Canucks feel ‘fresh’ heading into NHL opener 0
The Canucks have a new voice behind the bench this year in John Tortorella. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
The Vancouver Canucks are waiting their turn.
Tuesday night, six NHL teams dropped the puck on the new 2013-14 season, two days before the Canucks begin their own quest when they step onto the ice in San Jose.
Feeling "fresh" seemed to be the theme for a team that, on paper, doesn't look a whole lot different than the one having faced early playoff exits the past two seasons.
Sure, changes have been made in a summer in which general manager Mike Gillis' biggest "reset" was to hire a new coaching staff, trade away the younger of their two No. 1 goalies, and bring in a handful of depth forwards and defencemen. The core remains the same, which was somewhat to be expected, but whether or not that means they are a better team this time around is up for debate.
Of course, the players feel they are.
"We have the guys and personnel in here to be successful," captain Henrik Sedin said. "The coaching change too, that changes enough for us.
"That's the overall feeling, it's just better."
Roberto Luongo, the main character in the year-long goalie drama that finally ended in the off-season, doesn't think there will be much of an adjustment period to a new head coach in John Tortorella and his system. Then again, October never seems to be the most fruitful of months for the netminder and his squad anyways.
"We obviously want to get out of the gate quick," Luongo said. "Even though there are some new things we are working on, they're not major things that are going to completely change our game. There are minor details of our game we are trying to improve on."
As the new campaign begins, who would have guessed Ryan Stanton and Zac Dalpe would be among the limited benefactors of the Canucks' so-called youth movement?
With first-round picks Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk among the final players cut — and sent back to their junior teams — and Nicklas Jensen injured, the rookies that were supposed to step up for the Canucks won't be there. Defenceman Frank Corrado, a player who was also battling for a big league spot, finds himself starting the year in the AHL.
However, there's still goalie Eddie Lack — who many had already penned to be the backup after the team dealt Cory Schneider in July — and Zack Kassian, the youngest player on the team and who is also suspended for the first five regular season games.
Recently acquired centre Dalpe, who has 41 games under his belt, will likely start the season on the fourth line while Stanton, who was picked off waivers just a day earlier, was paired with Chris Tanev at Canucks practice.
While Tortorella said he doesn't know what his lines will look like come opening night, it would seem both those players could be slotted in.
"I'm looking forward to it," said Stanton, a left-handed shot. "It was great news yesterday when I got picked up and it's the best thing for my career."
Adds Dalpe: "Being this is my fourth year as a pro, there are some things to prove and I'm looking to do that."
Come Game 82, things could look rather different for this Canucks squad. For now, they're just eager to get the season underway first.
"It does feel fresh," defenceman Kevin Bieksa said. "It feels we've all been kind of rejuvenated by this new system … and it's a nice change, so we'll see."
The power play was a focal point at practice Tuesday for a unit that finished 22nd overall last year. But new coaches are running it this time — led by assistant Glen Gulutzan — with the same players. The Sedins and Ryan Kesler were lined up with Jason Garrison and Alex Edler on the first unit while Chris Higgins centred David Booth and Alex Burrows, as Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis played the point on the second unit.