At this time of year there are a lot of articles with with forecasts and predictions as well as analysis and information about what this season may hold for the Canucks as a team and for specific players.
Some comes from hockey writers and pundits and some comes from the players, coaching staff and management.
I thought this might be a good place for such articles and analysis as it does not really apply strictly to training camp/exhibition season per se although there may be some overlap.
For Kevin Bieksa it was tough summer, losing his close friend Rick Rypien.
“It has been a tough summer,” he said. “Unfortunately, we have had a few losses in the organization the last three years. I don’t know if it’s like this in every other organization, but we have had some bad luck.
“It’s a pretty personal situation. Obviously, he [Rypien] was close to me and it puts a hole in your heart, and I don’t know if there’s anything you can do to take that away.”
Alain Vigneault echoes that sentiment and was shocked as he thought Rypien was on his way back:
“It was tragic,” Vigneault said. “Everybody in the organization who was aware of the situation all thought that he was on the right path, he was getting the best help that family, friends, teammates could give him, and he was getting the best help that money can buy, and for him to get to that point obviously it was very challenging for our team.”
Dan Hamhuis is still rehabbing and hopes to get in some exhibition games and be ready on opening day.
“I’m feeling pretty good, working hard on rehabbing all summer,’ he said. “A few weeks ago it turned pain-free and now it’s just a matter of working hard and getting the strength and confidence back in that leg.”
Hamhuis hopes to be ready for the start of the regular season and likely won’t see any action until near the end of the exhibition schedule.
“That’s the plan that we have kind of set out,” he said. “We had a real short summer and with my rehab focus there’s less weight training and skating for me, so we are going to try and make up for that in the next couple of weeks and make sure my body is where it needs to be to prevent further problems from happening. I hope to get into some of the later exhibition games.”
Manny Malhotra has had some further surgical procedures on his eye in the off-season but is only cleared for partial contact at this point. he is hoping to be ready for the season opener.
“That’s the plan right now,” Malhotra said. “I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t.”
“I don’t want to get into too many details, but everything that needed to be done was done and the rest is up to me, how well do I heal,” said Malhotra, who did return to play in six playoff games in June. “Since then we did some different things to give me the best possible chance for a full recovery and we have laid out another plan to get back to where I need to be.”
And Alain Vigneault has admitted it took some time to reacquire his "bubbly sense of humour after the Game 7 loss to Boston and coming up one game short.
“I’d lie if I’d say by the next weekend I had turned the page,” Vigneault said. “It took me quite a bit of time to be able to clear my head and to get back to my bubbly sense of humour. I would say somewhere in mid-July I went with seven of my buddies on a golfing trip to Toronto and that’s sort of where I turned the page. After that, I was fine.”
Here is an in-depth article on AV and what he sees for the upcoming season from Iain MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun. Last year was spectacular but it is time to put it aside and concentrate on this season says the coach. It will be tough to match last year's regular season record let alone improve upon it as it was one of the most dominant performances by a team in the regular season in decades. He does not foresee a hangover from last year's success and then deflating loss as the team he feels are mature professionals who know what needs to be done to get back to the post-season.
“Kidding aside, we have to turn the page on last year,” Vigneault said.
“We have to stay in the moment and focus on now. Focus on what needs to be done and that’s what we’re going to work on with our players.
“Obviously, last year’s experience has made us collectively stronger and individually stronger. We’re going to have a very motivated group. At the end of the day, we didn’t win. We’re in this to win and we know our process is a good process. We know there are some areas there where, like any other team, we can improve.”
“We’ve got a very professional group that understands that the points that are available in October are as important as the points available in March and April,” he said. “I’ve met each player here individually, like I always do before training camp, and I’m hearing and I’m sensing the same things I have in my five years prior. They’re very motivated.”
