Aug 11, 2014, 11:02 AM EDT
It wasn’t just that the John Tortorella-coached Canucks lost. It was also that they lost ugly.
In 2013-14, Vancouver finished with the 28th-ranked offense in the NHL and, for the first time since 2008, missed the playoffs. This just three seasons after the club finished with the top-ranked offense and won the Presidents’ Trophy, with much of the same personnel.
To be sure, not all of the team’s descent can be pinned on Tortorella. That would be wholly unfair. The Canucks actually began to deteriorate offensively when Alain Vigneault was still behind the bench — a fact former general manager Mike Gillis somewhat took ownership for in one of his last interviews on the job.
“I really feel that over the last couple of seasons, we’ve chased goalposts that have been moving and got away from our core principles of how I want this team to play, and how we want to perform, and the tempo that we want to play with,” Gillis said in April.
“People love to pick someone to blame, but the reality is, as an organization, we’ve deviated from some of the things that made us successful, and some of the things that I know will be successful.”
Gillis didn’t save his job with that quasi-mea culpa, but Willie Desjardins, the head coach that new president of hockey ops Trevor Linden and new GM Jim Benning hired to replace Tortorella, fits the description that Gillis would surely have laid out.
“I’ve watched Willie’s teams play a lot in the last 12 years, including recently in Texas,” said Benning. “His teams play fast (i.e. not “slow”) and work extremely hard. They play an up-tempo, hard-skating type of game.”
In the last couple of decades, there have been three eras of Canucks hockey that fans in Vancouver have really connected with. First was the one in the 1990s with Pavel Bure and Linden leading the offensive charge; the next was the West Coast Express years from 2002 to 2006, led by Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi; and the third was propelled by twins Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin, with each winning an Art Ross Trophy in 2009-10 and 2010-11, respectively.
All three of those eras scored a lot of goals, and looked good doing it. Bure was arguably the most exciting player in franchise history. The West Coast Express helped fans forget about the ill-fated Mike Keenan and Mark Messier era. As for the Sedin era, Canucks ownership and management are hoping that Desjardins, a first-time NHL coach at age 57, can breathe new life into that one.
“I like what I have to work with, I like it a lot,” he said after he was hired.
“We want to be an entertaining, high-paced, fast team.”
Questions, of course, remain. Like:
— Are the Sedins just too old? Couldn’t that be why they’ve been tailing off? The NHL is a young man’s game, and the twins are 33.
— Is the whole team just too old? On the back end, Kevin Bieksa is 33 and Dan Hamhuis is 31. Alex Edler isn’t exactly old at 28, but he’s not young either. Up front, Alex Burrows is 33 and Chris Higgins is 31, while new addition Radim Vrbata is 33. Heck, Jannik Hansen used to be the kid with the young, energetic legs. He’s 28 now.
Tortorella, for all the criticism he’s received and continues to receive (the word “scapegoat” occasionally comes to mind), wasn’t wrong when he called the Canucks “stale.” They do very much need an injection of youth.
And so in addition to reviving the Sedins and all the other Canuck veterans who underperformed last season, Desjardins will also be responsible for bringing along the club’s youngsters, like Zack Kassian, Linden Vey, Nicklas Jensen, Bo Horvat, Luca Sbisa, Chris Tanev, and Frank Corrado.
Add it all up, then throw in the fact the Canucks play in the very tough Western Conference, and you’ve got a pretty tall task.
“We want to be a good team and make the playoffs and that’s our focus,” said Desjardins.
But don’t forget to be exciting and entertaining, too.
Mar 26, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT
Winnipeg grabbed a big win today, too.
Mar 26, 2015, 10:16 PM EDT
A tough win turned into a bitter OT loss.
Mar 26, 2015, 10:13 PM EDT
Will anyone else join them tonight?
Mar 26, 2015, 9:48 PM EDT
The real winners might be the Edmonton Oilers.
Mar 26, 2015, 9:12 PM EDT
Not a great night for Ottawa.
Mar 26, 2015, 8:58 PM EDT
Update your save of the year highlight packages.
Mar 26, 2015, 8:48 PM EDT
He seems OK after that tough, 2-on-1 check.
Mar 26, 2015, 8:41 PM EDT
Three goals allowed in 20 minutes by Detroit’s embattled starter.
Mar 26, 2015, 8:23 PM EDT
The Rangers forward felt encouraged by this latest step.
Mar 26, 2015, 7:03 PM EDT
He’s lining up with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron to start.
Mar 26, 2015, 6:37 PM EDT
A Vladimir Tarasenko hit shook him up on Tuesday.
Mar 26, 2015, 5:40 PM EDT
Vermont power forward was the club’s third-round pick in 2011.
Mar 26, 2015, 4:56 PM EDT
Featuring Erik Karlsson, Marc Methot and a guest appearance from Curtis Lazar.
Mar 26, 2015, 4:37 PM EDT
The 43-year-old has been a big influence on his young linemates.
Mar 26, 2015, 4:09 PM EDT
Granted, they have to make them first.
Mar 26, 2015, 3:44 PM EDT
Bruce Boudreau continues to “experiment” on defense.
Mar 26, 2015, 3:20 PM EDT
“Hopefully we realize that, come together and allow this group to stay together.”
Mar 26, 2015, 2:44 PM EDT
An interesting comment from his agent.
Mar 26, 2015, 2:14 PM EDT
News and notes from around the crease…
Mar 26, 2015, 1:57 PM EDT
“We are all thinking the same way and going the same direction.”
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- Ticket punched: Rangers become first team to clinch 2015 playoff berth 2
- Coyotes ‘win’ against Sabres in OT 15
- Marchand: If Bruins miss playoffs, ‘this is going to be a much different group next year’ 17
- Is Lecavalier offering to retire early to facilitate trade out of Philly? 26
- Hextall insists he’s ‘on the same page’ with Snider 15
- Krejci ‘probable’ to return versus Ducks 10
- Flyers announce Simmonds, MacDonald done for the season with injuries 18
- Video: Flyers crush Blackhawks, Voracek joins league lead in points 11
- Report: Draft Lottery to be held on Apr. 18 14
- Dreger: ‘In Kessel’s case, I firmly believe he’s going to be traded’ (73)
- Red Wings beat Blues in OT, but should winning goal count? (56)
- Tank-worthy? Connor McDavid finishes OHL season with 120 points in 47 games (56)
- Report: No fine or suspension for Tyler Toffoli’s hit on Alex Burrows (51)
- Dubnyk leads Wild past Isles in SO, earns 10th straight road win (44)