Me with Trevor Linden, wearing a #17 Vrbata jersey. See below picture for the proof.
With last years triumphant end to a disappointing season somewhat in the rear view mirror, the memory of not making the playoffs lingers like the smell of grandmas perfume hours after she left.
This summer was by far the busiest the Canucks organization has been in quite some time which showcased an assortment of moves. Ones which have finally brought us to this years training camp. An unsettling feeling resounds in the hearts of Canuck nation, for those who felt the promise of excitement exactly a year ago when John Tortorella came in promising change, after two quick playoff exits under then head coach Alain Vignault. All that promise delivered absolutely nothing. We won't be taken as fools again. At least not this season.
What was once a promise and glimmer of salvation amongst this aging core with Torts, now gives us an undecided feeling of little expectation for this team entering in a season with its new leadership group. Canucks President Trevor Linden, GM Jim Benning and newly minted head coach Willie Desjardins do not have the pressure to deliver this year as the old regime did. No, this year, if the Canucks put out an exciting product but fail to make the playoffs, there will still be disappointment, but no one would be shocked by the outcome.
Which leads us to a much different feeling, this year over last, and the reason why it's ok to be quietly optimistic. The assembled group has the makings of delivering an exciting brand of hockey with the additions of Radim Vrbata, Linden Vey, Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa and Ryan Miller.
Also on the plus side, there are two missing "headline headaches" that have plagued this team the last few years.
First is the Roberto Luongo saga. As much as Lou was an integral part of this team, the drama that followed him to no fault of his own, was a burden on the team and it's fans.
Second, is the negativity that surrounded Ryan Kesler who was reportedly ready to hold out on the Canucks by not showing up for training camp if he didn't get traded to the only team he allowed a trade to, in Anaheim.
There is no questioning Kelser's desire to win with the Canucks. A Stanley Cup seems to be the only thing that will calm down the spirit that burns within him. Unfortunately, Kesler became frustrated with the direction of the team and wanted out. Who can blame him. He was paramount in the original rebuild and has no aspirations to start it all over again.
All this leaves us with a Canucks equation that doesn't appear too bad on paper.
A core group that went to the cup final subtracted by Kesler and Luongo. Minus another two big names gone from last year in Jason Garrison and an injured Mike Santorelli. Add in Miller, Vrbata, Bonino, Vey and Sbisa, and you get something that equals a decent looking squad. One that could surprise, or completely bust.
D. Sedin - H. Sedin - Vrbata
Higgins - Bonino - Kassian
Vey - Matthias - Burrows
Dorsett - Richardson - Hansen
Tanev - Bieksa
Hamhuis - Sbisa
Edler - Stanton
Mix in a new coach who apparently respects his players, which is the opposite of what we've heard of Torts. Toss in a sprinkle of a qualified GM who can foresee players futures that the past GM could not. Finally, blend it all together with a franchise President, and you have yourself a future that doesn't look so bad. At least there is something to cling to.
No longer can we boast about how good our team is to all the Canuck haters. No longer can we offer our condolences to the other Canadian teams whose struggles were somewhat comical to us on the West Coast. Now we sit patiently, like a cat ready to pounce. Telling everyone that our team won't make it this year, even though deep down we know this group might just make a splash.