Edmonton - July 22, 2014 - The Vancouver Canucks roster on paper may not look any more impressive than it did a year ago (though the top-line is stellar), but the off-ice issues have been an area focus this off-season. Creating a new culture and eliminating overwhelming distractions has been a priority for Linden and Benning, and they have done a very good job in that regard in my opinion.
Rumblings of another goalie controversy in Vancouver have emerged for some reason, but that is a foolish notion if you ask me. Markstrom is simply going to be traded/waived and quite frankly that isn’t a big deal; Lack is going to backup Miller and gain valuable experience and grooming as he transitions to the NHL; and Miller is going to put in a very solid effort this season behind a strong Canucks defense (think .910-.920% SV%). The thought of creating another goalie controversy when there isn't one is counterproductive to the direction of this team, which is finally out from the shadow of the whole Luongo-Schneider debacle.
The real focus should be on whether this team is going to compete for a Playoff spot in 2014-15. It is hard to imagine they will based off of last seasons' results, however here are two reasons I think they are better off:
1. The Sedins and the Bounce Back
The Sedin twins had a terrible year in 2013-14. Henrik scored 50 points in 70 games (0.71 pts/game) while Daniel scored 47 in 73 games (0.64 pts/game). This was a shockingly low point total for the twins, in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season Daniel scored 0.85 pts/game and Henrik scored 0.94 pts/game. This happened despite both players have very solid possession seasons yet again as Henrik had a 55.7% CF% while Daniel had a 56.9% CF%. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact reason for the drop off in production, but injuries were a definite factor; Henrik missed 12 games and Daniel missed 9 (and who knows how long they continued playing through these injuries), coaching could’ve been a factor as well as we have seen historically that highly offensive players lose offense under John Tortorella (it happened in New York in a big way) whether it’s his coaching style or the systems he employs is unknown but I would imagine Torts was part of the problem.
This season under a new head coach, fully healthy, playing with Radim Vrbata, and with less off-ice distractions surrounding this team I would expect the Sedins to return to close to a point per game status at the minimum, and very likely could end up back above that level.
2. Less off-ice distractions
Last season the distractions around this team seemed straight out of a circus act. It all started with Gillis failing to trade Luongo (who definitely wanted out) and instead trading the goalie that wanted to be in here in Schneider. That meant bringing back one disgruntled player and no matter how well Luongo downplayed the situation, it was definitely a distraction.
Then there was the John Tortorella show, highlighted by his blow up against Calgary and his post-game conferences returning to fine New York form (something that is far less acceptable in a Canadian Market). Hiring Torts was a misstep from the beginning, and was more than likely avoidable.
We can’t forget about Ryan Kesler either; the trade request rumors didn’t begin until the Olympics, but that is just when the public became aware of it. It was probably months in the making (players don’t generally make that decision on a whim) and would most certainly have been a distraction to teammates and management alike.
The good news is that all of these distractions have been removed. The goalie controversy is gone, a new Head Coach with a history of good communication between himself and players is in place with Willie Desjardins and Kesler has been shipped out (albeit to a division rival). The fact of the matter is that this team may not be as well off on the ice, but the stability off the ice is in place and that should mean improved play on the ice.
This team is far from a lock for the Playoffs in 2014-15 and playing in the toughest division in the NHL doesn’t help their cause. However, Benning and Linden have come in and made some moves to help the off-ice product of this team become less of a distraction and more of a positive environment, which will make a world of difference in the upcoming season for this team. The Sedins should return to form and have a bounce back season after a disappointing 2013-14 campaign, Vrbata adds another element of high scoring ability to the top line, Miller will no doubt be coming in understanding his role as mentor to Eddie Lack and Willie Desjardins is going to bring a different approach and more positive environment to the team from behind the bench. Some of the moves may have brought back less than full value, but they were strong and assertive moves by a rookie GM looking to change the culture of the team, which should make a world of difference in the long run of this team.
This article uses information from extraskater.com