Canucks stars Henrik and Daniel Sedin celebrate the latter's overtime goal on October 30

Canucks stars Henrik and Daniel Sedin celebrate the latter's overtime goal on October 30

‘Stale’ core leads Canucks to the playoffs

'Stale' core written off by Tortorella has Canucks back in the playoffs

By Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – Prior to getting axed after one disastrous campaign with the Vancouver Canucks, John Tortorella didn’t mince words when assessing the club’s veteran core.

“I felt from Day 1 that it’s stale,” the team’s soon-to-be fired head coach said on April 14, 2014, after Vancouver missed the playoffs for the first time in six years. “That’s not their fault. This is a group that has been together for a long time.”

But fast-forward one year and Tortorella is a distant memory, while that “stale” nucleus of older players — the one that led Vancouver to two Presidents’ Trophies and within a game of winning the 2011 Stanley Cup before stumbling badly in 2013-14 — has the Canucks back in the post-season and buoyed at the chance for another run.

“For us personally, it was tough to miss the playoffs last year,” said defenceman Kevin Bieksa. “It was just really tough to sit on the sidelines and watch. A team that was so used to being in the playoffs, and not only being there, but competing, we were hungry. We wanted to get back and do whatever it took.”

What it took for Vancouver, which opens its first-round series with the Calgary Flames at home on Wednesday, were bounce-back campaigns from a number of veterans.

Daniel and Henrik Sedin returned to form after tough offensive seasons to record 76 and 73 points, respectively, Alexandre Burrows stayed relatively healthy to score 18 goals, and Jannik Hansen found new life on a line with rookies Bo Horvat and Ronalds Kenins. On defence, Alexander Edler put an NHL-worst minus-39 season behind him to lead the Canucks with a plus-13 rating, while Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis battled through injuries to contribute down the stretch.

“You have to believe in yourselves to play this game at a high level,” said Bieksa. “This year we’ve been tested, we’ve overcome a lot of adversity (and) we’ve bounced back.”

Tortorella was one of many voices calling for the Canucks to go into rebuild mode, but the team’s brain trust led by president of hockey operations Trevor Linden and general manager Jim Benning saw things differently. Rookie head coach Willie Desjardins brought in fresh systems and a renewed belief in the club’s leaders, while the players were determined to make amends for a lost season.

“As a person, whatever you do, when people don’t expect you to do good I think you want to show them that they’re wrong,” said Daniel Sedin. “No one expected us to make the playoffs. We weren’t supposed to have bounce-back seasons, but we all showed that we can still play.”

Tortorella said in his final press conference that the veterans needed to be surrounded with some youth, and that’s what happened to a certain extent with the emergence of Horvat and Kenins, while the easy-going Eddie Lack moved into the No. 1 goalie job after Ryan Miller got hurt in February.

Other parts of the retool included Ryan Kesler getting dealt to the Anaheim Ducks for Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa, with Miller and Radim Vrbata, who led Vancouver with 31 goals, added in free agency.

“I’ve always felt like we have a very tight group in here,” said Lack, who looks poised to get the nod in Game 1. “I feel like we’re a more happy group this year and everyone seems to be buying into roles.”

Like the Canucks, the young Flames weren’t expected to be in this position back in October. Calgary is making its first playoff appearance since 2009, with the Sedins the only holdovers from the teams’ last post-season meeting, which the Flames won back in 2004.

With that rivalry set to be renewed, the Canucks and their veteran core are eager to show there’s still plenty of gas left in the tank.

“We’ve been questioned a lot over the years. We were really disappointed last year. No question about that,” said Henrik Sedin. “(Motivation) has got to come from inside. You can’t look at what other people are saying. It was a tough summer after last year with what happened. We came back and we felt good about this team.”

Notes: Vancouver went 2-2-0 against Calgary in the regular season, with the Flames picking up an extra point in the series thanks to an overtime loss in December. … The Canucks have lost six straight home playoff games.

———

Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Willow, a kitten belonging to a Victoria family, was rescued by firefighters on Thursday after she got stuck in a basement drain pipe. (City of Victoria/Twitter)
Victoria kitten stuck in basement drain pipe rescued by firefighters

Willow the cat on the mend, owner feeling ‘enormous gratitude’

(Black Press Media file photo)
Blue-green algae bloom confirmed in Elk Lake, water-based activities not recommended

Blue-green algae can be lethal to dogs, cause health issues for humans

Victoria police arrested a man Jan. 15 after he rammed his minivan into an occupied police vehicle. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria man arrested for ramming minivan into occupied police vehicle

Man caught after fleeing, crashing into cement retaining wall

Mayor Rob Martin and Costa Canna president Phil Floucault cut the ribbon on Colwood’s first cannabis retail store. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Cowichan Tribes’ Costa Canna cannabis store opens in Colwood

Cowichan Tribes has one-year deal to grow, sell cannabis

Cindy Foggit plays the lead role of Eliza in Passion and Performance’s film production Eliza: An Adaption of a Christmas Carol. (Courtesy of Rachel Paish)
Victoria adult dance studio releases modern adaption of A Christmas Carol

Instead of usual stage performance, dance studio turns to film

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virtually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Most Read