(The 2014-15 NHL season is nearly upon us, and attempting to handicap the winners and losers can sometimes leave us speechless. So we decided to break down all 30 teams with the next best thing to words: Emojis!)
Last Season In Emojis
Last Season, In Summary
After five straight seasons of making the playoffs, the Canucks found themselves beginning their off-season earlier than usual. Vancouver finished fifth in the realigned Pacific Division with a 36-35-11 (83 points) record.
There were plenty of distractions during a season that would end with a ton of change in the summer.
The Roberto Luongo soap opera finally ended in March when the netminder was dealt back to the Florida Panthers. Ryan Kesler trade rumors lasted the entire year until the forward dealt to Anaheim in June. Then there was the John Tortorella Experiment, which saw him go down the Calgary tunnel and after Bob Hartley during an intermission of January game that opened with a line brawl.
A disatrous year saw owner Francisco Aquilini house, firing both Tortorella, who had four years left on his contract, and general manager Mike Gillis. For a fresh start, former Canuck Trevor Linden was hired as new team president. He went and brought on former teammate Jim Benning as the new GM, who then hired Willie Desjardins as head coach.
Last Season’s Definitive Highlight
When using Tortorella, you can have a number of options to choose from, but his actions versus the Flames in January that led to a 15-day suspension stands out the most.
After months of rumors, Kesler was sent to the Ducks in exchange for defenseman Luca Sbisa, who missed most of last season due to injury, and center Nick Bonino, who had a breakout year scoring 22 goals and posting 49 points.
In another move to bolster some offense, Benning went out and signed the likely third man on the Sedins line: Radim Vrbata. Not confident with either Eddie Lack or Jacob Markstrom handling the no. 1 job, Ryan Miller was brought in on a three-year deal.
The Canucks were busy in June, not only off-loading Kesler, but also defenseman Jason Garrison, who flies south to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Benning also used the team’s second compliance buyout on David Booth, whose time in Vancouver was hampered by injury and inconsistency. Mike Santorelli moved on and joined the Toronto Maple Leafs on a one-year deal.
Henrik and Daniel Sedin led the Canucks in points last season with 50 and 47, respectively, the lowest for total for both over a full year since 2003-04. They’re another year older, but perhaps the acquisition of Vrbata might help. The long-time Coyotes winger has scored 67 times in 191 games over the last three seasons. He had a comfort zone playing in Phoenix. How will he adapt to new surroundings in Vancouver?
Bonino should slot into the second line as he attempts to battle the regession monster. Alex Burrows played just 49 times last season and will be looking to return to the days when he was a shoo-in to pot 20-plus goals. Zack Kassian took a step forward offensively netting 14 goals and 29 points, finding consistency in the second half of the year. That earned him a two-year extension in the summer. He and Jannik Hansen (11 goals, 20 points) will likely battle it out for a spot on the second line.
The Canucks’ bottom six will bring back Chris Higgins (17 goals) and Shawn Matthias, who recorded seven points in 18 games after coming over in the Luongo deal. Bo Horvat, a 2013 first rounder, could slot in as the third line pivot with a strong camp.
Where might Linden Vey fit? Free from the LA Kings logjam, Vey was a point-per-game player in Manchester of the AHL last season. He’s green at the NHL level having played only 18 games, but Desjardins could experiment with him on the wing or down the middle.
Meanwhile, Derek Dorsett comes over from the New York Rangers and will combine with Tom Sestito to help Vancouver remain a 1,000-plus penalty minute team.
Garrison’s departure will shuffle things a bit on the blue line for the Canucks. After taking on an increased role and exceling, Chris Tanev likely earned himself a permanent role on the second pairing.
An early season suspension and a back injury cost Alex Edler (7 goals, 22 poins) 19 games. He’ll need to stay healthy to fill the hole of Garrison’s missing offense. Joining him in that will be Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa, who combined for 46 points out of the back.
Filling out the blue line will be Ryan Stanton, a waiver pick up before the season who played himself into a full-time job, and Sbisa, who has posted 14 points in the last two seasons since recording 24 in 2011-12. Stanton’s Corsi-Rel was 1.84-percent, best among Canucks defensemen.
It’s a new era in net for the Canucks. After saying goodbye to Roberto Luongo, they welcome in Ryan Miller, who they signed to a three-year deal. Not completely in a rebuild mode, Miller provides them with a veteran presence in goal and the hope that maybe, just maybe they can scratch and claw their way into a playoff spot in the Pacific.
Eddie Lack played 41 games in his rookie season. That number should drop a bit with a healthy Miller, but both will provide a steady tandem for Vancouver to rely on. Markstrom looks to be the odd-man out, and after shuttling between the AHL and NHL with the Panthers the last few seasons, he may not have an appetite for that kind of role any longer.
Probable Text Conversation Within Organization
The Canucks power play has steadily decreased since they ruled the NHL in 2010-11. At 15.2-percent last season, they finished 26th. Gone are Kesler (9 PPGs) and Garrison (4). The hope is Vrbata and his 31 power play goals over the last four seasons can help fill that void.
The penalty kill has finished in the top-10 every season since 2010-11, posting a 83.2-percent success rate last year. Bonino is expected to fill that Kesler role. After misusing their abilities, as Trevor Linden put it, the Sedins won’t see much time on the penalty kill.
GM and Coach
Benning was quick to begin reshaping this Canucks team to something that matches his vision. Kesler and Garrison were moved for younger players and draft picks. He filled the hole in net with a veteran in Miller; added some goals with Vrbata and bought out the inconsistent Booth. His biggest move was hiring Desjardins, who has years of experience and success to help turn the franchise back in the winning direction.
And Now, A Blooper
Alex Edler learns to not line up Ryan Reaves in the future.
The Potential Best Thing About This Team
Desjardins. After years in junior hockey and then two seasons coaching in the AHL, the 57-year old is finally getting his chance in the NHL. Good with young players and earning his nickname, “Whiteboard Willie,” for never-ending teaching of the game, he’ll be a refreshing voice in the post-Tortorella era.
The Potential Worst Thing About This Team
The secondary scoring. After the Sedins and Vrbata, where will the goals come from? Can Burrows regain his 20-goal form? Was last season a fluke for Bonino? Is there enough from the second line down to help last season’s 25th-ranked offense?
Single Emoji Prediction
Prediction: The Canucks again fall short of the postseason, but the strides made under Desjardins and Benning will go a long way to finding success again in Vancouver.