After Ten: Canucks Pull Off Exciting Start To The Season

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The month of October has passed for the Vancouver Canucks who promised in the offseason that change was coming.

Willie Desjardins’ Canucks are off to a stunning 7-3-0 start to the regular season with exceptions for two of the games. The Canucks left the gates running as they dished out victories over the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames for a three win kickoff. The Celebration came to a standstill after two straight losses to the Lightning at home and the Dallas Stars who ran them out of town 6-3. The new team found the light at the end of the tunnel after a disappointing 2-1-0 road trip last week as they held the fort for three games.

They now find themselves at second place in the Pacific Division but what has led to this early success? Let’s break it down line by line and find out.

D. SEDIN (3-9-12) H. SEDIN (4-8-12) VRBATA (5-6-11)

The first line in the ten games they played have been a force to be reckoned with. The twins and Vrbata are combined for 35 points overall and prove to be one of the top lines in the league.

These veteran hockey players have been one of the most productive power play units on the ice scoring seven out of eight one man advantage goals from the ranks.

This line is always a thrill to watch what they will do next and are on pace for a great season.

HIGGINS (2-4-6) BONINO (4-4-8) BURROWS (2-4-6)

The second line looked a tad shaky at first glance when they debuted on the ice. Without any production from themselves and the bottom six they made the Sedin line look like the only strength the team had.

It turned out they only needed a couple match-ups to warm up when they suddenly cranked up the heat in the last five games scoring 14 points. The largest effort has been made by centre Nick Bonino who has proven to be the successor of Ryan Kesler who has on amounted a record of 3-4-7 in 11 games. Bonino now has eight points on the season and is on route for a 66 tally season.

Alex Burrows has shown that being demoted after a poor season will not bring him down as he has pulled a great effort. The 33 year old is back to his 2011 form especially in scrapping. Burrows has come across an amount of trouble after delivering a controversial hit to Alexei Emelin Thursday evening. The forward has now received a 3 game suspension from NHL Player Safety for his actions.

Chris Higgins has been getting Higgy with it in his first ten games. He is one of the most noticeable forwards on the ice. Higgins has not only proven that he can maintain a second role but has proven he is definitely worth the money that management pays.

MATTHIAS (0-2-2) RICHARDSON (3-3-6) KASSIAN (2-1-3)

The third line is a work in progress that has gained traction in the last couple games. Strong efforts have been provided by Brad Richardson who scored three goals in two games. Richardson has been one of the most impressive among the bottom six with his hard shot that simply gets the puck in the net.

Shawn Matthias has begun to show glimmers of hope in his offensive play after being moved from centre to wing last week. The recently acquired former Panther has charged the net on multiple occasions and has not failed to get the puck toward the net.

Zack Kassian on the other hand has been frustrating. The wild card first round pick is still streaky in his play. Not to mention all the obscene acts he has committed in “gooning it up” he really needs to smarten up. Desjardins commented on Kassian’s outrageous applause towards the refs in a game against the Oilers.

“The referees were really good in that situation,” said Desjardins. “We can’t do that. Our players know that. We talked about that.

“That’s one thing you can’t do. I thought the refs handled it real well.”

Kassian all in all is a defective version of Todd Bertuzzi.

DORSETT (0-2-2) VEY (3-2-5) HANSEN (3-0-3)

Linden Vey though a fourth line centre at the moment has been on the top power play unit alongside the
Sedins, Vrbata and Alex Edler. The young forward has shown that he can fit in with the big boys on the roster as is fully capable in being a professional offensive force.

Jannik Hansen was demoted all the way to the bottom of the line chart but he does not seem to mind it. Hansen has provided bottom six mite in scoring three goals this season.

Derek Dorsett is an intense player. He knows when to be the tough guy on the ice and scraps a lot. Dorsett can be compared to those like the late Bob Probert who played the nitty gritty style with integrity and honour. The new enforcer is a man who will light up his team mates when needed.

EDLER (1-3-4) TANEV (0-4-4)

This top pairing has been the heart and soul of the defensive core. When the other two thirds of the blue line fail to support, Tanev and Edler know how to crack the volume up on their play. They are yet to disappoint on a major comeback from the 2013-14 regular season.

Alex Edler has gone from the worst in the NHL last year in plus minus with a rating of -39 to now maintaining a +3 rating.

Chris Tanev is now in the spotlight where he must prove his place on the Canucks for management in order to lock up a multi-year deal with the team. If Tanev keeps up his to the standard they seen him perform, it will be no problem watching him here for years to come.

BIEKSA (0-1-1) HAMHUIS (0-3-3)

This veteran blue line that was expected to carry the team this year has given insight on early rust. Both Bieksa and Hamhuis have had plausible performances on the ice but are not in their peak. The two big names will have to work hard to prove that the old guys have a role too.

SBISA (1-1-2) WEBER (0-2-2)

The third pairing on the Canucks have been an utter embarrassment. Both Sbisa and Weber have been present on the ice for the majority of goals against their team.

