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.”

Just Posted

The Victoria Police Department is seeking information on an assault that occurred in downtown Victoria on May 10. (Black Press Media file photo)
Police investigating downtown Victoria assault on youth

Witness also attacked after trying to intervene

Saanich Fire Department is responding to a structure fire in the 3300-block of Quadra Street on May 18. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Smoking pot on stove ignites Saanich fire call on Quadra Street

Traffic impacted in northbound lanes of 3300-block shortly after 11 a.m.

Reigning women’s World Champion Kaetlyn Osmond, who also took bronze at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, will debut two brand new programs for the 2021 Stars On Ice tour, in Victoria May 15. (File photo)
Kurt Browning, Elvis Stojko hit the ice when Stars returns to Victoria

The star-studded lineup is makes a return after pandemic hiatus

Ryan Cootes, Erin Bremner-Mitchell, Bill Collins and Mike Williamson of Cascadia Seaweed Corporation are here seen holding up seaweed grown in Barkley Sound in July 2020. The Sidney-based company has organized the inaugural Seaweed Days Festival running May 17 to May 23. (Cascadia Seaweed Corporation/Submitted)
Global expert touts seaweed to open inaugural Sidney festival

Vincent Doumeizel also points to barrier facing the emerging industry

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Over the years, police have worked with sketch artists to draw what the boys could have looked like at the times of their deaths. (Vancouver Police Department)
DNA breakthrough expected in cold case involving murdered Vancouver boys, 7 and 8

Forensic analysts are working to identify relatives of the children, whose bodies were found in Stanley Park in 1953

Livestock competitions have been part of the Pacific National Exhibiton for more than a century. (Maple Ridge News files)
B.C. provides $50 million to keep major tourist attractions going

Tour bus companies also eligible for latest COVID-19 aid

Derek Descoteau with his trusty dog Harvey. (Photo submitted)
Friends provide continuing comfort for family in wake of unresolved senseless B.C. murder

Case remains before the courts five years after Derek Descoteau’s abrupt stabbing death in Chemainus

A prowling coyote proved no match for a stray black cat who chased it out of a Port Moody parking lot Friday, May 14. (Twitter/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Little but fierce: Cat spotted chasing off coyote by Port Moody police

The black cat is seen jumping out from under a parked car and running the wild animal out of a vacant lot

The Nanaimo Timbermen and Victoria Shamrocks compete in Western Lacrosse Association action in Nanaimo during the 2019 season. (News Bulletin file photo)
WLA cancels another senior A lacrosse season due to COVID-19

Western Lacrosse Association, Major Series Lacrosse announce cancellation of Mann Cup

The top photo is of a real carbine rifle, while the bottom photo is the airsoft rifle seized from a Kelowna man on May 15. (Contributed)
RCMP issue warning: ‘Imitation firearms need to be dealt with responsibly’

A man brandishing his airsoft rifle in public had his weapon seized by Mounties on Saturday

Abbotsford Regional Hospital. (Black Press Media files)
Canada marks 25,000 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began

6 in every 10,000 Canadians died of COVID-19 since March 9, 2020

Staff-Sgt. Svend Nielsen, with the 100 Mile House RCMP. (Melissa Smalley - 100 Mile Free Press)
14-year-old boy killed in serious ATV crash near 100 Mile House

Youth was travelling with a group of peers when the incident occurred last Friday

Most Read