Thank-You.

Dear Vancouver Canucks,

I would like to take this opportunity to say THANK-YOU for the season that was the 2014-15 season. I am sad to see the season end BUT I am in NO way disappointed with the team or what you gave THIS city. You gave us an incredible season from start to finish. You allowed us to move on from the shadows of last season and build hope for the future of this franchise. You showed this city and the entire league that you could compete with the elite teams despite what the odds said. You allowed this city to dream of what could be and what one day WILL be.

This season had many ups, downs and twists along the way that led the team to a bounce back season. You brought back Captain Canuck when you named, Trevor Linden as the new president of hockey operations. The Sedins proved all the naysayers wrong YET again as they always do. Your off-season signings of Radim Vrbata and Ryan Miller proved to be exactly what the doctor ordered despite what the critics presumed prior to the season’s start. Perhaps neither of those signings seemed too massive to the outsiders looking in, but each player found a way to make their indelible mark on the team in their first season as Canucks.

You found a coach that believed not only in each individual player but in the team as a whole when you named, Willie Desjardins as coach. Players that struggled last year rediscovered what they lost last season…confidence that made the game fun. You showed this city that a little belief from the coach and in each other can go a long way towards having success.

You may not have had a perfect season but you gave this city many incredible memories from Daniel’s 1000th game, to Henrik’s 900th point to Millsy’s back to back shutouts on the road, to a massively improved shootout record to the farm team becoming an integral part of the franchise…there are ENDLESS things to be proud of from this season.

Perhaps though my most favourite memories from this season are my own personal memories. From meeting Trevor Linden, Kevin Bieksa, Kirk McLean to being invited to taking part in the Canucks #SocialSuite night or that time I punched Johnny Canuck to attending a MASSIVE birthday win versus the Maple Leafs to getting be one of the lucky fans that got to have even for one round a post-season dream.

2014-15SeasonSo do I wish that the Canucks were still in the hunt for the Stanley Cup? Absolutely, but as I previously stated, I am in NO way disappointed in the season they gave this city. There is only an incredibly grateful heart over here for the season that was. I loved every up, every down and every twist in between this season. It may not have been a perfect season from start to finish but no season ever is completely perfect.I will take a perfectly imperfect season because in each imperfection grows even stronger the dream of what one day WILL be.

Yes, this year the dream fell short but it did not dimmer the hope for the future. So thank-you for this season in which you re-engaged this city and re-ignited the dream. Your future still burns bright and I look forward whatever that holds moving forward.

I was yesterday, am now and always will be a Vancouver Canucks fan.

Sincerely,

Sarah Laug (a canucklehead for life)

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CLINCHED! PLAYOFFS, BABY!

2015CLINCHEDPlayoff fever, is that YOU calling my name? YES, it is! The Vancouver Canucks have officially punched their 2015 playoff ticket! There were many who said after the torpedo that was last season, that were beyond skeptical that the Canucks could return to the post-season THIS year. What a difference, a year can make!

Last year when Trevor Linden said that THIS team was going to make it to the playoffs, there were A LOT of doubters. How could anyone blame them after what was the Torts era? Many “experts” were certain that the Canucks would not be playoff bound THIS season and would stuck in rebuild mode for some time. Linden never said it was going to be easy for them to get there, but he did say they would try to make the team remember why they love the game and get a little tenacity back in their game. He has done just that.

Was the season perfect from start to finish? No, not at all but it sure was refreshing to watch this team come together rather than fall apart at the seams. This year was supposed to be about rebuilding rather than exceeding expectations. This year, the Sedins were supposed to be washed up, secondary scoring was a pipe dream and goal-tending was a question mark at best. This year the Canucks were supposed to be part of the Connor McDavid sweepstakes. This year in the hands of a newly minted team president, newly minted GM and newly minted head coach was a gamble. Well long story short, the Canucks took that gamble on that newly minted trio and they surprised a lot of people around the league with their success.

Now for the LONG story:

Trevor Linden wanted to bring back excitement to the Canucks on ice product and he has done just that and more this season. He brought in a scouting and development expert in GM Jim Benning and a coach who brings out the best in his players in Willie Desjardins. All three of them have been invested from the start in not only working with the current roster but also with their players on their AHL roster in Utica and their younger prospects still playing junior. From top to bottom of this organization, this management group has been involved to turn things around and continue building for the future.

The players came in knowing that last year was disastrous and determined to prove everyone wrong who said they were going to be bottom feeders and more than that they could still be competitive with the league’s top teams. More than that, the dynamic in the room had changed not only with new management but also with new players on the roster. Change was needed not just internally but also in the game that they played as a team EACH game. Consistency and cohesiveness was needed. Time would tell just serious this team was about moving forward from last season’s tornado.

