Canucks coach says core is ‘stale’
Henrik Sedin (left) and Kevin Bieksa face the media during the Vancouver Canucks' end of season press conference on Monday at Rogers Arena. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
To simply describe the Vancouver Canucks season as "bad" would be an understatement.
But assuming that's the word we're sticking with for now — how bad was it, you ask?
For one, it got their president and general manager axed, as Mike Gillis was fired last week for failing to improve a club that has just one playoff win in three seasons, including a complete post-season miss this time around — three years removed from a Stanley Cup final appearance.
Their temperamental head coach could also soon follow Gillis out the door. John Tortorella was ineffective in reviving this veteran core, instead implementing a new style that had the majority of his players drop off in production or even post career lows.
That led to one of the worst offensive outputs in franchise history — even more shocking considering they were ranked first overall three years ago and fifth two years ago.
“We're all flabbergasted right now that we're sitting up here talking about the year that we just had,” said Ryan Kesler.
This season, the Canucks scored the fewest goals ever as a club with 191 (excluding the ones the league awards for shootout wins), and is ranked second worst in the NHL.
It's also the first time in Canucks history they only have one 20-goal scorer in a non-lockout season and Kesler's 25 tallies are the lowest total by the team leader since the franchise's inaugural season.
"It's shocking to me," forward Chris Higgins said. "Since I've been here, it's not easy to score goals, but we made it look easy with the way we're putting up points. So this year with injuries to key guys and maybe a lack of confidence because of those injuries, it was really difficult to score goals."
Vancouver's second half to the campaign was atrocious, winning just nine times in regulation through 41 games as they finished with 83 points — the lowest total since 1999-2000 when there weren't shootouts involved.
"We were a really good team up until halfway through the season," Henrik Sedin said. "You never want to use injuries, but we had a tough season injury-wise. We had to play a different way and we weren't able to win."
Vancouver was also 26th on the power play and ninth on the penalty kill — the latter at one time this season was sitting first overall.
Their rookie goalie was thrown into the No. 1 spotlight, their highest-paid defenceman Alex Edler finished a league-worst minus-39 through 63 games, and star centre Kesler wanted out — but who knows if that's still the case with new management?
Questions will continue to swirl around Tortorella and a number of players, while debate will rage on as to what new president Trevor Linden should do in order to quickly bring this team — which is mired by nine no-trade clauses — back to contending status.
"There will be changes," Henrik said. "But it's not about rebuilding. We showed this year we can still play with the best.”
While the players, like Kevin Bieksa, claim to still believe in the core group — adding "we're all in our prime" and doesn't buy that the core is too old — Tortorella wasn't exactly on the same page with the perspective.
"I felt from Day 1 that it's stale," the coach said. "This is a group that has been together a long time. It needs youth, it needs a change. We have to stop talking about 2011, the team needs to be retooled.
"We need to surround them with enthusiasm, youth, and build that way and you're going to get back to where you need to be. Some of the core needs to change, yes."
That said, though, Monday's post-mortem at Rogers Arena also had a sense of motivation to bounce back next season.
"We take responsibilities for what happened," Henrik said. "We have something to prove next year, and that's a good feeling."
More tidbits from Canucks' locker clean out
Each year, locker clean-out day is full of content and material, with every player getting to voice their reaction on the season that was. Here's just some of the many quotes and tidbits from the Vancouver Canucks on Monday at Rogers Arena:
— What a way to start John Tortorella's press conference. After TSN's Farhan Lalji accidentally called him "Mike," the head coach then jokingly called the reporter an "asshole" followed by, "Are we live? Oh gosh."
— Who knows what will happen with Tortorella? He himself knows "it's out of my control." The speculation is that Trevor Linden has already made a decision and there will likely be a coaching change. But prior to his post-season interview with the new president, Tortorella said he's not even thinking about it. "I don't coach to keep my job, I'm not going to go into any meeting to save my job. I'm going to tell him what I think. I'm not going to be rehearsed."
— A day after being stretchered off the ice, Daniel Sedin sat in front of media in seemingly great shape and addressed what happened: "I was scared because I felt something wasn't right. I tried to lift my head and couldn't get it off the ice … but went to hospital and everything looked good. It feels OK today."
— Ryan Kesler said it's tough to hear his name thrown around in trade rumours, adding that he hopes he can stay. However, when asked if he was opened to a deal, the centre got defensive: "Where did you get that from, Twitter? French guy? I didn't ask for a trade. For the organization, I think it's best to keep that in house."
— On one hand, Tortorella was honest. On the other, he was giving plenty of reasons for management to fire him. "I miscalculated in being stricter. I trust the team but there's going to be an edge too. That's my job to bring it out and I did not do a good enough job and that's where I'm at.
"I wasn't hard enough. I wasn't direct in teaching the details. That's my biggest regret."
— Asked if he had an endgame during the January incident where he stormed the Calgary Flames hallway, Tortorella was surprisingly honest: "I was going to get (Flames coach Bob Hartley). Why else am I going down there? If I got to him, I would've."
— David Booth is getting married in June in Montana in a field where he killed his largest deer. Yup.
— Alex Burrows will be playing for Canada at the World Hockey Championships starting May 9 in Belarus, as will Kevin Bieksa. "It's a great opportunity for me to finish on a positive note," Burrows said.
— Alex Edler on his horrid plus-minus statistic: "It's not a good stat obviously, but I'm a good player defensively. This season, I wasn't creating enough offensively and maybe that has something to do with it."
— Eddie Lack really feels this season — that saw him play in 41 games — will help him moving forward, adding he has no preference on whether he wants to tend the Canucks net next season with another young goalie in Jacob Markstrom or a veteran player.
— Andrew Alberts, who has been sidelined since Dec. 29, is still experiencing post-concussion issues.
— Zack Kassian and Chris Tanev are both restricted free agents, and both want to be back. Kassian said he came out of his interview with Linden "excited for next season" while noting that the main thing he has to improve is "consistency." He said his relationship with Tortorella was "different," but knows it's in his own hands to come back and be a better player.