West preview… What now Vancouver?

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No team angers the majority of Oilersnation readers more than the Vancouver Canucks. How I wish the Oilers were actually competitive during the past eight seasons, because an Oilers/Canucks playoff series, or even meaningful games down the stretch, would have pushed the animosity to extraordinary levels.

Alas, it never occurred, and in fact the Oilers and Canucks have only been in the postseason together three times during the past 20 NHL seasons; 1992, 2001 and 2003. I’ll be surprised if it happens this season, but is this the year the Oilers finish ahead of the Canucks for the first time since 2006?

Possibly.

No Pacific division team made more changes in the summer than the Canucks.

They fired head coach John Tortorella and GM Mike Gillis and replaced them with Trevor Linder as President, Jim Benning as GM and Willie Desjardins became a rookie head coach at the young age of 57.

After Gillis foolishly traded away Corey Schneider and Roberto Luongo last season, Benning needed to find a starting goalie — he clearly lacked confidence in Eddie Lack and Jakob Markstrom — so he signed 34-year-old Ryan Miller to a three-year deal worth $18 million. Considering how supportive Canucks fans and management have been of previous netminders, I’m sure Miller will feel a lot of love all season long.

Linden and Benning off-loaded Jason Garrison and his heavy contract to Tampa Bay for a 2nd round pick, moved their second line centre, Ryan Kesler, to the Ducks and bought out David Booth.

The Canucks had a major renovation after missing the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, and for me they are the most unpredictable team in the west.

Was last year a blip, or are the Canucks on the downturn?

CALMING THE WATERS

The Canucks won’t be a circus like last year, which is really too bad. It was excellent entertainment and better than any reality show on TV. Torts was lunatic, Gillis become so wrapped up in his goalie controversy that he screwed himself out of a job and left the Canucks with no proven goaltenders. 

The Canucks scored the fewest goals in the Western conference, a measly 191, their lowest total in franchise history. The only other time they scored fewer than 200 was in 1999, when they tallied 192. 

The statistics suggest Tortorella’s systems weren’t that bad (more on that later), but the overall atmosphere surrounding the Canucks portrayed a dysfunctional group.

FORWARD LINES

D.Sedin-H.Sedin-Radim Vrbata

The Sedins should be better than last year. They scored fewer than 60 points, in a full season, for the first time since 2004. Torts gave them more minutes and more defensive zone starts, and they struggled. Expect Desjardins to reduce their workload to increase their productivity. Vrbata averaged 25 goals that past five seasons, not including lockout, and he could flourish alongside the Sedins.

Scoring depth is the concern. Kesler led them in goals last season with 25 and he’s in Anaheim.

Nick Bonino and Shawn Matthias will be the second and third line centres, unless Bo Horvat, 9th overall in 2013, has a great camp and preseason. Chris Higgins, Alex Burrows, Zack Kassian and Jannik Hansen will round out the top-nine wingers positions. 

Linden Vey, acquired from the Kings, could also push for a top-nine role. 

Derek Dorsett will add some tenacity to the fourth line and could be the 6th forward on the PK, while Brad Richardson returns as the 4th line centre.

Can their 2nd and 3rd lines contribute offensively? Bonino had 20 of his 49 points on the PP with Anaheim last season, but he’ll be hard-pressed to match that playing on the second unit.

BLUELINE

The top half of their D-corps is solid. Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa and Olympian Dan Hamhuis give the Canucks a  nice trio. Chris Tanev was paired with Hamhuis last season and they faced the most ES minutes of any pairing, and I’d expect they will be reunited this season.

Luca Sbisa came over from the Ducks and will fill out the third pairing with Edmontonian Ryan Stanton. Stanton was a solid waiver wire pick for the Canucks last year.

SYNOPSIS

The stats suggest the Canucks should score more. They were 11th in shots on goal last season, but 28th in goals. As a team they were +171 in Fenwick and +190 in Corsi. 

Their PP was 26th at 15.2%, but they had the 4th highest SF/60. The statistics suggested they should have had much more success on the PP, finishing with the 7th most shots, but it never happened. Their second unit was atrocious.

