A Prelude to the 2014-2015 Season

IMG_0071The 2014 off-season felt even longer than usual with having missed the playoffs BUT a new season is just around the corner! The Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, BC will give the fans an up close view of the team’s prospects prior to the start of training camp when they will join the veteran players to prepare for the pre-season.

This year the team will face some BIG questions moving forward with the many changes that have happened since their summer began…

Will Trevor Linden handle the pressure of transitioning from former player to being an NHL executive?

IMG_0686April 9, 2014 will go down in Vancouver Canucks history as the day Captain Canuck came home and was crowned Mr. President! Fans were ecstatic to learn Trevor Linden was returning to the franchise to help bring back the excitement to the game. Of course, with his new work also comes great expectations and every decision he makes will be forever debated. He has had his work cut out for him since that first day on the job as he aims to help the team find their way back to the WIN column. His work began as soon as he suited up for day one, and his work will continue as long as he remains with the team.

First order of duty he had to find a GM and the rumors that swirled about Jim Benning being hired became FACT when Linden made the official announcement. Benning and Linden (Team Lindenning, if you will) went into the draft saying they meant business and they wasted no time in making ripples in the water. It’s no secret that Ryan Kesler wanted out and wanted out, NOW…and had only TWO destinations in mind, limiting the possibilities of what the team could get in return. By the end of the draft, Kesler was no longer a Vancouver Canuck, the team had 2 first round picks, and acquired many new players both through the draft and various trades.

The work in the off-season was far from done, the team still needed a coach.

Will the Canucks adjust to yet another NEW coach?

DesjardinsThe outspoken Torts era did not last after a disastrous 2013-2014 season where nearly everything went wrong and by season’s end the team said “Adios, Torts”. The hiring of a new coach was not something that Trevor Linden and Jim Benning took lightly and they interviewed many candidates before hiring Willie Desjardins. Desjardins is coming off a championship season with the AHL’s Texas Stars. Having coached in the WHL and AHL, this is Desjardins first NHL head coaching position(he previously served as an associate coach with Dallas). Perhaps, Desjardins seems like an outside the box choice because of his limited NHL experience but perhaps that is exactly what the team needs…to start thinking outside the box.

Desjardins is a players coach that has succeeded at every level that he’s coached at and has more than earned his chance at the NHL level. From day one he has been putting the time in with meeting the veterans, newly acquired players AND meeting the prospects….yes the prospects because every player within the franchise/system needs to and will be on the same page moving forward. Does that sound refreshing from last year’s approach of which the coaching staff was hardly ever, if at all with the prospects in any capacity.

Last year’s new system was absolutely foreign to nearly the entire roster and it showed on the ice, each and every game. This year Desjardins will be coming in with his own system but one that will encompass helping the Canucks to rediscover their previous successful areas and strengthening the areas that need the team needs to be stronger. It may seem like that is too much to many on the outside but already this new coaching staff seems to be putting in the work with all of the players within the organization from top to bottom. Will that be a challenge? Yes, but the most difficult challenges can be the ones that are the most rewarding.

Ryan Kesler is long gone in So-Cal. How will the Canucks fill the Kesler void and will anyone take his place?

KESLERAdios Kes! The simple truth is that NO, no one will replace Ryan Kesler, but with his vacancy in the line up there is ample opportunity for MANY to step up. As much as the fans loved Kesler’s tenacity on the ice as one of league’s top two-way players, the fans HATED the way he exited, burning bridges on his way out the door. Kesler may not have left the team or this city on the best of terms, but that does not take away from his talent on the ice and the many good memories that he gave this city.

No one will replace him and nor should they, each player should have their own story. Kesler has moved on, and that opens a gap in the Canucks offensive line up creating a HUGE opportunity for more than one player to step up and play a bigger role. Will that player be Nick Bonino who was acquired in the Kesler trade or a ready to play Zack Kassian or will an unpredictable candidate pop up during training camp? Unfair comparisons will be made all year long between Kesler and whoever takes his place but only time will tell us the answer and perhaps surprise everyone in the process.

Will the Sedins rebound? Will everyone else?

SedinTwins2Last year, was a terrible season by both the Sedins. Last year they were told to change their playing style, played big PK minutes, struggled on the power-play, Henrik (the iron man who had not missed a game in 10 years!) missed 12 games AND the Olympics but probably should have missed more due to injuries, and Daniel missed 9 games due to injuries. The twins combined for 21 games missed due to injuries and that does not include the scare in the final game of the season that saw Daniel taken off the ice on a stretcher. Luckily, for Daniel and the Canucks, he proved to be okay with little or no after effects.

Now some may say that the Sedins are fading and that we can only expect the point totals to continue decreasing over the next four years. I disagree. Yes, it is true that twins did not produce last season as we’ve grown accustomed to year after year; and yes they struggled all year long but you cannot expect to change HOW they play as Torts did and expect them to yield the same offensive results. Changing how they played, changed their on-ice results and disappointed many fans expectations. They are a huge part of the team’s offense and they will be called upon to be a big part of that this year. If the Sedins are given the opportunity to return to their roots and focusing on offense along with being productive on the power-play, then I have NO doubts that they can find their way back to producing a point-per-game pace.

