FILE - This Oct. 30

FILE - This Oct. 30

Vancouver Canucks back on rise after down season

After playoff miss and off-season reboot, the Vancouver Canucks are back on the rise

By Greg Beacham, The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES – After the Vancouver Canucks missed the playoffs last spring, they overhauled their front office and revamped the roster of a team that won just about everything except the Stanley Cup over the previous half-decade.

So far, it’s going better and happening faster than just about anybody predicted.

When the Canucks return from a four-day break with a game in Edmonton on Wednesday, they’ll look to improve on a 12-6-0 start that launched them into second place in the tough Pacific Division.

Although they’re still getting to know their new teammates and new coach Willie Desjardins, the Canucks are hoping they’re a contender in their first season together.

“We’ve just kind of come together with a different coach and different players, so it’s a work in progress,” said Ryan Miller, the free-agent goalie who got off to a 10-1 start for Vancouver.

“I think our attitude and our excitement has kind of gotten us through this start,” Miller added. “Now, we have to come together and understand what it takes to play some of the teams that are willing to play a little bit of a chess match or a smarter game.”

Although the Canucks are just three years removed from Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals and two years past their second straight Presidents’ Trophy, the club launched big changes even before finishing 25th in the 30-team NHL last spring, Vancouver’s worst performance in 14 years.

Longtime Canucks star Trevor Linden was named their president of hockey operations in April, replacing Mike Gillis atop the department. Linden hired general manager Jim Benning and fired coach John Tortorella, who was just one season into a five-deal deal.

Tortorella had said the Canucks’ veteran core grew “stale,” and the club’s new brass agreed. They made several changes to shake up the roster – and so far they’re all working fairly to spectacularly well.

After Roberto Luongo was traded by Gillis in March, the new regime replaced him with Miller, the U.S. Olympian eager to play for a contender.

Vancouver then traded veteran centre Ryan Kesler, who wasn’t eager to stick around for a rebuild. The deal with Anaheim landed centre Nick Bonino and defenceman Luca Sbisa, who have both jumped into regular roles for the Canucks. Bonino, the Ducks’ third-leading scorer last season, is the Canucks’ third-leading scorer with 14 points already.

Veteran Czech right wing Radim Vrbata has six goals and seven assists in 16 games while fitting splendidly alongside the Sedins on Vancouver’s top line. Derek Dorsett has added toughness, while Linden Vey leads several young players injecting new energy into the lineup.

But perhaps the biggest boost for Vancouver has been a bounce-back season for its twin cornerstones. Their declining contributions and changing roles were just one reason that the Canucks managed the second-fewest goals in the NHL last season after years as an offensive powerhouse.

The Sedins are still killing penalties for Desjardins, but they’ve combined for 33 points already this season. They credit their surge to the Canucks’ improved balance.

“We’ve been able to roll four lines and score timely goals, and that’s what we need to win, especially in this conference,” Henrik Sedin said. “We can’t just be a team that thinks we’re going to score three or four goals every night. It comes from playing well defensively.”

The Canucks won’t surprise any future opponents with their new chemistry, and they aren’t getting excited about their hot start yet. After all, they won seven straight games early in Tortorella’s only season in charge.

“Teams are playing us like we’re a (winning) team,” Desjardins said. “There’s a difference when teams are really ready for you and when they’re not, and we’re getting teams that are really ready for us. … We have to be better. You can’t accept playing poorly. You have to find a way.”

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

Just Posted

FILE – Oshawa Generals forward Anthony Cirelli, left, shoots and scores his team’s first goal against Kelowna Rockets goalie Jackson Whistle during second period action at the Memorial Cup final in Quebec City on Sunday, May 31, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
B.C. government approves plan in principle to allow WHL to resume in the province

League includes Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets, Prince George Cougars, Vancouver Giants, Victoria Royals

Saanich Coun. Susan Brice and Mayor Fred Haynes are calling on the province to develop new solutions for emergency response to mental health crises with the consideration of a potential new 911 category. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Saanich mayor, councillor call for new solutions to mental health emergencies

Shifting response from police to trained mental health team the best option, mayor says

A COVID-19 vaccination clinic, operated by Island Health, has opened at the University of Victoria’s McKinnon Gym. (Photo courtesy of UVic)
COVID-19 vaccination clinic opens at University of Victoria

Clinic is staffed and operated by Island Health

Robert Schram, here seen in January 2016, died Saturday, according to a friend. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sidney, Saanich Peninsula mourn the death of Mr. Beads

Bead artist Robert Schram was a familiar, well-loved figure in Sidney and beyond

BC Housing ensures that by March 31, shelter will be available to all people living outside. (Black Press Media file photo)
All unhoused Victoria residents will be offered shelter by March 31, says BC Housing

BC Housing working to secure shelter locations in coming weeks

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

A copy of the book “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” by Dr. Seuss, rests in a chair, Monday, March 1, 2021, in Walpole, Mass. Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the business that preserves and protects the author and illustrator’s legacy, announced on his birthday, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, that it would cease publication of several children’s titles including “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “If I Ran the Zoo,” because of insensitive and racist imagery. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
6 Dr. Seuss books won’t be published for racist images

Books affected include McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super! and The Cat’s Quizzer

The fundraising effort to purchase 40 hectares west of Cottonwood Lake announced its success this week. Photo: Submitted
Nelson society raises $400K to save regional park from logging project

The Nelson community group has raised $400,000 to purchase 40 hectares of forest

AstraZeneca’s vaccine ready for use at the vaccination centre in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Reichel/dpa via AP
National panel advises against using Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on seniors

NACI panel said vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are preferred for seniors ‘due to suggested superior efficacy’

A public health order has extended the types of health care professionals who can give the COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy of CHI Franciscan)
‘It’s great that midwives are included’ in rollout of B.C.’s COVID vaccine plan, says college

The order will help the province staff the mass vaccination clinics planned for April

Shipping containers are seen at the Fairview Cove Container Terminal in Halifax on Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Canadian economy contracted 5.4 per cent in 2020, worst year on record

Drop was largely due to shutdowns in the spring as COVID began to spread

The Nanaimo Clippers in action at Frank Crane Arena in early 2020. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo Clippers for sale, owner says hockey won’t be back to normal any time soon

Wes Mussio says he’s had numerous inquiries about the junior A club already

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Most Read