NHL 15: Vancouver Canucks Guide
Written By: TryForTheKingdom
Year in Review:
Do we have to? Really? …..okay. I guess we all must relive this one last time before we can lower the coffin and pour the first shovelful of dirt on the 2013-2014 season.
Our season ended rather early in 2013 after being swept out of the first round by the Sharks. Shortly after this Alain Vigneault, along with the rest of his coaching staff, were relieved of their duties. AV’s replacement, hired June 25, was John Tortorella, who completed the game of coaching musical chairs by moving from his previous position in New York to Vancouver. Torts wanted to make the Canucks harder to play against, and introduced a system that prioritized a hard fore check and aggressiveness. The Canucks bought out Keith Ballard, and let Mason Raymond and Max Lapierre go to free agency as the team attempted to go in a different direction. The even larger move made in the off-season was the trade of Cory Schneider to New Jersey. It had seemed a foregone conclusion that it was to be Luongo who would be traded, but in a shocking draft floor move, Mike Gillis traded Schneider for the 9th overall pick in the draft. And thus ended the goalie controversy in Vancouver, and everyone lived happily ever after. Maybe not. The draft as a whole was viewed as a success for the Canucks; in addition to picking up Bo Horvat with the pick acquired from New Jersey, the Nucks managed to steal the talented Hunter Shinkaruk with their own first round pick, as well as add quality pieces with real upside later in the draft in Cole Cassels, Jordan Suuban, and Anton Cedarholm. With the shrinking cap, the Canucks were only able to make minor moves in free agency, signing Brad Richardson, Mike Santorelli, and Yannik Weber. After the preseason, it seemed as though Horvat and Shinkaruk had made the team, as both reminded with the club after all other prospects had been sent down, until Jeremy Welsh and Zac Dalpe were acquired from the Canes for Kellan Tochkin and a 4th. This, combined with the stellar play of Santorelli, who had originally only been signed as depth for Utica, meant that any hope for a youth movement in Vancouver would have to wait at least a year.
It was going so well. By the end of December we were 23-11-7, 6th in our conference, and people were generally feeling positive. The Sedins were scoring as usual and had re-upped in November for identical 4-year, $28 million contracts. It was a happy time. This post from CDC emits a sense of jubilation and optimism rarely found among Canucks fans, it is of course titled, “Torts= Best Canucks Coach Ever” http://forum.canucks.com/topic/355210-torts-best-canucks-coach-ever/. Kesler had seen success on the wing with the Sedins, and though Alex Burrows had spent most of his time injured, the surprising play of Mike Santorelli helped to fill that gap.
The wheels fell off. I don’t know how to describe it otherwise, injuries piled up, losses piled up, and confidence disappeared. This team has dealt with significant injuries and extended losing streaks before and managed to bounce back, but this year was something different. And I’m not sure why. We can run through the individual signposts on a terrible season, the Anaheim blowout, the Calgary brawl and Torts locker room charge, the Kesler trade request, the Luongo trade, Torts running Lack into the ground with 19 straight starts, the Islanders’ seven goal 3rd period, but that seems to be more of a symptom than a cause. The worn out excuse that the Canucks coasted to two consecutive President’s Trophies as a result of a weak Northwest Division is easily done away with when actually looks at the stats from those two seasons and sees that the Nucks had a comparable record vs the Northwest as they did against the rest of the league. Our saviour Roberto Luongo was finally traded to Florida for former “best goalie not in the NHL”, Jakob Markstrom, and “player with no identifiable moniker”, Shawn Matthias. Now the goalie controversy was really over, but we’ll see how long that lasts… And a lot of losing happened; no scoring, blown leads, every possible way under the sun to lose, we lost. Up until the end the Canucks seemed to be struck by Murphy’s Law; in the final game of the season, after a heartwarming tribute to Ryan Smyth in the previous game, Daniel Sedin was left lying motionless on the ice after a hit by Flame Paul Byron. Really just a shitty end to a shitty season. Other Canucks teams have performed worse, but I warrant that the 2013-2014 Canucks were the most disappointing iteration of the franchise of all time.
Mike Gillis was fired, Tortorella was fired and Jim Benning was brought in as our new GM by our new Dear Leader/Head of Hockey Ops Trevor Linden. The new brass has so far seemed to have a great well of goodwill from Canucks fans to draw upon, and having a person like Linden in charge will cetainly do that. It will be interesting to see how that changes when games begin to be played, however. Ryan Kesler was traded to the Ducks for Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa and a 1st round pick, the teams also swapped 3rds in the deal. Jason Garrison was traded to the Lightning for a 2nd round pick which was then flipped for Linden Vey. The Nucks also traded a 3rd for Derek Dorsett. At the draft, the Canucks added Jake Virtanen before getting another steal with a late first in Jared McCann. They also drafted top-rated goaltender Thatcher Demko with their early second round pick. In free agency, the Canucks opened up their coffers, securing Ryan Miller to fill the shoes of Luongo and Radim Vrbata to likely ride shotgun with the Sedins. This will be a very different team next year, and it remains to be seen just what this team will be.