With Christian Ehrhoff shuffling off to Buffalo along with his 50+ points, his PP prowess and 200+ shots, what happens with the D from an offensive standpoint. It sounds lie offence from the back end by committee. http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/C...538/story.html
“Obviously we are going to need to replace Christian’s production and we’ll see throughout the performances in training camp what our guys can do,”
Captain Henrik thinks the team has players able to step up to replace Ehrhoff such as Alex Edler and Sami Salo is healthy (but for how long ) ) and he was impressed with Chris tanev who looks to have an offensive upside not mention both Bieksa and hamhuis who can bring more to the table offensively if need be. http://blogs.theprovince.com/2011/09...lost-anything/
Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa both think a collective effort will be required to completely make up for Ehrhoff’s absence and there are forwards as well who can play the point on the PP. As Bieksa says it is about guys sacrificing for the good of the team.
“The defencemen who are coming back are going to need to step up,” Hamhuis said. “Christian put up a lot of points for us back there that we are going to have to make up. But we have got forwards who can play the point on the power play and a lot of D who are capable of doing that as well. All the guys coming back to camp here look really good and fresh and ready to take on a big role.”
“I think everything is a collective effort with our D,” added Bieksa. “We’re not looking for just two guys to play defence and the others to play offence. We are looking for two-way defencemen, whoever is in the lineup on any given night, the six of us are going to be doing both — jumping up in the play when it’s there and playing good defence in our end. That’s what is expected.”
“At this point in my career I am interested in winning,” he said Friday.
“That is what makes our team so good is the selflessness. I don’t think guys really care about points and ice time.
“We have one of those teams where we are so deep that players who come here aren’t going to be putting up their best numbers and playing top minutes that maybe they would on other teams. We sacrifice and we’re a lot better and stronger team because of it.”
Here is a feature article on Manny Malhotra and of course the obligatory Dr. Vigneault prognosis:
Malhotra said his sight has improved since June when he played in six of the seven games against the Bruins.
"It's a lot better, night and day really," he said. "Like I said, it's been a long few months of getting from where I was to this point now and with the possibility of it getting even better. I couldn't be happier."
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said Malhotra has been cleared for light contact.
And what about the $4.2 million forgotten Dman - Keith Ballard? Brad Zeimer of the Vancouver Sun has some thoughts... like maybe wipe last year from everyone's memory??? For ballard the key for this season is something completely missing from last season - consistency. The Keith Ballard pre-2010-11 would be a great help.
Healthy Ballard wipes slate clean
After disappointing, injury-filled season, defenceman eager to redeem himself
"Consistency is the most important thing. I think you look at every player and the good ones, one of their biggest qualities is that they're good every night. Even when they don't feel well, even when they're banged up, even when it's a long travel day or back-to-back games, they always find a way to be good. That is something as a player that I think everyone strives for.
"There was times when I felt really good on the ice and there was times when I wasn't. I don't think I was as consistent as I would have liked to have been."
Craig MacTavish was impressed with Kevin Connauton and thinks he could stick with the Canucks or at least make the decision tough to send him down.
“You have a kid with that skill set, a highly intelligent kid, a highly determined kid,” MacTavish said. “I’d bet on that, that he’s in on the discussion at the end among the Canucks coaches and managers whether he’s going to stay or not.”
The latest on Kesler... it could be as late as November before he is back. Then factor in about 10 games or more to get his timing and game shape and he may not be ready to really roll until the New Year. Kesler says he did not expect to need surgery and it became apparent later in the summer.
“I started working out mid summer again and I wasn’t feeling right,” he said. “I thought I’d get it checked out again. It turned out I needed surgery. By no means did I think I needed surgery at the end of the season.
“I was working out like normal and this came out of the blue. It definitely hurts because I missed a couple weeks there but I’m going to deal with it now.
“It happened. It needed to get done. I’m just happy we caught it in the summer.”
And as Kesler says he is not going to push his rehab. Was this another screw-up by the Canucks medical staff?:
“My original goal was obviously the beginning of the season, but I'm not going to set a time frame,” Kesler told reporters as training camp began with fitness testing at Rogers Arena. “My main goal is to get back to 100 per cent health, however long that takes.
“Everybody knows the way I play and I'm not going to help the team if I'm not 100 per cent. My goal is to get back to 100 per cent health and be bigger and stronger than last year. By no means am I going to limp my way into the season.”