After Kesler and the Sedins, Higgins had the most PP goals amongst forwards with a measly two. Alex Burrows never scored a goal of any kind until March 12th, in his 36th game. He was terrible offensively, and even if he tried he won’t be that lethargic this season.

The Canucks will finish better than 12th in the west, but they are not a lock to make the postseason. At best they finish 4th in the Pacific, but they are closer to the Coyotes and Oilers than they are the Sharks, Kings and Ducks.

Recently by Jason Gregor:  

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Seeing as rebuild finished and collapsed to it’s foundation , Oilers have pieced it back together again and are currently working on the new second phase called the RENOVATION PHASE .

  • pkam

    One thought that wasn’t mentioned in the article.

    We have Eakins. What did he do in the AHL, besides what the media told us, which is none results and contain absolutely no science.

    What does Vancouver have:

    Willie Desjardins.

    Head Coach – Vancouver Canucks – N.H.L.
    Head Coach-Texas Stars(A.H.L.) 2013-2014 Calder Cup & Regular Season Champs
    2011-2012 American Hockey League Coach of the Year
    World Junior Hockey Championships Gold & Silver Medals with Team Canada

    Interesting is Desjardins interviewed with the Oilers.. Well see what happens.

    Don’t be disappointed Oilers fans when Vancouver surprises you.

    Remember who is running this organization.

        • Not sure what thats supposed to mean. Hes a first time NHL coach at 57. The guy is ancient and before the beginning of this.season no one offered him a HC job.

          Im not saying he wont do well. Just pointing out that he’ll be lucky to bring Van back to the playoffs in year one

          • Canuck4Life20

            I will put my money on Desjardins over Eakins any day.

            As soon as he was offered the job he flew to Sweden to meet the Sedins and repair all the problems with previous coach.

            Now that is leadership.

            I’m a huge Oilers fan, but there is a huge organization difference.

            The Canucks have changed leadership and coaching after a pitiful season and will avoid the “culture of losing” by retaining poor management.

            The Oilers and Edmonton media seem to embrace this. You can’t change 9 years of the “culture of losing” with the same cultural leaders. This is bigger than hockey, it is organizational development.

  • BlazingSaitls

    You know what? Its not even the actual team that irks me. Its the new-age, granola eating, yoga practicing, hockey illiterate, bandwagon jumping, johnny come’lately, fan base of the Canucks. I live on Vancouver Island and during their cup run it was Canucks run amock. Flags, shirts, jerseys, hats, horns, tattoos, stickers everywhere. Now my town is utterly bereft of any Canucks junk. No one even reps with Jerseys…some fans.

    Im particularly sensitive to it because I live right in the midst of these kinda fans. I will say this. During the Oilers run in ’06 many of my friends, who were Canucks fans, jumped ship permanently to the Oilers. Cool thing is most have remained loyal to the Oil. They didnt jump back on the bandwagon during the Nucks ’10 run.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Jason what are you basing the Sedin “bounce back” on? They are 34 years old with hard miles on them. The list of players that improve to any extent after hitting their mid thirties is very small.

    I may be wrong but I think we are seeing the “what you see is what you get” portion of the twins careers.

    • pkam

      Henrik’s stats:

      2009-10 (29): 112 pts.
      2010-111 (30): 94 pts.
      2011-12 (31): 81 pts.
      2012-13 (32): 77 pts (prorated to 82 games)
      2013-14 (33): 61 pts (prorated to 82 games)

      Daniel’s stats will be very similar.

      The twins had reached their prime at 29 and had been in the decline.

      Tort may be partly responsible for their bad number last year, but I doubt they will ever get back to even 80 pts.

      I think reasonable expectation is around 70 pts if they can play 82 games, which I doubt they will at this age.

    • Jason Gregor

      Who said improve? They had a horrible year, a drastic drop off. They played more minutes and harder minutes. Coach didn’t use them how they had been used before, why is it so hard to see them being 60-point players next year by playing fewer minutes.

      If they are 60+ point players, which is very realistic, then that is a backbounce season. Never said they’d be better than they were before.

      • The Soup Fascist

        We will see. Sure they could get 60 – 65 points. It is possible, but they have lost Kesler to take some of the heat of Henrik. Did Burrows have an off year or is he done?

