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.
Aug 3, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT
Pondering a rebuilding process that took a leap.
Aug 3, 2015, 2:07 PM EDT
Perhaps you can broaden this to “keeping the puck out of their net.”
Aug 3, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
The league estimates such a process could cost about $13.5 million.
Aug 3, 2015, 11:57 AM EDT
In all likelihood Jack Eichel is going to make the team, but what about Buffalo’s other second overall pick?
Aug 3, 2015, 10:42 AM EDT
This is his chance to prove he’s a real No. 1 goalie.
Aug 3, 2015, 10:17 AM EDT
Ron DeGregorio rounded out the group.
Aug 3, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
The worst should be behind them.
Aug 3, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
Monday’s collection of links.
Aug 2, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT
Is his poor Game 7 record reflective of anything?
Aug 2, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT
In other words, how much longer will Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Ryan Kesler stay at the top of their game?
Aug 2, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT
His newly signed two-year deal is an opportunity for
Aug 2, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT
He’s got the size and skill to potentially make an impact.
Aug 2, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
Andersen, Gibson & Khudobin have a combined 27 Stanley Cup playoff games on their resume.
Aug 2, 2015, 1:31 PM EDT
Will all of them play in 2015-16?
Aug 2, 2015, 11:48 AM EDT
That will eat up his first year of UFA eligibility.
Aug 2, 2015, 11:28 AM EDT
Can they close to final gap between them and the Stanley Cup?
Aug 2, 2015, 9:48 AM EDT
They avoided an arbitration judgment.
Aug 2, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
They’re in win now mode.
Aug 1, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT
He’ll add some toughness to the lineup.
Aug 1, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT
New Jersey is still working on getting the 18-year-old signed to an entry-level contract.
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- Bernier, Leafs agree on two-year, $8.3 million deal 24
- How do Voracek, Giroux compare to the most expensive duos? 61
- Voracek turns monster season into massive eight-year deal 71
- Report: Canucks, Sutter closing in on five-year deal, north of $20M 28
- Voynov serving sentence at jail that once advertised it had flat screen TVs 45
- Report: Bernier and Leafs more than $2 million apart ahead of Friday’s arbitration hearing 12
- Flyers re-sign Couturier: six years, $26 million 41
- Benning calls Sutter a ‘foundation piece’ for Canucks 24
- Here’s a chart that shows which teams have been good/bad at drafting 44
- Bettman says NHL would have to ‘consider’ putting Quebec City in the Western Conference (71)
- Voracek turns monster season into massive eight-year deal (71)
- Rangers sign Stepan — six years, $39 million (62)
- How do Voracek, Giroux compare to the most expensive duos? (61)
- NBC Sports to broadcast 105 NHL games in 2015-16 (58)