Kesler tore his hip labrum in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final, then played the final two games against the Boston Bruins.
Canucks medical staff believed the injury would heal without surgery, but when Kesler began off-season workouts in July his hip got worse. He underwent surgery on July 25, nearly six weeks after Game 7.
Jason Botchford's take on the 2011-12 version of the Canucks. The power play that led the league needs to be re-tooled with Ehrhoff gone and Kesler on sidelines and they need another effective net presence even when Kesler is back. The second line? No Kelser , no Raymond so CH gets a chance to excel maybe with Marco Sturm slotting in if his knees hold up. Gillis is pushing for Ballard to make a big turnaround and Botch says he needs to be given big minutes in the pre-season to see if he can get his confidence back. And look for a fourth line free for all with the vets - Todd Fedoruk, Steve Begin and Owen Nolan - battling with the young guys - Victor Oreskovich, Steve Pinizzotto, Mike Duco, Byron Bitz, and Aaron Volpatti. http://www.theprovince.com/sports/an...#ixzz1YBQdnnIa
Matt Sekeres wonders if the Canucks are going to have problems with a Cup hangover. I wonder if Sekeres will ever be able to write anything beyond pedestrian prose. He makes the bold prediction that the Canucks will be slow out of the gate. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sport...rticle2169869/
Tony Gallagher on the battle for the West Division from earlier. He thinks Phoenix (no Ilya Bryzgalov), Nashville (cleared out a lot of bodies to make room for Weber, Rinne and Suter re-signings and the RFA QO blunder) and Dallas may slip. The Kings look to be improved with Mike Richards in the line-up (MY NOTE assuming he does not party himself to oblivion in Tinseltown). The Sharks are vastly improved defensively with Brent Burns. And the Wings will be right there if they can stay healthy despite some of the aging vets. http://www.theprovince.com/sports/ho...306/story.html
Dave Gross of Post Media News picks the Canucks to repeat as North West Division Champions but will be in tussle to win the Division again with Chicago, Detroit, San Jose, LA and Anaheim looking to knock off the Canucks. He has thumbnail assessments of each team in the West. http://www.theprovince.com/sports/ho...363/story.html
No team would have been as devastated about the end of their season than the Vancouver Canucks, who ran way with the Presidents’ Trophy only to fall one win short of the Stanley Cup. Ryan Kesler is coming off a Selke Trophy and emerged as the heart and soul of the team, while the Sedins will continue on as Hart Trophy candidates for the foreseeable future. The only substantial loss was Christian Ehrhoff, who went to Buffalo, but the Canucks defense was so deep to begin with the hole should be patched up as long as injuries don’t play into the season as much as in 2010-11. Mason Raymond and Jannik Hansen are two young players the team would like to see take a step up this season, but the hottest spotlight will shine on Roberto Luongo, who fell out of favor with the faithful as Cory Schneider breathes down his neck.
Much of the roster that carried Vancouver to the Stanley Cup finals will return, with the notable exception of defenseman Christian Ehrhoff. There are a couple caveats, of course. Ryan Kesler could miss the start of the season after undergoing hip surgery this offseason. In addition, Mason Raymond might also miss the start of the season with his vertebrae injury sustained in the Stanley Cup finals. What all this means is that there could be some moving parts in the lineup at the outset of the season as these two get their legs back under themselves. … At this point, everyone in the galaxy knows about the top line of the Sedin twins with Alex Burrows, and there's no reason to think the Sedins won't be good for 90-100 (or more) points again this season. Burrows' performance in 2010-11 (48 points, 77 PIM, plus-26) is probably closer to what we should expect out of him this season as opposed to what he mustered a season prior (67 points, 121 PIM, plus-34). Still, he can fill the fantasy categories across the board, so that's certainly a plus. … It's no surprise when peering at last season's final statistics that most of the Canucks were on the plus side of the plus/minus category. With most of the strong defensive corps returning -- including backstop Roberto Luongo -- this is once again a team that can be targeted for help in that column.
