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Bieksa confident changes have Canucks headed in right direction

Aug 31, 2014, 10:33 AM EDT

Kevin Bieksa Getty Images

Despite missing the postseason for the first time in six years, Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa believes there will be playoff hockey in Vancouver in 2014-15.

“Obviously people aren’t going to have the same expectations for out team they’ve had in the past,” Bieksa told The Province. “But our expectations are making the playoffs. We feel we have a team that can compete.”

It’s been a busy offseason in Vancouver.

Gone are Mike Gillis and John Tortorella. On the ice, center Ryan Kesler was dealt to Anaheim and defenseman Jason Garrison was sent to Tampa Bay. Additionally, Mike Santorelli, who showed signs he could contribute at the NHL level last season, signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Canucks did not retain the rights to Jordan Schroeder, who signed with Minnesota as a free agent.

Newly appointed president Trevor Linden has brought in fellow rookies in general manager Jim Benning and head coach Willie Desjardins, but Bieksa is confident in his former teammate.

“I think just having Trevor around eases everyone’s minds,” he said. “We trust Trevor. We have confidence in him. We know he’ll be there making the right decision.”

Bieksa also believes in the core, which remains in Vancouver despite getting up in age. Daniel and Henrik Sedin will turn 34 before the season begins, Dan Hamhuis will be 32 in December and Alex Burrows turns 34 in the new year.

“I still believe in our group. I trust the twins are going to come here and be ready,” said Bieksa, 33. “(Hamhuis) will be hungrier than ever. We have a lot of pride on this team, a lot of integrity, and we’re not happy about what happened last year. I think we’re all going to look in the mirror and come back motivated. I’m excited about this year.

“You can look around the league and I don’t think you’ll find a group of guys our age who are in the shape we’re in.”

The Canucks play in the tough Pacific Division with Anaheim, LA and San Jose, and missed the second wild card spot in the Western Conference by eight points last season.

Vancouver finished 2013-14 averaging 2.33 goals per game, which ranked 28th in the league ahead of only Florida and Buffalo.

The additions of Derek Dorset (career-high 12 goals in 2011-12), Nick Bonino (career-high 22 goals in 2013-14) and Linden Vey (0 career NHL goals) doesn’t exactly scream ‘help is on the way’ when it comes to goal scoring.

There’ll be pressure on newcomer Radim Vrbata to return to the form he showed in 2011-12 scoring a career-best 35 goals, but will his addition be enough? Only time will tell.

Bieksa’s confidence is nice, but seeing the Canucks making the playoffs in 2014-15 is tough to picture.

  1. nb16 - Aug 31, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    What about Vrbata? 20 + 35 goals in last 2 full seasons (not lockout year). There is *some* “help on the way” when it come to scoring.

  2. jinx21fan - Aug 31, 2014 at 11:56 AM

    I’m afraid their going to be in a dog fight. Being in the Northwest division masked some of the signs of decline, last year they were totally exposed in the new Pacific division.

    The Sedins have 4 years left on their contract, Burrows 3. Hamhuis and Bieksa 2 each. All of them should have better statistical years, I don’t think it’ll be enough though. Vancouver may be on the outside looking in for quite some time.

    • mackattack29 - Aug 31, 2014 at 9:30 PM

      In all fairness Vancouver can more than hang with the big boys in the pacific, I mean during December I don’t think they even lost 1 game. They had a horrific 2nd half due to a plethora of reasons. I truly believe it was a fluke half of a season and I don’t see it happening again. Especially with Torts out. And hopefully they stop getting trade-r*ped. But the team they have has unbelievable defense, solid scoring depth, and crazy top line potential, Sedin-Sedin-Vrbata could potentially be one of THE most productive lines in the entire league. Then they have Horvat, Virtanen, Shinkaruk, McCann, Jensen, Gaunce, AND Linden Vey. That’s a TON of prospects with boatloads of offensive talent that will be making the jump over the course of the next 3 years. As an Avs fan I’m personally glad the Canucks are no longer in our division because for the next 3 years they will have the perfect blend of veteran and young talent and just tons of depth on both defense and offense. The Canucks are so much better off than most realize after last year.

  3. blackhawks2010 - Aug 31, 2014 at 12:07 PM

    Hoping Vancouver can make a playoff run, great hockey city. However, not likely this year with the talent they have in comparison to the West. They are mid caliber 10-11 team right now. I think the changes they’ve made are a positive, it’s been a brutal couple of years in Vancouver. Can only get better.

  4. phtjoey - Aug 31, 2014 at 1:14 PM

    They might be in a dog fight for a third place if the Sharks crash. Otherwise they’re going to have to beat out Minnesota and Dallas for a wild card spot.

  5. quinner17 - Aug 31, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    Might be wildcard, gone round 1…..perfect

  6. areaman714 - Aug 31, 2014 at 3:47 PM

    Making the playoffs in the West is not a given for any team. The over/under will probably be around 95 points. A lengthy injury absence by a key player on any team may be enough to push them outside the bubble. The margin for error for any team in the West is pretty thin.

    • vancouversportsbro - Aug 31, 2014 at 6:31 PM

      True. The Canucks are lucky they don’t have to play in the central division as crazy as it sounds. There are at least five solid teams in that division. In the pacific you have the Ducks and Kings who are obvious locks to get into the playoffs and then after that the Sharks may be going downhill with their weird moves lately and the rest don’t look like playoffs teams.

  7. vancouversportsbro - Aug 31, 2014 at 6:29 PM

    I’ve said it before and I will say it again, they will make the playoffs. Willie D is a great coach and he will make John Tortorella look like a complete idiot. The same way Alain Vigneault made him look like a fool by taking the Rangers to the cup. I think the Sharks are still a playoff team but it feels they could be heading in the direction the Canucks were when Vigneault left.

  8. mackattack29 - Aug 31, 2014 at 9:20 PM

    The Sedin’s are gonna put up monster seasons mark my words. They’re gonna want to prove that last season was a fluke. Expect them to combine for 160-170 points at least.

  9. canada2014gold - Sep 1, 2014 at 2:36 AM

    Ahh it’s going to be a tough season, this guy is a team guy all the way. It’s going to be sad when he leaves us in a couple years. I want him to win a cup though, he deserves it.

  10. jpat2424 - Sep 1, 2014 at 12:41 PM

    Sure

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