Let’s be completely frank, nearly every player on the roster had a terrible season under the new Torts system aside from maybe Chris Tanev. There were moments when the team shined (vs. Boston in December) but those were quickly overshadowed by the continuous downward spiral that began in January after the Torts hallway tirade. Does that mean that they will never find their way again? No. Injuries, suspensions and losing streaks have a way of getting in a player’s head and changing the way they carry themselves on the ice. – THAT happened to a more than a few of the roster players last year and at times, it was difficult to watch. The thing about players who have an off year, is, that they train harder in the off-season and they come back hungrier to prove themselves the next year. The team has had a long off-season to prepare for the 82-game battle and they all are determined to BE better and PLAY better than what they did last season. It’s a NEW year with a blank slate and everyone has an opportunity to start over. Will there be players that struggle? Probably, but there will also be players who will surprise everyone.

Will Ryan Miller rediscover his Vezina captivating ways?

MILLER3Ryan Miller is an impeccable athlete and while the last few seasons have been far from perfect for him, he still has a lot that he wants to accomplish. There are those who say they think he will do well, those who think he will falter and those who hope to see yet another goalie controversy. As for me, I simply wish him the best, hoping that he will further mentor Eddie Lack while together they will stabilize the back end. It would be incredibly refreshing to see THIS city and the FANS simply support BOTH their goalies from the START, don’t you think?

I have a feeling that Ryan Miller will be winning over a lot of fans this year. He did enjoy playing in Vancouver during the Olympics except for maybe that epic OT goal from Sidney Crosby, but this time he will have something he didn’t back then, the HOME crowd will be on his side!

Will the team be playoff bound in April?

I know that looking at this team on paper, that it will be no easy task to get into the playoffs, but I also know that anything can happen during an 82-game season. If getting to the playoffs was easy, then every team would be there every year and it would not be an epic battle for the Stanley Cup. I think that, yes, this team very well could be playoff bound in April, surprising a lot of people and I understand why there are many who say no, that it is a pipe dream.

Can things really be as bad as they were in the 2013-2014 season?

Let’s be honest, can things really be as bad as they were last year? Everything that could go wrong, DID, and watching the team some nights was like a nightmare. Remember the Islanders game (yes that 7-goal third period)? Henrik getting injured, not once but twice…did ANYONE see that one coming?

I cannot promise that things will be perfect or that things will not fall off the rails once again this year. All I can say is: that there will be ups, there will be downs, there will incredible moments that we never saw coming and shocking moments that will take our breath away, there will be moments that break your heart, and there will be moments that make you stand still. No matter which of these moments that there are more or less of on the 82-game journey that makes up the regular season, I would not trade one of them away. Each season is a unique experience and a forever part of a team’s forever changing history.

I look forward to watching history unfold this season, whatever it may be when the Vancouver Canucks return to the ice on October 8, 2014.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

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2014 Draft Debrief: Canucks Edition

The 2014 NHL Draft has come and gone and with it left behind some BIG and small movements on the Canucks radar as they were one of (if not) the most active team(s) at the draft.

Team Lindenning had a VERY busy 2014 draft. Change was inevitable coming into the 2014-2015 season, but did anyone see the team being as active at the draft as they were?

TRADE TALK:

TRADE #1: Ryan Kesler to the Anaheim Ducks.

The Ryan Kesler elephant in the room was addressed immediately before it could become a situation that would fester and eat away at the locker room all year long. The Canucks have already had that happen with the Luongo situation that took nearly two years to solve. Benning was forced into to a corner with the Kesler trade as it became public knowledge that Kesler ONLY gave the team a 2-list destination possibility and never wavered from his stance. In the end, Kesler got exactly what he wanted: a ticket out of Vancouver.

It became apparent in his interviews following the news that he was more than ecstatic to be leaving Vancouver for Anaheim. I understand that he is “ready to move on”, BUT some of the things he said felt like he was burning a bridge rather than being grateful for an incredible ten years with the organization that developed him into the two-way player he is today.

Trade #2: Jason Garrison to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Trade #3: 85TH OVERALL 2014 draft pick to the New York Rangers in exchange for Derek Dorsett.

Trade #4: 50TH OVERALL 2014 draft pick to the LA Kings in exchange for Linden Vey.

2014 Vancouver Canucks DRAFT SELECTIONS:

6TH OVERALL: Jake Virtanen (Left Wing)

24TH OVERALL: Jared McCann (Centre)

36TH OVERALL: Thatcher Demko (Goalie)

50TH OVERALL: TRADED to LA in exchange for Linden VEY (Right Wing)

66TH OVERALL: Nikita Tryamkin (Defenceman)

85TH OVERALL (Acquired from Anaheim in the Kesler trade): TRADED to the New York Rangers in exchange for Derek Dorsett.

126TH OVERALL: Gustav Forsling (Defenceman)

156TH OVERALL: Kyle Petit (Centre)

186TH OVERALL: Mackenze Stewart (Defenseman)

7 draft picks and 4 trades later, the 2014 NHL draft came to a close for the Vancouver Canucks. In making some big moves (Kesler/Garrison) the Canucks now have more money in cap space than they’ve had in years and with the free agency frenzy just around the corner…they have the option to spend.

Have you recovered from the frenzy that was the 2014 NHL draft for the Canucks? Are you ready for the frenzy that will be free agency starting tomorrow (July 1)? Will the Canucks bring a veteran goalie to help mentor Lack? Will they lean towards youth or another veteran OR both in regards to bolstering their forwards/defensive lineup? Come tomorrow, we will have answers as to just what Linden and Benning have in mind for the roster moving forward.

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.

Vancouver Canucks announce Jim Benning as General Manager

Welcome back to the organization, Jim!

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).

Welcome Home Mr.President.

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.