Kesler joins the Sedins on the Canucks' overloaded No. 1 power-play unit, in case you weren't already thoroughly sold on any of them as fantasy assets. But there are some other useful forwards on the team in this area, particularly Mikael Samuelsson, who netted five goals and 14 assists with the man-advantage in 2010-11. … The loss of Ehrhoff will be a big one on the blue line, but it also provides an opportunity for someone to step up. Samuelsson logged some minutes as a point man this past season, so he's an option, as is Sami Salo, if he can stay healthy. Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa are not the dynamite options that Ehrhoff was, but both have worked extensively on the power play in past seasons. One long shot is Alexander Sulzer. He has not been a power-play weapon in the past, per se, but he has some of the skills required (including a powerful shot from the point). If he makes the team out of camp -- no certainty, given the Canucks' depth -- he might get an opportunity.
There are two feast-or-famine forwards for Vancouver this season: veteran Marco Sturm and 2008 No. 10-overall draft pick Cody Hodgson. Both have a shot to claim top-six spots with strong camp performances and give coach Alain Vigneault some tough decisions upon the return of Kesler and Raymond. If they don't, both will be relegated to fantasy irrelevance. … Cory Schneider's name was a popular one in the NHL rumor mill leading up to the trade deadline and again just prior to the draft. The reason? He appears to be ready to take his shot at being a No. 1 goalie at the NHL level, and Luongo is acting as a blockade in front of him. Schneider did himself a big favor over the course of the postseason, proving adept in a relief role when Luongo struggled. The Canucks may be under some additional pressure to deal Schneider at some point this season, as he'll hit unrestricted free agency next summer. Until then, he's one of the best backups worth owning in fantasy, as he can deliver the goods on Luongo's nights off.
Ryan Kesler will not score 40 this season. Don’t get me wrong, I love Ryan Kesler, I just don’t think he will score 40 or more goals this season. Opposing teams now know what he is capable of and they will zero in on him more to make sure he doesn’t get the chances he had last season. It’s worth noting that he is coming off hip surgery, so he will likely take some time before returning to his old self. I still think Kesler will have a productive season, but I think expecting another 40+ goal season is unrealistic.
Last season Hansen proved that he is capable of producing when given top-six minutes – especially in the playoffs. With Mason Raymond struggling to find his game, Hansen could find himself with a permanent spot in the Vancouver Canucks top-six. If that is the case, that means that he will be playing with one of Ryan Kesler or Henrik Sedin at all times. Add it all up and you have yourself a 40+ point player.
There was lots of criticism up and down the Canucks roster after the team came oh so close to winning their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, but failed to close the deal. It is hard to argue with the regular season numbers of Daniel and Henrik Sedin, but many question their ability to win the big game come post-season. With three straight seasons above the 25 goal mark, Alex Burrows has proven that his success was no fluke, and the Canucks will be very happy to bolster their offense through the return of a healthy Mikael Samuelsson. The team managed to retain trade deadline acquisitions Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre, both of whom played large roles in the playoff run, but there were no real significant acquisitions (no offense intended to Marco Sturm, but he appears to be on the downside of his career).
Vancouver's defense - despite being ravaged by injuries all year long - was amongst the league's best last year, and they still present a formidable group despite the loss of Christian Ehrhoff. Other than the eternal question of Sami Salo's health, the other one to watch will be how the team handles Keith Ballard. Considered a steal of an acquisition when he was brought over from the Florida Panthers, Ballard began last season with injury issues and never regained his form. He fought for ice time on the club's blueline and was even often a healthy scratch. With 4 years remaining on his deal at $4.2M per season, the team will have to do what they can to extract the best value out of him starting this year.
I don't think it's time for Vancouver to push the panic button on Roberto Luongo's post-season struggles, as he did put up several big money performances. Still, he has not yet shown himself to be a big game goalie, and those who point to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics forget that he was quite poor in the gold medal game, and Team Canada won almost in spite of his play. The question becomes, with Corey Schneider's emergence as a solid NHL netminder, how will the club split games? This is certainly still Luongo's team, but perhaps we will see a larger role for his back-up in 2011/12.
The Canucks used 13 players on their fourth line last season and little more stability would be nice.
