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Top 5 Team Improvements in Canucks History [Article]

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Posted (edited)

i'm thinking

that you are thinking

this year's team might be able to break into the top 5 ranking for most improved?

 

a fan can hope  :towel:

Edited by coastal.view
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1 hour ago, -AJ- said:

Hey all! Given all the hype about the potential dramatic improvement of the Canucks this coming year, I was inspired to do some research and write up an article on the largest improvements the Canucks have seen of the course of their history in the NHL. I figured given the slow time of year, some of you might enjoy a fairly quick read. I've pasted it here for convenience, but feel free to read it on my actual site where the formatting will be nicer and more pleasant: https://hookedonhockeyhistory.wordpress.com/2019/07/13/top-5-team-improvements-in-canucks-history/

 

 

The Vancouver Canucks as a franchise have had a very tumultuous history, and that continues to this day. However, there are many fans (including yours truly) that believe that better things are to come and that the very busy summer of 2019 by Jim Benning and crew could potentially pay off in a big way. With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting and fun to look at times in the past when the Canucks saw significant improvement from one year to the next, to see what changed from year to year. Let’s get to it.

 

5. 1987-88 to 1988-89

mcleank.jpg?w=676

1987-88 Record: 25-46-9 | 59 points | 19th out of 21 teams 
Offense: 3.40 goals/game | 18th out of 21 teams
Defense: 4.00 goals against/game | 17th out of 21 teams

1988-89 Record: 33-39-8 | 74 points | 14th out of 21 teams
Offense: 3.14 goals/game | 21st out of 21 teams
Defense: 3.16 goals against/game | 3rd out of 21 teams

A quick look at the numbers above makes it crystal clear what the difference was between these two seasons: defense and goaltending. While the team actually scored less than the year prior, their defensive game dramatically improved and the team made the playoffs again as a result. That said, this is one of the cases were the improvement is more a factor of how bad the team was in 1987-88 than how good they were in 1988-89. The improvement was large, but it’s hard to stay as bad as they were in 1987-88 for long. 

The additions of Paul Reinhart and Robert Nordmark were welcome additions and at the end of the day, Kirk McLean just played much better than the prior year. Steve Weeks also continued his solid play and traded starts with McLean. The emergence of a young rookie named Trevor Linden didn’t hurt either.

The Canucks almost upset the Flames in the first round, but couldn’t quite finish the job. They would flail again for the next two years, but finally experience a resurgence after that, showing that the 1988-89 season was a sign of things to come.

 

4. 2013-14 to 2014-15

2015canucks.jpg?w=676

2013-14 Record: 36-35-11 | 83 points | 25th out of 30 teams
Offense: 2.39 goals/game | 28th out of 30 teams
Defense: 2.72 goals against/game | 15th out of 30 teams

2014-15 Record: 48-29-5 | 101 points | 8th out of 30 teams
Offense: 2.95 goals/game | 6th out of 30 teams
Defense: 2.71 goals against/game | 17th out of 30 teams

In my mind, there’s not much doubt that the difference maker in this season was coaching. The John Tortorella regime was a terrible one for everyone involved in the Canucks organization and as much as he’s maligned now, Willie Desjardins was a breath of fresh air in comparison. The Sedin twins returned to nearly a point-per-game and the offense of the Canucks soared while the Sedins brought yet another winger to a career year with Radim Vrbata scoring 31 goals to lead the team. A bevy of middle six wingers who could score like Nick Bonino, Chris Higgins, and Alex Burrows also helped. Reasonably decent offense from the blue line and a whopping 70-game season from Chris Tanev was a welcome surprise. The Canucks unfortunately fell to the Calgary Flames in 6 games in the first round and it turned out that the 2014-15 season was just a flash in the pan, but it was fun while it lasted.

 

3. 1998-99 to 1999-00

bertuzzit2.jpg?w=676

1998-99 Record: 23-47-12 | 58 points | 26th out of 27 teams
Offense: 2.34 goals/game | 23rd out of 27 teams
Defense: 3.15 goals against/game | 25th out of 27 games

1999-00 Record: 30-29-15-8 | 83 points | 18th out of 28 teams
Offense: 2.77 goals/game | 14th out of 28 teams
Defense: 2.89 goals/game | 20th out of 28 teams

As with the first entry on our list, this is much more a result of the team being abhorrently bad in the 1998-99 season than being particularly good in 1999-00. Still, the improvement was dramatic. The Canucks went from having the worst season they’d had since the first three years in the 70s, to falling just 3 points short of a playoff spot. While Felix Potvin did play marginally better than Garth Snow had in the year prior, the biggest differences can be attributed to two forwards, a defenseman, and a coaching change.

Andrew Cassels, who signed with the team in the off-season, instantly stepped in and had a bounce back season, showing he could still play a top six role as a playmaking centre. Todd Bertuzzi, at 24 years of age had a breakout season and scored 25 goals, which turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg for him. Finally, Ed Jovanovski, who the Canucks had acquired in part in exchange for Pavel Bure, played closer to a full season with 75 games and began to improve. Last and certainly not least, the Canucks had fired “Iron Mike” Keenan following the 1998-99 season, making way for a young 38-year old Marc Crawford to step in. In this case, the Canucks would continue to improve into a very strong team during the early 2000s.