The Sedins may not be on a point-per-game pace this season, but they are back to playing the way that proves they are still exciting to watch making dazzling plays on a nightly basis. They have both surpassed their point totals of last season and lately have been absolutely clutch when called upon (ahem, that TYING goal vs. LA anyone?). Henrik and Daniel have flourished under Desjardins in a way that did not happen with Torts. Last year between Torts and injuries, they seemed to lose their confidence, whereas this year they seem to have found that spark again. It never ceases to amaze me, the way those two work together with seamless no look passes and impossible angle goals.

It’s no secret that Alex Burrows struggled under Torts and was also low in the confidence department. This year, he made it clear that he did not care which line he played on as long he as he got to play, he would do whatever coach asked of him. Desjardins has played Burrows on nearly every line and in every situation (5-on-5, 5-on-4, 4-on-4 and 5-on-3) and he has been reliable adapting to each situation. He may not be breaking any records, but he is finding a way to contribute no matter which line or situation he’s asked to play. It sure is amazing what a little belief and confidence from the coach can make in the way a player plays from start to finish in a season.

Radim Vrbata easily became one of the best 2014 off-season signings! He is everything that Jim Benning expected and more! His 31 goals and counting is a team high and he is money in the bank when it comes to the not-so-dreaded shootout. It does not matter which line he plays on, he adds an offensive spark nearly every game. His consistency on the scoreboard has helped to take the pressure off of the Sedins and provide much needed secondary scoring.

And yes goal-tending was a fiasco after the Luongo and Schneider trades leaving people to wonder if Lack could carry the load or if a veteran would need to come in to solidify the crease. The truth is BOTH of those things happened. In the summer Linden and Benning signed veteran goalie, Ryan Miller to solidify the crease and be a mentor to Eddie Lack. Miller has been everything as advertised, having a stellar season posting six shutouts while maintaining a Canucks playoff position prior to his injury. Miller’s injury forced Eddie Lack into the reigns down the stretch and he stood up to the challenge helping to keep the Canucks in their season-long playoff position. Together these two have done exactly what they were asked to do from the start despite the doubts that outsiders projected at them.  For the playoffs, no matter which one is in the crease, they BOTH deserve credit for helping get the Canucks this far.

It was NO easy task for Trevor Linden to come in and turn this team around in a year since taking over as President of Hockey operations. He did what seemed to many impossible: made the Vancouver Canucks believe that they were competitive and translated that to them BEING competitive more nights than not. He found the right GM and the right coach to help the team forward and change the mindset from last season’s disaster to this year’s success. Trevor Linden said that change was coming and that the team would be playoff bound come April. Change came and the team IS playoff bound. Linden and company delivered on their promises and never wavered from their desire to see the team succeed. Eighty games down, two remain with an opportunity to clinch home ice in the opening round of the 2015 NHL playoffs.

Are you ready, Vancouver? That noise you hear is PLAYOFF FEVER calling your name! Get those jerseys, white towels, flags and playoff gear ready for April 15th! The best part of the NHL season is nearly upon us!

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

Playoff Dreaming…

IMG_0781Change is coming, change IS here. Did you believe that statement would be true prior to the start of the season? It truly is incredible to witness what the Vancouver Canucks have accomplished this season. Yes, it is true, that it is not a record breaking year and from the outside looking in, it might seem hardly remarkable. This season was supposed to be a season focused on rebuilding following the disaster that was the 2013-14 regular season or at least that’s what the media told us. And after the season that was last year, who could blame them for thinking that is what comes next?

Just who are these Vancouver Canucks?! These are the Canucks brought to you by, former captain Trevor Linden. Along with Linden for the ride is GM Jim Benning and newly minted head coach, Willie Desjardins. The trio was determined to turn things around THIS season while at the same time building for the future. They may not be winning every game or necessarily the games that people would expect them to, but they are finding ways to be competitive more nights than not. They have maintained a playoff position for most of the season and continue to be in a competitive race for a second place finish in the Pacific Division with 90 points and eight games remaining still to be played. Through 74 games, Desjardins has coached the team to a 43-27-4 record. The odds unlike last season, are actually in their favour heading down the stretch drive to the post season.

There have been a lot of surprises this season. Who knew that when GM Benning signed Radim Vrbata that he would become such an integral piece of the Canucks puzzle? He leads the team in goals with 29 and has proven to be valuable on ANY line he is playing on in every situation. He is consistently consistent every game. He scores goals with finesse, like THIS one:

And then there is the curious case of Alex Burrows who notoriously struggled on the Torts regime due to multiple injuries and a lack of understanding between player and coach. THIS year he has once again proven to be reliable in all areas of the ice and at times has been rewarded by reuniting with the Sedin twins for goals like THESE:

“Reunited and it feels SO good…”!