Here is an article about what to expect from the fourth line this year... if Coach Vee can figure out what he wants. Maxim Lapierre looks to be the fourth line centre IF Malhotra is good to go centring the third line.
With Raffi Torres and Tanner Glass gone the "grit" component looks to be need to be enhanced. There are lot of candidates in the mix... Mike Duco, Steve Pinizzotto, Mark Mancari, Aaron Volpatti and Victor Oreskovich and some NHL veterans like Steve Begin, Owen Nolan or Todd Fedoruk.
"If we could find an identity for that fourth line that would help us win games we would definitely go in that direction," Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault said Saturday after Day 1 of his club’s camp.
"Last year it took us quite a long time to figure what pieces would go there and it was still up in the air going into the playoffs. We’re hoping that some guys will step up and show us they can play on a daily basis."
"I’m still not sure yet," Vigneault said Friday. "We have an idea of what we want it to be but sometimes, for whatever reason, certain players bring a different dimension when you need that dimension.
"Having a physical line, that physicality that sometimes wears the opposition down is right, but having that speed that’s tough to handle for the other team is also a component you’d like to have."
And with both Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond on the shelf, the second line looks to be a work in progress with Chris Higgins initially pencilled in as the second line centre. Is this the year that Gillis' first ever draft pick steps up and shakes off the injury bug? Cody something or other I believe his name is. But has his skating improved? Even Vigneault seems optimistic.
“I feel great,” Hodgson said after the first practice of the Canucks' season this morning. “The best since I can remember, to tell you the truth. I feel solid on the ice, lighter, faster. It's a great feeling. You can always get better and there's always stuff to improve on. But that's what I can focus on now. It's not about health, it's about what I can do on the ice.
“It's great to be back and thinking just about hockey.”
“This is the best position he's been in since he's been coming here,” Vigneault said today. “He's more mature, he's healthy. He has had a very good summer of training behind him. His attitude is excellent. Combine the right attitude with a [healthy] body and we'll find out what type of player he is. He's still a very young player.”
According to Jason Botchford, Keith Ballard is looking for bounce back season as he was able to train properly this off-season unlike last year when he spent two months on crutches and his conditioning never caught up to him. The prior to 2010-11 season version of Keith Ballard would be a great help to the Canucks D corps. The best thing? It surely could not get any worse than last season. And Ballard has never wavered in his team first attitude even when things were not going well last season. No Shane O'Brien or Mathieu Schneider attitude from Ballard - what ever the team needs he will do his best to supply it.
"I had a healthy summer where I was training not doing rehab," Ballard said. "My motivation all summer was to do everything I possibly could to put myself in a position to succeed this year.
"That is all I thought about all summer. To be ready for this."
"It's so hard to get back in shape once you get out of it and there's very little you can do when you're on crutches. I have a completely different feeling this year," Ballard said. "Physically, I know I've done everything possible to be in a good position and that takes a lot of mental strain away.
"I'm not thinking about protecting myself. I'm not thinking that my first step isn't quick enough. All I'm thinking about is using my instincts."
"I wasn't happy with the way I played, I was never upset with my role," he said, even though he could have seen things from the Shane O'Brien view point.
After leaving, O'Brien criticized Vigneault for playing favourites..
"If I'm in a certain role on a good team, so be it," Ballard said. "As long as I'm playing well, I'm happy. As long as I'm helping the team, I'm happy.
"I don't know what situations are going to shake out at camp, but I'm willing to fit in wherever I'm needed."
So as Botchford writes the frantic fans polled by TEAM 1040 are worried most about Roberto Luongo (62%), replacing Christian Ehrhoff (32%) and just 6% are worried about a second line with Kesler and Raymond on the shelf indefinitely. As Botch notes - If the team's biggest issue right now is a goalie who was a Vezina finalist last year, it should qualify under "rich people's problems." http://www.theprovince.com/business/...020/story.html
Adam Polasek's KO that broke the nose of Colton Teubert got him noticed but it has left the Oiler's prospect dazed and confused and watching from the stands as Oilers training camp has opened. Concussion-like symptoms is the word from Steve Tambellini. http://www.edmontonsun.com/2011/09/1...earing-cobwebs
And off in a corner of the dressing room sits Roberto Luongo doing his Rodney Dangerfiled shtick about not getting any respect.