Luca Sbisa appears lost whenever he is on the ice and is not the player fans expected in return for Ryan Kesler in last years trade. His play is outright sloppy and to make matters worse, he holds a hefty pay cheque of $2.175 million.

WHAT ABOUT THE GOALTENDING?

The goaltending has been absolutely brilliant with the stellar performances of Ryan Miller. He has been there every time his team needs him and is currently tied with Canadiens goaltender Carey Price for most wins.

Ryan Miller in the first ten games achieved his 30th career shutout and his 300th career win.

WHAT CAN BE TAKEN FROM THIS?

Last season, John Tortorella claimed that the Canucks were simply too old and too stale. In the reign of Willie Desjardins, those remarks have been proven wrong as the team has quickly retooled and are now on pace to be a playoff contender.

Desjardins’ Canucks are slowly beginning to click together in his four line ideology. There is still much work to be done for the Vancouver Canucks and that’s alright.

Change has indeed come to the city of Vancouver.

Follow me on Twitter @cjaharder

Welcome to 2014-2015: A Season to Sit Back and Enjoy!

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 DesjardinsWillie 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!

Through the Plexi-Glass: Remembering a Heart Of a Canuck

It’s the new mantra for the Vancouver Canucks, “The Heart of a Canuck”. It’s in the arena, it’s all over the city, and more importantly, it’s in us fans.  After a difficult loss in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, I felt my heart almost break. The toll of the whole playoffs resonated with me the minute the horn sounded and the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup.  I felt deflated, spent, and dejected. However, I remember being at the bar in the Best Buy Club section of the arena and I thought of a friend of mine who would have loved to have been there. His name? Curtis Giesbrecht.

When I went to high school, I found myself in a high school that was heavily into football, both CFL and the NFL. So I was one of the few kids that actually loved hockey and talked hockey as much as I could. Finding someone to talk to me about the Canucks, hockey in general was more or less ‘difficult’. You see, the Canucks weren’t that good of a hockey team back then. In the late 80’s early 90’s, they were, for a lack of a better word, mediocre. Despite all that, I still loved them. The cool thing was, I finally met someone else in my high school who loved them as much, if not more, than I. That guy was Curtis.

We drove our teachers crazy because instead of just focusing on class, we’d ask each other about the game we heard on the radio the other night or got to watch on TV. While everyone else in school was wondering how if the Pittsburgh Steelers were going to have a banner year, he and I would be discussing if Pat Quinn should be both GM and coach, Pavel Bure’s goal, or how much we both admired and loved Trevor Linden.  I had found my  hockey soul-mate!

We also used to bug a friend of ours about being a Flames fan, but he took it with stride and we had a great hockey banter in the hallways. However, the memory I cherish the most was the last year of high school. Curtis and I finally attended a Canucks game together. Lots of weekends working retail had to be done in order to pay for our 9th row seats at the old Pacific Coliseum but we made it there. Curtis wore his Canucks jersey (like he often did to school) and I believe at the time I had a #8 Greg Adams jersey.  It was the Canucks versus the Winnipeg Jets. We had seen Teemu Selanne graced us with his talent and intuition to score, while we had the always dynamic Bure. We were in hockey fan heaven.  I don’t believe we won that night, and I felt dejected, but I remember Curtis saying to me, “G, never give up being a Canucks fan, they are our team and I’ll love them forever, even when I die!” He was 17 at the time, and so was I.  We thought we’d be heading to Canucks games the rest of our adult lives together. We were even talking about going into season tickets one day.  He was the biggest fan to date.

Taken at the old Pacific Coliseum, Pavel Bure

We didn’t have the internet, so we didn’t have things like twitter, Facebook, or even a regular TV broadcaster of the Canucks to keep us up to date. We relied heavily on Sports Page, the radio and whatever news we could get into our proverbial hands.  Most of all, Curtis and I had each other.  Unfortunately, our dreams of being season ticket holders together never happened. Curtis was killed in an unfortunate car accident just a few short years after we graduated high school.

It’s been almost 20 years, but I still remember seeing his smile every morning and first thing he used to say to me wasn’t “Hello”, but it was “Hey G, how about those Canucks this year?” I miss that to this very day. So in my memory beats the heart of a Canuck. Today, when I step into Rogers Arena,  as the Vancouver Canucks take on the Pittsburgh Penguins, I will think of Curtis and all the great times we had together, as Canucks fans.
Dedicated to the memory of Curtis Geisbrecht, forever a Canuck.

Justine Galo

Is Linden Hall of Fame Worthy?

On a plane ride from Toronto to Vancouver, I was getting excited because I got to go home to Vancouver and catch some Canucks games on the west coast and of course the pending trip to LA and Anaheim to see the Canucks play in Southern California. (That’s another column in itself).  I was very fortunate to sit next to a Canucks fan. He was wearing his Linden jersey, so I assumed that he was a Nucks fan and I decided to strike up a conversation.  He obliged.