Highlights of the 2013-2014 Season:
This was an easy section to compile, as there wasn’t a whole lot to choose from this season. I do, however, want to give a shout out to /r/canucks for their assistance in coming up with a few of this plays that had slipped my mind. So without any further ado….
5) This goal by Hunter Shinkaruk in the preseason showed the combination of speed to the outside and a pinpoint wristshot the Canucks have been missing since the hey day of Markus Naslund. The goal is made all the better by the reaction of his parents (especially his dad) in the audience. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZ5cGl5TY20
4)This next save by Roberto Luongo is just an astounding combination of flexibility and hand-eye coordination.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r12qf85bf4s&sns
3) GREAT SAVE…Bieksa? Yep, Kevin Bieksa clearly was trying to broaden his appeal to fantasy hockey junkies this year, in this instance finding himself with a kick save from behind Eddie Lack. He also lobbied hard to get credit for a faceoff win when he took the opening draw in an attempt to protect Kellan Lain in Lain’s first NHL game. Which went…okay. Here’s the save: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nMq9SSqtMCE
2) This is why Canucks fans are excited about Zack Kassian. He’s more than just a tough guy with a sentient stick, he has the hands of a hand model. He could have made the list a few more times if I didn’t make a rule against it. Here he’s able to knock down a pass out of midair, and then roof it on the backhand. Smooth. And because the best video on Youtube also contains a Chris Higgins goal scored 19 seconds earlier, you all get an extra highlight for free! That’s right, watch now and receive 6 highlights for the price of 5. Watch in the next 15 minutes and we’ll throw in an authentic Sam Gagner tooth as a special bonus gift. But seriously, the Higgins goal is nice too. Watch it.http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=hJ1GTJgazkk
1) You thought you were going to get out of this without seeing one of those dudes who look a lot alike, didn’t you? Wrong. This season may have had less Sedinery than usual, but they still possess the ability to make a National Hockey League team look like a confused Peewee squad. With apologies to Caps fans, here is your 2013-2014 highlight of the year. This is how you play hockey. http://youtu.be/D6W-LYBnapo
Why the Vancouver Canucks Will Win The Cup This Year:
Look, the Sedins, Burrows, Edler, and Hansen are all going to bounce back. I think anyone who knows hockey will agree with me. And at that point it comes down to the same formula all winning teams need in the cap era; vets playing to the peak of their abilities at the right time, and young players exceeding expectations on cheap contracts to provide depth and support. And the Canucks should have both. The veterans on the team, the Sedins, Burr, Bieksa, Hammhuis, Edler et al were all there in 2011, and in 2012 when the Canucks won the President’s Trophy again. They know how to win. The wild card here is the contributions to be had from the youngsters. If players like Linden Vey, Nick Bonino, Zack Kassian as well as maybe an even younger player like Nik Jensen or Bo Horvat can make decent contributions, the Canucks will have excellent depth throughout the lineup that should propel them to the Cup. Look at the Anaheim Ducks of the previous year, who found success running one high powered first line, and three lines, that while not perhaps being true second lines, fell somewhere between an average second line and great third line. Although the Ducks didn’t win the cup, they certainly won a lot of games this way, and it is a formula I can see working for the 2014-2015.
Why the Vancouver Canucks Won’t Win The Cup This Year:
Alright, the Sedins, Burrows, and Edler will all likely bounce back, at least advanced statistics of all sorts indicate they were as unlucky as possible in 2013-2014, but so what? The West was absolutely insane last year, and yet it seems that all the teams in the upper echelon still managed to improve in the offseason. The Blackhawks signed Brad Richards, who should fill in behind Toews nicely and give Patrick Kane someone to play with. The Ducks added this Kesler guy who, scouting reports indicate, is not bad, and if either of their goalies manage to play decent they should be okay. Colorado is a team many expect to slip back this year, but they are better on paper than they were last year, with the addition of Jarome Iginla and the maturation of all their young stars. The Blues signed Paul Stasny, who should help, although the loss of Sobotka and Halak may mean they end up in a similar position to last year. The Stars improved perhaps more than anyone else, and with Spezza and Hemsky in the top six, they may make a push to enter the upper tier of Western teams. And Minnesota got Vanek; Parise-Koivu-Coyle, Vanek-Granlund-Pomminville is a damn solid top six. The Kings stood pat, but hey, they won the Cup and have a fairly young team, so one year of resting on their laurels seems unlikely to slow them down, especially when they can rely on a trade deadline infusion of talent via Columbus. The Sharks just confuse the hell out of me, and will probably be the only team to get worse out of these, they lost Dan Boyle and Brad Stuart without signing replacements, and defense was already their weak point. They have added a lot of fourth liners in the off-season however, leading some to suspect that Brian Burke is operating from behind the scenes. Simply put, there may be no room in the inn for the Canucks next season in the West, even with improvement. Really, i think realignment is once again in order. The travel would be a bitch if Vancouver was in the Eastern Conference but that might be their only chance to make the Finals in 2014-2015.