"I don't think I need to re-establish myself," said Luongo, who twice has been nominated for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender. "I had a great season last year.
"When I think about last year, there were some games that didn't go so well in the playoffs. You can look at other goalies as well. That stuff happens. That's hockey. If you look at the big picture I had a great regular season and I thought I had a pretty good playoffs, minus maybe a couple of games in Boston."
And hey GM MG, can you keep both Luongo and Schneider happy? And he gave a definitive lawyer's response... We'll see.
Over to you Cory... some people say you are good enough now to start for an NHL team.
"I never assume that," he said. "I'd like maybe an opportunity.
"I haven't really proven I can play 50 or 60 games in this league yet. I have to start somewhere and build upon that. Hopefully at some point down the road, whether it may be here or elsewhere, I will get that opportunity."
"I'm here to help this team right now," he said. "I'm not going to gripe or cause any problems over playing time.
"What ever I get I will try to make the most of. If it's 20 games, 30 games . . . I am going to play as hard as I can in those games. There is no real point in starting any kind of controversy. I will just have to be a little more patient."
We all know Rome was not built in a day but Aaron is already looking for a rebuild when his statements in the media scrum did not come out the way he intended. He knew what he wanted to say he just did not say it correctly.
You know, the part where he said "I just want to go back to the player I've always been."
“Maybe that came out wrong,” he said later. “I really do want to pick up right where I was then.”
As Tony Gallagher muses on the Rome "fox pass":
Will he just go back to being the sluggo everyday Aaron Rome, the fill-in, Alain Vigneault's pet? Or will he pick up at that pinnacle moment of his career, where he would have made one of the great hits in Canucks history had Horton not hit his head on the ice or had he been watching? Will he go on from that Scott Stevens moment where he had built his game up to the point where he was playing with Kevin Bieksa in Dan Hamhuis's absence and rocking it, or will indeed he just go back to being the player he's always been?
And Jannik Hansen has become a role model and mentor for Canucks draft, fellow Dane, Nicklas Jensen (like his role model the "J" of his name is pronounced as if it is a "Y") taken 29th overall this year.
“It helps a lot to have a countryman on my side,” Jensen said. “He knows how things are away from home. We can talk about what’s going on in Denmark. We have a lot of the same interests.
“He’s really helping me out with the small things, the drills, the stretches and where the good restaurants are. It’s nice to talk a little Danish again.”
Hansen said seeing Jensen at training camp was an “eye opener.”
“Back when I stepped into the league, there were only two guys over here,” he said. “Suddenly there’s seven more guys pushing for jobs.
“It’s going in the right direction. I see (Jensen) and I feel instant familiarity. I know what he’s going through. It’s nice to see how he’s stepping in.”
Tanev put on 10 pounds of muscle and now weighs in at 190 pounds while working on his strength and gaining flexibility.
“Everyone knows I had to get stronger and my shot has got to get better,” Tanev said Sunday. “I tried to work on those things. I think I definitely took it to the next step. I’m still not crazy strong, but I am stronger than I was in June. That’s definitely a good sign.”
An article on Chris Tanev from Ben Kuzma of the Vancouver Province. He spent the off-season training with Gary Roberts and has changed his diet to fit in with the Roberts regime. Vigneault sees a continuing upside because of his decision-making and hockey smarts. Tanev has been working with Keith Ballard so far in training camp and Ballard notices his improved strength. And the cap friendly $900,000 contract does not hurt either.
“He took strides all last year and I don’t see why this won’t be different,” said coach Alain Vigneault. “Every time he’s been challenged or put to the test, he’s responded well because of his hockey smarts and his poise. I don’t think we can put limitations on him. We’ve just got to keep working with him and making him better.”
“It gives him a little bit more strength in the corners and in front of the net,” said Ballard. “Being able to take some more hits. He’s not an overly physical player. He’s not going to use that to run over guys. But playing against big and strong guys it’s just that much more leverage in front of the net and winning puck battles.
