VANCOUVER — Everything has changed on the Vancouver Canucks, and nothing has changed on the Vancouver Canucks.
Less than 10 months since the most sweeping midseason regime change in franchise history brought head coach Bruce Boudreau and president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford to the West Coast, the strengths and weaknesses of the Canucks are largely the same: plenty of offensive ability up front that should make the power play formidable, a young superstar (Quinn Hughes) leading a defense that has doubts about its bottom half, and a capable goalkeeper from Vezina (Thatcher). Demko) who must stay healthy and close to his best for the team to win.
But there will be a fresh energy at this training camp, which opens Thursday in Whistler, with the new regimen, new ideas and a completely rebuilt hockey operations department.
There are also some new forwards, notably former Toronto Maple Leaf Ilya Mikheyev and KHL free agent Andrei Kuzmenko.
At least for the start of preseason, Hughes will be tested on the right side of defense, likely in an alpha pairing with Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
But the biggest change for the Canucks is the mindset expressed by new general manager Patrik Allvin, who helped the Pittsburgh Penguins win three Stanley Cups: Nothing these players have done so far has been good enough, so everyone needs to improve.
It’s time for the young stars of the Canucks to lead the team back to the playoffs.
Current space limit: $586K (with Michael Ferland at LTIR)
General Manager: patrick allvin
Coach: bruce boudreau
Assistant Coaches: Mike Yeo, Trent Cull, Jason King, Ian Clarke, Dylan Crawford
Unsigned players: Danny DeKeyser (PTO)
AN IMPORTANT QUESTION: Are you ready to win?
If you hadn’t witnessed it, it would have been hard to believe that the team that finished last season 32-15-10 under Boudreau was the same one that started 6-14-2 under former head coach Travis Green. Those last 57 games created a lot of excitement and hope in Vancouver, but they also created significant anticipation and pressure for a team that made the playoffs only once in the last seven years: in the Edmonton bubble after a 69-game regular season. .
No wonder Allvin told Sportsnet: “Whatever people think about those last 50 games, it wasn’t good enough because we didn’t make the playoffs. So let’s stop talking about it.”
The real Canucks are probably somewhere in between the two extremes they showed last season, but potentially much closer to Boudreau’s version. They will have to be to make the playoffs.
Demko is 26, Brock Boeser is 25, Elias Pettersson is 23 and Hughes is 22. Top scorer JT Miller is 29 and team captain Bo Horvat is 27, still in his prime. Defenseman Ekman-Larsson is 31 years old, Tyler Myers 32.
If they don’t win now, when will they?
CAMP BATTLE TO WATCH: Who’s playing, and with whom, on defense?
The Quinn Hughes Experiment will draw a lot of attention, and fans will be obsessed with frontline combinations as Boudreau utilizes wing upgrades as he tries to create a balanced top nine with centers Miller, Horvat and Pettersson. But the biggest decisions will be on defense, where there’s potentially a big drop after Hughes, Ekman-Larsson and Myers.
Can rookie Jack Rathbone, who may be something of a Hughes Lite, break into the lineup and play in a second pair where he might be mentored by Myers?
Travis Dermott will be in the third couple, but with whom?
Tucker Poolman has reportedly recovered from his neurological issues (severe migraine symptoms), but he must play better than he did last season to dislodge veteran Luke Schenn.
And then there’s local kid Kyle Burroughs, who finally became an NHL regular last winter and will fight to stay there.
Allvin could still alleviate some of the dilemmas by acquiring another NHL defenseman to improve the bottom half of the defense, something he has been trying to do, unsuccessfully, since last season.
Vasily Podkolzin—JT Miller—Brock Boeser
Andrei Kuzmenko—Elias Pettersson—Ilya Mikheyev
Tanner Pearson—Bo Horvat—Conor Garland
Dakota Joshua—Curtis Lazar—Jason Dickinson
Oliver Ekman-Larsson—Quinn Hughes
Jack Rathbone-Tyler Myers
Travis Dermott—Luke Schenn
F Nils Höglander, D Tucker Poolman, D Kyle Burroughs