The Vancouver Canucks have an optimistic start
By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. December 2, 2014
Although I’m hesitant to give the Canucks an “A” grade for the first quarter of the season, I cannot deny that they have exceeded expectations. The Sedins look to have found the spark that made them league leaders in bygone years, and with secondary contributions from the likes of Nick Bonino, Alexandre Burrows, and Chris Higgins, Vancouver supporters are hopeful that the production will continue at the same rate, if not better.
Currently holding onto first in the Pacific Division, right in the crosshairs of the Anaheim Ducks, the new-look Canucks have placed themselves in a formidable spot for the playoffs. The concerning detail is that some contenders who have made the post-season in prior years are currently absent; the San Jose Sharks, Dallas Stars, and Colorado Avalanche all have had a disappointing start to the 2014/15 season. Surprisingly, opponents such as the Calgary Flames, Nashville Predators, and Winnipeg Jets are proving to many that the Canucks aren’t the only ones who can have surprise success.
A season is full of unpredictable events. Last season the Canucks went 22-11-7 before New Years and ended up 36-35-11. They finished in the 12th position and missed the playoffs by a wide margin. One can anticipate the Tortorella-esque antics aren’t going to repeat themselves with Willie Desjardins behind the bench. Desjardins has kept his cool in pressure situations and has shown to make solid decisions that benefit the team, although they may appear to be risky.
Keeping Bo Horvat has been a defining moment in the season, and a key decision for Desjardins and the Canucks as the season progresses. While some coaches will choose to send rookie players back to junior for more conditioning and a chance to participate in the World Junior Championship, Desjardins recognizes the tangible and intangible skills that Horvat has. The 19-year-old first round draft pick’s 81.2 per cent face-off win against a Chicago team with Jonathan Toews makes him an asset the Canucks can ill-afford to lose.
In the crease, Ryan Miller is performing as advertised. Leading the league in the only category that matters—wins—Miller has an opportunity to take the Canucks to a level that the Blues and the Sabres could not reach. His attitude and persona are a fresh taste for fans that had gotten used to the Luongo/Schneider controversy. Vancouver, dubbed the goalie graveyard in the late ‘90s, has been a place where goaltenders’ careers fade into obscurity. Miller, being an aging veteran, understands that he doesn’t have many chances left to make his mark, and Vancouver in the next few years will likely be his resting spot.
The Western Conference is as brutally competitive as ever with eight teams having only six points difference. The standings will likely be shuffled a few more times before the clock runs out on the season. Although the Canucks are doing well in the first few months and fans are optimistic, all it takes is a rough streak to put them off the mark for the playoffs. And it’s also important to mention that the Canucks only have one more game left against the Oilers. So all the easy games are pretty much gone.