“The strength of his game is his head and his decision-making.”
And with the goalie tandem of Luongo and Schneider being important to help the Canucks get off to a fast start (that would be novel) how does Coach Vee plan to use the goalies in rotation? - "Trust me that I'll use them the right way." He certainly did last season when the two won the Jennings and Luongo was up for the Vezina. But how does Schneider see things going this season with injuries to some key players?
"Early on, it's going to be huge," admitted Schneider. "Any time you get off to a hot start, that can carry you the rest of the year and Lou and I understand that we're going to be counted on early. We're going to have a big target on our backs this year. We're not going to sneak up on anybody and teams are going to be gunning for us early to make a statement and prove they belong with the best and that's going to make it even harder.
"We've got to be ready and up to the task and we may have to steal a few games for this team early."
"I'd like to think the way I played last year and the confidence they have in me that they would be more willing to put me into games and situations where Lou might need a night off instead of trying to press him," added the 25-year-old Schneider. "Again, he's our No. 1 option and he's going to get his games and my approach is it's a contract year and I've got to play well, whether it's 10 games, 30 or 40 and I need to play well in every one. That approach doesn't change for me.
"I grew and learned a lot last year and hopefully I can carry it over. They told me they like what Lou and me bring together and the tandem we have and what we accomplished last year."
"We learned how much emotional energy it takes," said Schneider. "You can't really ride the ups and downs of every single game and you have to kind of see the big picture and put yourselves in good positions. And just learning how to deal with the pressure and the media. There are distractions. You have to try and learn to zone them out and concentrate on hockey.
"In the finals, we might have got a little off track."
According to Matt Sekeres do not expect Cody Hodgson nor Jordan Schroeder to be major contributors to the Canucks this season as in his opinion "Hodgson’s and Schroeder’s time isn’t now." This training camp he says they should be concentrating on getting their pro careers back on track although Hodgson may get a chance to audition for a spot on the second line while Kesler and Raymond are rehabbing. Bear in mind this is Matt Sekeres after all so anything he says should be viewed carefully:
General manager Mike Gillis admitted that the Canucks were disappointed in Schroeder’s first full professional season, so much so that he wasn’t called up to serve as a black ace in the playoffs.
And what about the dreaded Stanley Cup Hangover from the loss that was feared to lead to a lack of commitment when the players returned? According to Coach Vee the Canucks vets reported to training camp in better shape than last season led by the superbly conditioned Sedins. He could not resist an "I told you so" to the media types who had been predicting a fall-off in conditioning and commitment due to the Game 7 disappointment. It seems that simply added to the motivation to come back in better shape.
“So there goes that theory about the short summer,” Vigneault crowed Saturday after getting test results from Canucks conditioning guru Roger Takahashi.
Philosopher king Kevin Bieksa's take:
“It’s part of the challenge, to get yourself ready again mentally,” defenceman Kevin Bieksa said. “You can look at it one way and say there’s a big letdown from going from Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final to playing a pre-season game. Or you can look at it like we’ve been as far as we can go and our confidence is as high at it has ever been. Maybe initially, it will be a challenge. But five or 10 games into the season, that will be over. Most of us have put last season behind us and that’s the way it should be.
Mikael Samuelsson drawing on his past experiences says:
“If you stand there in the season-opener and think ‘OK, I’ve got 82 more games before the playoffs,’ that’s just wrong,” he said. “You get yourself in trouble. It’s like even when you’re on the bike, you’ve got to think about the next minute. You’ve got to stay in the moment and enjoy it.”
Fitness champ Daniel Sedin and Dan Hamhuis agree with Samuelsson:
“I don’t think motivation is going to be a problem because in a city like this and a market like this, you’ve always got that pressure to perform,” Daniel Sedin said. “It was the same thing last year, too: We were picked as winners before the season started and we nearly did it. Game 7 is always going to be there. But it’s a new season and you have to let it go and start playing for the new season.”
