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.

Panic? I Got NO Time For THAT.

You win some games, you lose some games. Sometimes you lose THREE games in a row and they say the panic SHOULD set in. At least that is how some people said fans should react when the Canucks found themselves in the thick of a losing streak and on the verge of falling into old habits that last year were all too common. Last year when things went wrong, it was hard to watch games from start to finish. This season there have been tough games where there have been flashes of last year’s mistakes that cost the team the season. There have been some tough stretches but let’s remember that THIS IS NOT last season.

It’s true that the team struggled during their recent 3-game skid scoring just TWO goals total in those three games. Each loss brought up memories from last season and the question of whether THIS team can still be a contender with playoff potential. The good news is that in the two games that have followed THAT 3-game skid has seen Ryan Miller return to top form posting back to back shut outs ON the road to keep THIS team in the playoff contention race. They will need Millsy to steal games down the stretch just as he stole the last two games but they will also need balanced offense combined with strong defense to help them find their way back into the playoffs.

Yes, they have struggled at times this season, but THIS is not last season. Last year was a comedy of errors which saw nearly everything go wrong and at times the team looked disjointed. This season has seen the team struggle at times but even during their struggles THIS season, they have found ways to come together united as a GROUP.

So…will I panic because of a recent 3-game skid or because of potential upcoming skids? NO, I got no time for that! You win some games, you lose some games. Some nights you need your offense to step up, some nights you need your goal-tender to step up to steal you games, some nights you need luck on your side and some nights you need a combination of all three. There is no guarantee that says the Canucks will OR will not make the post-season this year but they are geared with the potential to be a contender come April. Where they finish in the final standings is dependent upon HOW they play between now and April.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E. L.

Free Agency Frenzy Ch-ch-changes

The 2014 free agency frenzy has come and gone. It was a crazy pace of signings and dollars flying by as teams JUMPED back and forth to get the big names sign the dotted line. Following their big splash at the NHL draft, many expected the Vancouver Canucks to make a big splash during free agency. I would describe it as more of a subdued affair compared to the non-stop action that the Canucks were involved in during the draft.

Rumors ran rampant in the days leading up to July 1st, that the Canucks were trying to land Ryan Miller and his veteran experience in goal to bring experience to the net. The Canucks made the rumors, fact with the announcement, July 1st that they had signed Ryan Miller to a 3-year contract.

It may surprise or anger some to see Ryan Miller come in and theoretically take the starter’s position ahead of Eddie Lack. Like the decision to bring Miller or not, the team was always going to have bring in a veteran to help stabilize the net WITH Lack. I’m NOT saying that Lack is not a capable goalie just simply that he still needs time to fully develop into that starter that we all know he will be.

Last year Lack got thrown into the lion’s den when the Luongo saga ended and he had the weight of an entire fan base thrown upon him. Lack came in last year ready to be the support role and ready to play whenever asked which is exactly what he did. He did NOT ask for the drama that unfolded when he was given consecutive starts over Luongo, nor did he ask for the fallout from the fans that came with unfair expectations after Luongo was traded to Florida.

With Ryan Miller coming in, it takes the immense pressure off of Lack and will push him to play his best every time he’s in the net. Yes, it is true that he may not play as many games as last season but what is the use of guessing the number games? No matter how many games Lack and Miller each play at the end of the day does not matter, all that does matter is which ever goalie is in the net on any given game night will give the team a chance to win.

Welcome to the Vancouver Canucks, Ryan! We’re happy to have you! Here’s to the next great Canucks goalie bromance with you & Eddie!

To you, Vancouver, I have a FEW words of caution. We had Luongo until this city drove him to demand a trade. Luongo was NEVER given the respect that he deserved during his tenure and often shouldered the blame even when it was not his to own. It is now our chance to once again watch not one, but two talented goalies in net that BOTH deserve respect. about THIS year we start off on the right note by RESPECTING BOTH of our goalies ALL year round? Does that not sound like a refreshing concept?

Radim Vrbata became the Canucks second acquisition through the free agency pool as they looked to help fill the scoring hole left by Ryan Kesler, signing Vrbata to a 2-year contract. Vrbata brings with him power play prowess and some shoot out skills, both of which will be greatly appreciated on the roster. It is a well known fact that the shoot outs have never been the Canucks strong suit and that one of their biggest struggles last year (at least in the second half) was their power play. Having spent the last 5 years playing in the desert (Phoenix), it will be a change for him to play in a hockey crazed Canadian market.

Welcome to the Vancouver Canucks, Radim! I’m looking forward to you helping the Sedins and seeing you use some of those patented shoot out moves in my least favourite hockey tie breaker!

With the additions of Miller and Vrbata to the Canucks, Benning announced that the roster movements were completed for now. First came free agency frenzy, next comes re-signing our restricted free agents. The Canucks are looking to re-sign the following RFA’s: Zack Kassian, Yannick Weber, Chris Tanev and the newly acquired Linden Vey. UPDATE: You can cross re-signing Zack Kassian and Yannick Weber off the list as they are officially INKED to new contracts with the Canucks as of July 4th. The Canucks are hoping to lock down Tanev and Vey in the upcoming days/weeks.

The ch-ch-changes have arrived in the the form of the NHL draft, trades, free agency, and the re-signing RFAs. There may be more changes to come, but for the time being the waters of change have calmed.

Next up for the Canucks brass: The Canucks 2014 Prospect Camp where they will get a closer look at the young core of depth within the organization. The likes of Dane Fox, Bo Horvat, Hunter Shinkaruk, Jake Virtanen, Jared McCann, Cole Cassels will be partaking in the camp hoping to make an impression and perhaps lead to a training camp invitation.

The waters of free agency have calmed…but I suspect that there will be MORE changes to come from teams that are currently over the salary cap maximum or below the salary cap minimum. Here’s to enjoying the calm while it lasts and being prepared for any changes that may be around the corner.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.