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.

Welcome Desjardins!

After weeks of speculation, it is finally OFFICIALLY, official as the Vancouver Canucks announced Willie Desjardins as the 18th head coach in franchise history.

HERE’S WILLIE DESJARDINS:

Where did Willie come from before joining the Vancouver Canucks?

Desjardins spent 8 seasons coaching in the WHL from 2002-2010 as head coach of the Medicine Hat Tigers. He led them to the playoffs in every season he coached them, including all the way to two WHL Championship titles in 2003-2004 and 2006-2007. Following his success in the WHL, he was brought in as an associate coach with the Dallas Stars for two years (2010-2012). Desjardins has spent his last two years coaching the Texas Stars in the AHL which concluded with his tenure with the team winning the AHL championship Calder Cup.

Six days after winning the 2014 AHL Championship, Desjardins was named as the newest Vancouver Canucks head coach. Welcome to Canucks nation, Willie!

How does Desjardins feel about being called up to the big leagues?

“It’s great for me and my family. I just like coaching. It’s a great opportunity. You always want to coach at the best level. The NHL is the best level.”

How does he feel about coaching in Vancouver and his current team?

“This is a great city. It’s a great organization. I’m lucky to be part of this. I didn’t take this job without doing my research. I like this team and I like the roster. I know the skill level here.”

On getting to his players: “You have to respect the players. It’s about how we get there and that’s working together.” –>Sounds like a refreshing concept does it not?

As for the core, he still believes they can find their way back to being contenders again. “We have so many great leaders on this team…they’ve won in the past, they’ll win again”

Desjardins knows that it will take more than the right words to prove to all the critics that both he and the team can exceed expectations: “We can say we’re going to be great but it doesn’t matter what we say, it’s what we do.”

Willie Desjardins has his work cut out for in his first ever NHL head coaching post BUT he is primed and ready for the challenge. Desjardins has paid his dues and earned his turn at the helm of an NHL team. He brings with him one very important ingredient that Torts never had, an ability to connect with his peers and his players in a manner that will motivate them instead of causing them to second guess each step forward. That may sound small BUT when a coach believes in his players it goes a long way in how his players will play every night…take away that belief and it can cause his players to question every play they make on the ice losing their confidence.

One last Canucks note: On the Kesler watch, Linden had THESE words to say: “We’re working with Ryan. Ryan is a tremendous player. He’s got the assets we want to have on this team.” Does that mean he will remain a Canuck by season’s start or be traded by the draft? The truth is, that only time will tell on that front no matter how many predictions that the fans and media will insist upon making to keep the rumour mill running wild.

On the NHL front…did you see that the 2014-2015 NHL schedule has officially been released? If you want to take a closer look at the Canucks schedule in particular, simply check out the Canucks 2014-2015 Schedule & Results page at the top of the blog.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.