 

2. 1973-74 to 1974-75

smithg.jpg?w=400

1973-74 Record: 24-43-11 | 59 points | 14th out of 16 teams
Offense: 2.87 goals/game | 12th out of 16 teams
Defense: 3.79 goals against/game | 14th out of 16 teams

1974-75 Record: 38-32-10 | 86 points | 9th out of 18 teams
Offense: 3.39 goals/game | 8th out of 18 teams
Defense: 3.18 goals against/game | 9th out of 18 teams

Oh, what a difference a division realignment can make. With the addition of the Kansas City Scouts and the Washington Capitals, the NHL decided to re-arrange the divisions, and the Canucks were moved into the newly made Smythe Division. Not only were they moved out of the East Division which gave them a brutal travel schedule, but they were also put in a divsion without any dominant teams, which allowed Vancouver to rise to the top of the division in 1974-75. The Canucks were already beginning to improve, but the 1973-74 season, despite being the best in their short history at the time, was still a very poor season by most standards. 

The 1974-75 season featured a career year for Andre Boudrias and dramatic improvements from the likes of John Gould, Don Lever, Dennis Ververgaert, Chris Oddleifson, and Bob Dailey. A coaching change from Bill McCreary to Phil Maloney also seemed positive, but the biggest change for certain was the amazing season by Billy “Suitcase” Smith. Smith played so well that he finished 6th in Hart voting and was third in All-Star team voting, finishing behind only Bernie Parent and Rogie Vachon and ahead of Ken Dryden. Smith and the Canucks would even take a game off Dryden and the legendary 1970s Canadiens in the second round of the playoffs (they received a bye past the preliminary round because they won their division).

As exciting as it was, the Canucks would have to wait over 15 years to have another season a strong as this one, but it was one to remember.

 

1. 1990-91 to 1991-92

burep2.jpeg?w=640

1990-91 Record: 28-43-9 record | 65 points | 17th out of 21 teams
Offense: 3.04 goals/game | 17th out of 21 teams
Defense: 3.94 goals/game | 19th out of 21 teams

1991-92 Record: 42-26-12 | 96 points | 4th out of 22 teams
Offense: 3.56 goals/game | 11th out of 22 teams
Defense: 3.13 goals against/game | 5th out of 22 teams

Like some other years, this was a jump from being a horrible team, but unlike other years, this wasn’t just a jump from bad to decent, it was a jump from bad straight up to great. From being near the bottom of the league, the Canucks jumped up to 4th place in the entire NHL and there were a plethora of reasons for it.

It starts with a coaching change, where GM Pat Quinn decided to take over the bench and lead the team in another way. Just the prior year, near the end of the 1990-91 season, Quinn had made the best trade of his career in acquiring Geoff Courtnall, Cliff Ronning, Robert Dirk, and Sergio Momesso from the St. Louis Blues. While Dirk didn’t play a huge role with the team in 1991-92, all three other players did. Ronning led the Canucks with 47 assists and Momesso had a career year out of nowhere with 20 goals and 43 points in just 58 games. Igor Larionov finally broke out in the NHL with a solid 65-point season and Linden scored a career-high 33 goals. To top it all off, the Canucks had a rookie sensation electrifying the fans in the Pacific Colosseum named Pavel Bure, who, despite playing his first game later in the season, still took home the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie in 1991-92.

Against the Winnipeg Jets, the Canucks had their first playoff series win since 1982 by beating them in 7 games, but fell to the Edmonton Oilers in the second round in six games. The next two years would be a roller coaster that Canuck fans would never forget and it would help cement the Vancouver as a bonafide NHL franchise that was here to stay.

 

Honourable Mention: 2009-10 to 2010-11
2009-10 Record: 49-28-5 | 103 points | 5th out of 30 teams
Offense: 3.32 goals/game | 2nd out of 30 teams
Defense: 2.71 goals against/game | 11th out of 30 teams

2010-11 Record: 54-19-9 | 117 points | 1st out of 30 teams
Offense: 3.20 goals/game | 1st out of 30 teams
Defense: 2.26 goals against/game | 1st out of 30 teams

Despite the strong season in 2009-10, the 2010-11 Canucks team was even that much more of a force to be reckoned with. It’s not often a team over 100 points can be improved on by that much, but the Canucks did it, thanks to some savvy moves in free agency by GM Mike Gillis and continued improvements in their core players.

 

Great job!!! I really enjoyed reading that and it brought back some found memories! 

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well if the power play can be lethal  , we can win 3 on 3 ot  games  and shootouts , we could very well be vastly improved , like 2011 our powerplay was deadly , with the new additions as well  there is a extra fifty goals between miller ferland myers and benn , so it could very well happen

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5 minutes ago, DontTouchMeGuys said:

Good list but i would add:

05-06 =missed playoffs

06-07- got luongo, won division, made it to second round.

Definitely a good one as well. Was right up there for me too.