        I just don’t see this team generating a lot of goals. Plus remember these are TWO $7 million dollar players – for the next four years. What are 38 year old Sedins going to be bringing to the table?

        I will tell you what Jason, the Sedins better rebound or the Canucks offence will be as dangerous as a newborn kitten.

  • hemmertime

    Benning has done an excellent job in the off season. Perhaps the best job of any GM. To land Miller was the gem in my mind. Most people are writing off the Nucks, but I think they will contend for the division. Too many of their players had career worst years which is very unlikely to happen again.

    Defence and goalie are solid. Only question is can they get secondary scoring. Can Burrows score more than 5 goals? Funny thing is all my Nucks friends were roasting the Oilers when we signed Boyd Gordon and he ended up outscoring Burrows.

    I think they’re gonna surprise a lot of people, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see them do very well. They were after all the hottest team in the league prior to the all star break last year.

    • pkam

      Van traded their highest scoring forward and best defensive forward and their highest scoring defenceman with little in return. Theres no hope in hell that they challenge for the division and would be lucky to finish in the playoffs

  • Zarny

    The Canucks might anger the fans of every NHL team more than any other. They are just such flagrant p*ssies who are either flopping around on the ice or trying to bite someone’s finger.

    I agree with the gist of the article. I don’t see the Canucks making the playoffs but getting rid of the circus caused by Tortorella and the G situation should help.

    Van will miss Kesler immensely. He led Van F in ice-time last year and played against the toughest competition. I like the package Van received for Kesler but I don’t see Bonino filling that void right away. Which places a bigger burden on the Sedins.

    The Sedins will be 34 to start the season in a league where 25 is the average age a player has their highest point production. I expect they’ll rebound a bit but they aren’t the players they were 4-5 years ago.

    Just like Datsyuk and Zetterberg in Det, the Sedins aren’t going to carry the team as far as they used to and without Kesler I certainly think that leaves them fighting with Edm, Wpg, Nsh and Phx not LA, Chi and StL.

    • Canuck4Life20

      Ugh! The diving! Seeing that in hockey is heart breaking. Especially to Vancouver’s theatrical extent. I’m all for gamesmanship, but that has no place.

      As for where they finish, every single season it seems to go that a team no one expected does great. Last year it was Colorado. This year, who knows, could be Van. They just seem to thin to compete in this division. It’s all on Vrbata and the Sedins.

    • That as a Canucks fan is something I wear with pride. Our favourite players make you angry? Good. What’s so great about being liked?

      And better to bite the finger jammed in your mouth than to bite the dust in November, like the Oilers do annually.

  • Canuck4Life20

    Oh and check this out:
    Rule 64 – Diving / Embellishment
    The supplementary discipline penalties associated with Rule 64.3 (Diving/Embellishment) will be revised to bring attention to and more seriously penalize players (and teams) who repeatedly dive and embellish in an attempt to draw penalties. Fines will be assessed to players and head coaches on a graduated scale outlined below.
    Incident # Player Fine(s) Head Coach Fine(s)
    1 Warning N/A
    2 $2,000 N/A
    3 $3,000 N/A
    4 $4,000 $2,000
    5 $5,000 $3,000
    6 $5,000 $4,000
    7 $5,000 $5,000
    8 $5,000 $5,000

    • The Soup Fascist

      Who is going to score?

      My God, Tom Sestito is #3 on their LW depth Chart. Their top two forwards are putting out on the back nine of their careers. Ryan Miller is NOT going to be happy about getting zero run support. And we all know how much of a “team first” guy old Cryin’ Ryan is. Especially with his actress wife living in LA.

      How is Ryan Miller different from his wife?

      One is a self-entitled prima donna who can play it up in front of the cameras at the drop of a hat and will be featured in a starring role in a soap opera in the upcoming season.

      The other one is Noureen de Wulf.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Every fan base has its A-holes.

    But every self-selected group will have its quirks.

    And there is a special breed of d-bagginess that belongs to Canucks fans.

  • Sevenseven

    Interesting to see the advance stats say they are better than their record. Still, I can see the Sedins not playing much, and Miller just looking average. I think if not this year, next year they will go full rebuild. Just a matter of time with aging stars.