2014 Vancouver Canucks Predictions and NHL Futures Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 9/23/2014
The enduring theme for this Vancouver squad this year is unquestionably "change". While the change is significant and widespread, there is one that stands out above all others - new coach Willie Desjardins is, mercifully, not John Tortorella. The Tortorella experiment was a brief, seemingly a bad idea from the start, and it was a complete disaster in the end. He was not the right coach for the situation and the personnel, and neither coach nor players could adjust and adapt.
Desjardins, who is making his debut as an NHL head coach after winning championships in the WHL and AHL, is different than Tortorella in almost every way - and that is the biggest of compliments in my eyes. The team has a lot of issues and questions, but they are dramatically better off already just by this change. Add in new front office leadership - president Trevor Linden and GM Jim Benning - and you have a big overhaul for a team that badly needed one after growing stagnant. Brighter days may not arrive immediately in Vancouver, but they are certainly on the horizon.
Vancouver Canucks Offseason Moves
The biggest moves for the Canucks featured the loss of one star and the gaining of another. Ryan Kesler, who had been the center of trade rumors for seemingly years, was finally dealt to Anaheim. The return was only decent, but the end of the distraction and a fresh start is a massive gain for the team. The biggest immediate gain in the deal was Nick Bonino. He had 22 goals and 49 points last year, with many of those coming on the power play, but those numbers are surely inflated because he was playing with Ryan Getzlaf - far better than any power play partner he could have this year.
After botching the goalie situation in ways that are beyond imagination - going from two top-level goalies to none in under a year - the Canucks needed someone new between the pipes. In Ryan Miller they got a very good one. He left Buffalo for St. Louis in a trade last year, and things didn't go well there, but the upside is significant.
There were other moves, too, though none quite as significant. The disappointing David Booth is gone, and he won't be missed. One of the biggest challenges Desjardins faces is getting the Sedin twins back on track at age 34, and to help do so they brought in Radim Vrbata from Phoenix to play on a line with them - or at least that's the plan. He has been quietly excellent in Phoenix, so he could have a big impact if he can find chemistry with the big two.
This year's top draft pick for the team, Jake Virtanen of the Calgary Hitmen, is going to be a great player one day, but offseason injuries have limited him and he needs to mature further, so he will almost certainly return to juniors for another year. Bo Horvat, the 2013 first-rounder, has a chance to make the squad this year after another year in the OHL last year.
Vancouver Canucks NHL Outlook
There is a chance for this team to be much better than last year, but things need to fall into place for that to happen. The Sedins need to be much better - which should happen if they can stay healthy and if Desjardins lets them play more like they are meant to. Miller could be an upgrade in net but only if he can look more comfortable here than he did in St. Louis behind a very good team. Once-strong players coming off of total dud seasons - like Alex Edler and Alex Burrows - need to bounce back and play to their potential again. They need a second line to emerge - they have a good top line but no line as of now that stands out as a clear second option. Add it all up and this is a team that could easily make the playoffs - or could really disappoint and spark a deeper rebuild.
Vancouver Canucks Schedule
Nov. 28 is when we are really going to understand what this team is made of. That is when they start a rough seven game Eastern road trip. That trip could help this team come together and make a statement, or it could really derail a fragile team. They play five of their first seven and 10 of their first 16 on the road before that, so they will have no shortage of road experience before that trip.
Vancouver Canucks NHL Futures Odds (from Bovada)
The Canucks sit at 33/1 to win the Stanley Cup. That puts them right in the middle of the pack - 15 teams have lower odds. They are the ninth choice to win the West at 22/1 and the fourth pick to win the tough Pacific Division at 15/2.
2014-15 Vancouver Canucks Predictions
I am optimistic that this will be a much better team than last year. The combination of the Kesler debacle, the two odd goalie trades, and the Tortorella circus were just too much for the team to overcome. They will be much more stable, and Desjardins is much more of a player's coach. They have made some decent offseason moves, too, and likely got better on that front.
That being said, I think that the best days of the Sedins are behind them, and offensive depth - especially at center -- is a real concern. I have plenty of confidence in the goaltending, and the defense is sound, but I'm not sure that they can score enough. They will be in the fight for the wild card spots, but I wouldn't be surprised if they made it or if they fell short. Whether they make the playoffs or not they won't do anything once they get there because they just don't measure up to the many strong teams in the West. This team is still a few pieces away from returning to the upper echelons.
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