The Sedins may not be quite a point-per-game pace but they certainly are looking more and more like the dependable players that they were before the 2013-14 NHL season. In true twin fashion, they are tied for the team lead in points each with 66, the only difference being that HENRIK has one more goal and DANIEL has one more assist.

Goal-tending was also an area that team WilLindEnning addressed this summer with the signing of veteran goalie, Ryan Miller. Many questioned whether he would fit with the Canucks and what this would mean for Eddie Lack. Millsy had a resilient season picking up 28 wins that included 6 shutouts prior to an injury in late February. He’s a massive reason as to why the Canucks have been able to maintain their playoff position all season long. Since the injury to Miller, Eddie Lack has stepped up to fill in and raised his level of play and helped the Canucks stay in the playoff hunt.

Does this mean Lack is the number one now or that Millsy gets back the net come playoff time? To be honest, I do not care WHO is in the net, just that they play to the best of their abilities when they are in the crease. Do we need another goal-tender controversy in Vancouver? Say it with me, NO! We do not need to create another controversy among the goalies and this city. It would simply be incredible if down this stretch and however far this team goes into the playoffs that THIS city would SUPPORT whichever goalie is in the net.

Jim Benning also did the seemingly impossible by locking down Christopher Tanev for five more seasons much to the delight of Canucks fans. Tanev has proven to be an integral part of the defensive core with ever growing potential. He’s often a goalie’s best friend on the blue line making crucial blocks and the odd game-saving goal-line save. It was paramount to get his deal done before season’s end or the free agency frenzy. Well done, Jim, well done.

Most surprising of all this season is that despite a depleted lineup during January and February, the team was still finding ways to be competitive and win games. 74 games down, 8 to go. 15 spots remain to be claimed in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Will the Canucks clinch a spot down the stretch? That remains to be seen, but unlike last season, the odds are not down to a long shot but simply solid play in the games that remain. Are you ready for what these last 8 games will reveal? Regardless of how it ends, it sure has been exhilarating to witness this team find a little bit of its tenacity once more. This team is playoff dreaming once again. Slowly but surely, Trevor Linden has this team turning this city into BO-lievers and despite the odds on paper at the start, anything is possible.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

Raise-A-Reader 2014 Edition

RaiseAReader2013Every year the Vancouver Canucks participate in Postmedia’s Raise-A-Reader campaign that takes place across Canada. This year was no exception and they were out bright and early, and with Vancouver Canucks players downtown, it is a HUGE draw for fans of the team. It has become a start of the season tradition for my sisters and I to attend every year!

The main reason for this event can be summed up perfectly from the Raise-A-Reader website as the following: “The Postmedia Raise-a-Reader campaign exists to empower today’s children and families with tools to improve their reading skills. These skills are the foundation for lifelong learning that significantly affects the quality of life and the health and social economic well-being of individuals, families and communities. 100% of all funds raised will go to the literacy community.”

The campaign went from 7:00AM-9:00AM. There were representatives from the Vancouver Canucks, Vancouver Whitecaps, Vancouver Giants, B.C. Lions, Global News, and of course the Vancouver Sun. You can guess who, I went downtown to see, right? Is it even a question?!

First, we met some of the Vancouver Giants players braving the early rainfall:

IMG_0928Next, bring on the nostalgia and Vancouver Canucks!

After missing out on the opportunity to have our picture taken during the 2014 Canucks Telethon, I finally had my chance to fix that when Captain Kirk was also at Raise-A-Reader:

IMG_0926We also got to meet Mr.President himself, Trevor Linden. Thanks for talking hockey with me this morning, and giving me an incredible memory!

Trevor & me:

IMG_0925Abs & Linden:

AbsLindenLast, but certainly not least, Kevin Bieksa who is just as comical and KIND in real life as he is in post-game interviews.

Kevin & me:

IMG_0927Abs & Kevin:

AbsBieksaThat’s how we spent our Wednesday morning…meeting some of our favourite players, talking hockey and supporting an incredible cause to bring back the importance of literacy! Hockey and reading are two of my most favourite things, so it was fantastic to be able to combine those today! While it was incredible to meet some amazing people today, it is important to remember the importance of the day was not about the pomp and circumstance of meeting the celebrities, but rather about the children and helping to ensure that they will know the magic of imagination that comes to life through reading. If you can, please join the campaign to raise awareness of the importance of literacy!

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.