.
  6. San Jose Sharks *A talented line up and when all cylinders are rolling can be dangerous to their opponents.
  7. Vancouver Canucks *With new coach Torts at the helm, the Canucks will look to push themselves to new levels and recapture some post-season success.
    The Canucks have won 6 division titles in the last 7 years prior to the re-alignment but this new alignment brings new rivalries to the surface. The Pacific division will not be easy but it will be a great battle to watch as these 7 teams compete for playoff positioning. It will be a tight race, but incredibly fun to watch. 

Torts Time has officially begun in Vancouver with the signing of John Tortorella as the 17th head coach in Vancouver Canucks history. Heads and eyes definitely rolled initially when it was announced that Torts had in fact been hired by the Canucks as most are aware of his past with the media and passion for the game. The media have reminded Torts of his colored past at every single press conference just to see if he will take the bait. Perhaps he eventually will snap at a member of the media but why goad him into it just for the sake of seeing him snap? How about instead of attempting to see how quick the media can make the coach snap, they focus on how he can help this team. It is going to be a very different year with Torts at the helm of this team and we ought to give him a chance to push this team to their best before we make assumptions. There are 82 games on the schedule, plenty of opportunity for Torts to prove his coaching skills and give the media their desired media bite.

Luongo’s Return: It is a return that many did not expect to happen with everything that happened in the last two years with Cory Schneider. It was a draft day trade that no one expected, especially Luongo. The trade was made and now its time to move the focus to this season: Cory is now a Devil and Luongo is the starter for the Canucks…ACCEPT the facts. Luongo is here to stay and he is more than qualified to play as the starter. This year there will be a lot scrutiny surrounding Luongo and all eyes around the league will be on him. This is an opportunity for Luongo to show all his doubters that he is still an elite goal-tender and perhaps the media will actually show him some support this year rather than help to turn the fans against him. It may not have been the outcome most people expected this year, but it is what happened. Time to support the team and that includes Roberto Luongo. Call me crazy but with the Olympics looming, I have no doubts that Luongo will have a big year in more ways than one.

A finally 100% healthy Ryan Kesler will be on the Canucks opening night roster. Fans have been waiting nearly two years for Kesler to be starting the season 100% healthy. IF Kesler can remain healthy for the majority of the 82 game schedule, it is possible that we can see him reach an entirely new level. When operating at 100% Kesler is offensively dangerous to all opponents. I think its safe to say that Kesler will be looking to push to a new level with the Olympics on the horizon and the US looking to top their 2010 Silver finish in 2014. Will #beastmode once again be activated? Me thinks, yes. If you’ve seen Kesler at any of the recent press conferences he has a fire in his eyes that wasn’t there in the last seasons, a determination to push himself to an elite level of play.

SEDINS=Forever Canucks: The Sedins are going into the final year of their current contract and are looking to sign an extension prior to opening day OR before season’s end. It is not lost on most, that this could be their final contract of their careers and they WANT to remain with the Vancouver Canucks. Management has also expressed that they want the Sedins to remain with the team. Contract discussions have been ongoing since the start of training camp as both sides hope to have a contract signed, sealed and delivered by season’s start. Rumor has it the Sedins could sign contracts with $7.5 million cap hit which have caused some to be shocked BUT you shouldn’t be as they could easily sign for more if they were to test the open market. Regardless of what the final contracts are signed for, rest assured the Sedins will be career Canucks. This is the only team they have ever played for and this is the team they desire to play with for the entirety of their careers. We as the fans, are lucky have watched them develop from rookies to the superstars they are today.

SC Battle Begins: The expectations will vary for each team every year BUT one expectation that every team equally desires is to win the Stanley Cup. The battle for the 2014 Stanley Cup begins as the calendar flips to October and will go all the to June. A quest that begins with an 82 game regular season, an Olympic interruption in February, and closes with an epic 4 round battle for 16 post season wins. I’m not saying that the Canucks will win[***but I will love it if they do!]; all I am saying is that starting tomorrow every team has a blank slate and the season that follows will determine who goes all the way. Starting tomorrow, when the puck drops in the first game of the season, every team has an equal chance and how they play will determine the final outcome.

As the off-season comes to a close, it feels like Christmas Eve. Now all we can do, is wait for the madness to begin when that first puck drops and skates hit the ice tomorrow. There will be no turning back, as the quest for the 2014 Stanley cup begins with game one of the regular season. Let the games begin!

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.