The Vancouver Canucks kick off the 2014-2015 NHL season tonight in Calgary and for the first time in a long time, there is a different vibe among the fans in Canucks Nation.
Gone are the questions of whether this will be the year, replaced by the hope and excitement of a new regime. A sense of calm has blanketed the organization after a circus-like couple of seasons that saw the Canucks fall out of contention in the NHL West.
The often brash and arrogant management of Mike Gillis is gone, replaced by the classy Trevor Linden and a GM in Jim Benning that treats people with respect, while sporting a reputation of a guy having a keen eye for talent. You also get the feeling that the respect both of these men have earned will be an asset in improving the club, as their relationship with their peers will be better than their predecessors.
Willie Desjardins is getting good early reviews as coach, and it will be exciting to see how he motivates and works with this club this season, his first as a head coach. He’s known to have the ability to motivate young and veteran players alike. If your players like and respect you and want to work for you, it can have amazing results.
For the first time in many years, there are new faces on the ice. Players that have youth and that can grow with the club. There are prospects on the farm that aren’t far away from making a contribution.
As fans we get watch the birth of a new regime, and watch how it unfolds. Often times with fresh guidance from the top a team can flourish, because they are all on the same page, working as one. Will the Sedins rebound and find their magic with new linemate Radim Vrbata? Will Alex Burrows rebound and provide the Canucks with that second line that has been missing the last few seasons? Can Zack Kassian take the next step in his development and become the power forward his skillset suggest he can be?
Ryan Miller will split the goaltending duties with the popular Eddie Lack, and somehow you get the feeling there could be a year without the soap opera that has been the Canucks goaltending situation, unless you’re not convinced the media in this town just can’t resist trying to create a new one.
Seasons like the one we are about to embark on are refreshing. There are no real expectations; no one is considering the Canucks a contender for the cup. If the Canucks make the playoffs this season it will be considered a huge accomplishment in a very tough Western Conference.
A lot of things have changed for the Canucks, but in the end there is a new confidence and direction in the organization, and after years of stressful seasons and expectations not met, feel free to sit back and watch this team evolve under the Linden, Benning and Desjardins, all of it without the stress and expectations of seasons past.
Welcome to the 2014-2015 season, everyone. Go Canucks Go!