“We’ve talked about that already,” defenceman Dan Hamhuis said. “If you look back to last season, you see all the hard work it took to get to the playoffs. We don’t get a free pass to get back there. It starts now in training camp, getting ready for exhibition games. And then in exhibitions, we get ready for the season. We can’t look by those as just boring regular-season games. It takes a lot of work to get to the Stanley Cup finals and we want to get back there.”
And what about the top free agent signing in the off-season Marco Sturm? After his two knee surgeries, Gillis is rolling the dice that Sturm can get back to his previous level of performance. And Sturm thinks he can. His value is versatility as he can play all three forward positions and the PP and PK. With Raymond and Kesler on shelf for an indefinite period, Sturm is in a good position to make a case for himself. Sturm spoke to both Ehrhoff and ex-Bruins teammate Andrew Alberts about the Canucks and like what he heard.
But for me, I’m just happy to get better again (after last year's miseries). Honestly, I couldn’t wait for summer because it was huge. I could do my regular routine and I had to pretty much start at zero because my strength and fitness weren’t there last year. I did a lot of weights and lot of outside running to get my conditioning right.
“My knees feel great and I’m just going to try and get in the rhythm again. I think I can get back to 20 goals. I really believe it.”
“Especially after injuries like that you kind of get down on yourself a little bit and I was always hoping a good team would call me and it be the right kind of system,” said Sturm, who’s skating with Stefan Schneider and Nicklas Jensen at main camp.
“It helps my game, too. You can tell already. It’s go to the net. They feed you and find you here and I’ve just got to make sure I’m open. I think it’s going to be a great fit.
“Of course, I want to be in the top six but I’m here to help the team get better.”
“After surgeries, it’s never easy and I want to prove I can be the player I was,” said Sturm who was sold on coming to Vancouver by countryman Christian Ehrhoff and former Bruins teammate Andrew Alberts. “I’m at that age now where I want to win and this team has got everything and showed the last few years how good they are and I want to be with a good organization that knows what it takes to win it all.”
(And as Coach Vee says) “I’m hoping this camp with get him quickly accustomed and let him play to his strengths,” said the Canucks coach. One of the things I told him that’s it’s huge for anyone who can play more than one position in this game and that obviously puts him ahead. Hopefully, he’ll find the right spot.”
While Manny Legace and Todd Fedoruk admit they are not only trying to make the Canucks they are also showcasing their talents for other teams. Owen Nolan says he is focused on playing in Vancouver this season. Nolan would bring leadership, grit and experience and he still plays with a bit of nasty edge - all qualities that would fit in well with the Canucks looking to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals. He might even provide that net presence that was missing on the seconf PP unit while acting as a fill-in for Ryan Kesler on the first unit to start the season.
"This is the team I want to play for," said the native of Belfast, Northern Ireland, who still looks as fit as many of the 20-year-olds he's competing against for a job. "My main focus is to stay here."
Nolan, who played last year with Zurich of the Swiss league, shrugged when asked if he would go to Vancouver's American Hockey League team in Chicago.
"Let's cross that bridge when we get there," said the veteran of 1,200 NHL games with six NHL franchises.
"If I didn't believe in myself and believe I can make a team and help a team, I wouldn't take this opportunity," he said, arms folded across a barrel chest.
"I still love competing, what ever the coach wants me to play. Kill penalties, stand in front of the [net] during power plays, I am willing to do anything."
And Chris Higgins is not all that happy with the training camp experiment having him at centre as he would rather play wing but he understands the injury situation is driving the position change experiment.
With Ryan Kesler likely to miss the start of the regular season and Manny Malhotra still something of a question mark, the Canucks could need a couple of fill-in centres when the real games begin Oct. 6.
Cody Hodgson figures to get a long look and Higgins may also be asked to shift to centre until the healthy bodies return.
“I really didn’t play much centre here last year,” Higgins said Sunday, “but it is training camp so I didn’t really over think it too much.”
Higgins, who is centring Mikael Samuelsson and Anton Rodin at camp, left no doubt where he’d prefer to play.
“Obviously, I would prefer to play wing,” he said. “But if they need me to help out in case of injuries or stuff like that it’s perfectly acceptable.”