Linden BannerWe talked about what happened last year and how far the Canucks can potentially go in this upcoming season.  We both had high hopes and then there was a small silence. He then brought up that Linden was his favourite Canuck of all time and asked me which Canucks was my favourite. I responded with Trevor Linden.  I wasn’t surprised, he was in and around my age (34) and we both grew up in that era of Canucks hockey.

He also brought up the topic of Trevor Linden making the Hall Of Fame.  I wasn’t sure how to respond. I had a confused look on my face.  He kept rambling on how Trevor was the heart and soul of the Canucks and how he has done so much for the organization under different ownership(s) etc, etc, etc.  I finally responded with, “Trevor Linden is not a Hall of Fame Player”.  I think he was about ready to slap me, but instead, I got the “you’re not a real Canucks fan” response.  I wasn’t going to argue so I just said”You’re right, I am not a real Canucks fan, I am hockey fan who happens to favour the Canucks as her team of choice.”

My fellow fan was just flabbergasted that I would not induct Vancouver’s Golden Boy, Trevor Linden, into the Hockey Hall of Fame like most Canucks fans would.  I gave him my explanation, like I am going to give it to you, the readers.

When I say this Canucks fans, please don’t bombard my email with hate mail about how I am not a Canucks fan because I don’t love Trevor Linden.  Fact is, I love Trevor Linden, and he is truly my favourite Canuck of all time.  He was truly a great asset to the organization when he was a part of it, and not to mention the community of the Lower Mainland.  Linden embraced Vancouver and Vancouver embraced Trevor Linden.  It was a love affair that was instantaneous and life-long.

I am a huge Trevor Linden fan, but even with Canucks –coloured glasses on, Trevor Linden is not HOF material as a player.  Heck he’s not even our leading goal scorer of all time in the club record books.  It’s sad to say but towards the end of his career, Trevor’s abilities and foot speed, decreased so much that even an ardent Linden fan as me could no longer deny it.

I did however love seeing flashes of classic Linden during the playoffs. He was definitely clutch.   Still, he’s not my choice as a player to go to the HOF. The HOF is the best of the best, and as much as Vancouver fans love Trevor, he’s not or even close to that echelon of player. To say any different, would be a delusion of grandeur.

So I stand by it, Trevor Linden was not a good enough player to be considered for the Hockey Hall of Fame. He was a good hockey player with an extraordinary heart, mindset, and a conscience for the game, the fans, and the city that gave him so much.  I`m sure he`ll even agree with me.  He`s not the best of the best, but he certainly played amongst them, and played well I might add.

However, I believe that Trevor Linden will be in the HHOF, and no, not as a visitor, but he will be inducted in due time.  He has a chance to be inducted in the “Builders” category.  For the years he`s spent as the NHLPA president and playing a huge role in bringing hockey back after a year-long lockout, I believe he will get his day and his respect.

So my flight companion was partially right, Trevor Linden is worthy of the HOF, just not as a player.

Compromise?

Markus hangs them up. We should say thank you.

Markus Naslund officially called it quits on his NHL career Monday, and as far as I’m concerned, he deserves nothing but thanks and good wishes from Canucks fans.

“I would like to sincerely thank Glen Sather and the New York Rangers for giving me the opportunity this past season in New York,” said Naslund in a statement. “I would also like to thank the Vancouver Canucks and all of their fans for their support over the 11-plus seasons I was a part of their organization, as well as to the Pittsburgh Penguins where I began my NHL career.”

The debate will now begin amongst Canucks fans whether or not Naslund’s number 19 should be retired by the Canucks. He’s the Canucks all-time leading scorer with 756 points He holds the single season record for goals (48), assists (56) and points (104) by a left-winger. Statistically there is no doubt he has done enough for his number to hang beside Trevor Linden and Stan Smyl in the rafters of GM Place. He played here for over eleven seasons.

Naslund returned home to Sweden each off-season and never really called Vancouver “home”. It was important to him for his children to experience their culture and have some schooling in Sweden. In contrast, Linden and Smyl adopted our city as their home, and became hockey heroes, entrenched on our community. However, Naslund did enough in the community over his eleven seasons here to meet this criteria as well.

Where some will say Naslund falls short is playoff success. Both Smyl and Linden were part of Stanley Cup final teams. Linden saved his best for the post-season, and was always a post season warrior. Naslund’s teams always fell short, and many would argue underachieved under his captaincy.

Whatever the decision ends up being there is no doubt that Markus Naslund is one of the most talented players to ever wear a Canucks jersey. He played here long enough, put up club record numbers, and was the captain of this team for several years, as well as being a contributing member of the community. At the very least Naslund should be honoured in some way by the team, even if that doesn’t include raising the number 19 to the rafters.

The BC Lions have a policy of not retiring numbers, rather they honour their greats on a ring of honour in the stadium. Perhaps Naslund should be among the first inductees in a similar effort at GM Place.