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3 hours ago, -AJ- said:

1987-88 Record: 25-46-9 | 59 points | 19th out of 21 teams 
Offense: 3.40 goals/game | 18th out of 21 teams
Defense: 4.00 goals against/game | 17th out of 21 teams

The 80s were crazy. If any team averages 3.40 G/Game in the league now, they are likely 1st in the league in GF. Instead back in the 80s, that's for 4th worst in the league.

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Great read...thanks for writing and posting.

 

Not at all trying to be negative, or trying to be funny, by saying Billy Smith, I'm guessing you're saying Gary Smith.

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2 hours ago, ruilin96 said:

The 80s were crazy. If any team averages 3.40 G/Game in the league now, they are likely 1st in the league in GF. Instead back in the 80s, that's for 4th worst in the league.

Minus 48 goal differential still nets out a bad/losing season, just as it does today.  I remember those days...pocket sized goalies -- Rogie Vachon, Gilles Meloche, Chico Resch, Pelle Lindhberg, Don Edwards, Mike Vernon, Andy Moog, Greg Millen, Don Beaupre, Bob Froese, Kelly Hrudey, Billy Smith (tiny by today's standards).  Giants were guys like Barasso, Peeters, Roy, Liut, Essensa.

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7 hours ago, -AJ- said:

Hey all! Given all the hype about the potential dramatic improvement of the Canucks this coming year, I was inspired to do some research and write up an article on the largest improvements the Canucks have seen of the course of their history in the NHL. I figured given the slow time of year, some of you might enjoy a fairly quick read. I've pasted it here for convenience, but feel free to read it on my actual site where the formatting will be nicer and more pleasant: https://hookedonhockeyhistory.wordpress.com/2019/07/13/top-5-team-improvements-in-canucks-history/

 

 

The Vancouver Canucks as a franchise have had a very tumultuous history, and that continues to this day. However, there are many fans (including yours truly) that believe that better things are to come and that the very busy summer of 2019 by Jim Benning and crew could potentially pay off in a big way. With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting and fun to look at times in the past when the Canucks saw significant improvement from one year to the next, to see what changed from year to year. Let’s get to it.

 

5. 1987-88 to 1988-89

mcleank.jpg?w=676

1987-88 Record: 25-46-9 | 59 points | 19th out of 21 teams 
Offense: 3.40 goals/game | 18th out of 21 teams
Defense: 4.00 goals against/game | 17th out of 21 teams

1988-89 Record: 33-39-8 | 74 points | 14th out of 21 teams
Offense: 3.14 goals/game | 21st out of 21 teams
Defense: 3.16 goals against/game | 3rd out of 21 teams

A quick look at the numbers above makes it crystal clear what the difference was between these two seasons: defense and goaltending. While the team actually scored less than the year prior, their defensive game dramatically improved and the team made the playoffs again as a result. That said, this is one of the cases were the improvement is more a factor of how bad the team was in 1987-88 than how good they were in 1988-89. The improvement was large, but it’s hard to stay as bad as they were in 1987-88 for long. 

The additions of Paul Reinhart and Robert Nordmark were welcome additions and at the end of the day, Kirk McLean just played much better than the prior year. Steve Weeks also continued his solid play and traded starts with McLean. The emergence of a young rookie named Trevor Linden didn’t hurt either.

The Canucks almost upset the Flames in the first round, but couldn’t quite finish the job. They would flail again for the next two years, but finally experience a resurgence after that, showing that the 1988-89 season was a sign of things to come.

 

4. 2013-14 to 2014-15

2015canucks.jpg?w=676

2013-14 Record: 36-35-11 | 83 points | 25th out of 30 teams
Offense: 2.39 goals/game | 28th out of 30 teams
Defense: 2.72 goals against/game | 15th out of 30 teams

2014-15 Record: 48-29-5 | 101 points | 8th out of 30 teams
Offense: 2.95 goals/game | 6th out of 30 teams
Defense: 2.71 goals against/game | 17th out of 30 teams

In my mind, there’s not much doubt that the difference maker in this season was coaching. The John Tortorella regime was a terrible one for everyone involved in the Canucks organization and as much as he’s maligned now, Willie Desjardins was a breath of fresh air in comparison. The Sedin twins returned to nearly a point-per-game and the offense of the Canucks soared while the Sedins brought yet another winger to a career year with Radim Vrbata scoring 31 goals to lead the team. A bevy of middle six wingers who could score like Nick Bonino, Chris Higgins, and Alex Burrows also helped. Reasonably decent offense from the blue line and a whopping 70-game season from Chris Tanev was a welcome surprise. The Canucks unfortunately fell to the Calgary Flames in 6 games in the first round and it turned out that the 2014-15 season was just a flash in the pan, but it was fun while it lasted.

 

3. 1998-99 to 1999-00

bertuzzit2.jpg?w=676

1998-99 Record: 23-47-12 | 58 points | 26th out of 27 teams
Offense: 2.34 goals/game | 23rd out of 27 teams
Defense: 3.15 goals against/game | 25th out of 27 games

1999-00 Record: 30-29-15-8 | 83 points | 18th out of 28 teams
Offense: 2.77 goals/game | 14th out of 28 teams
Defense: 2.89 goals/game | 20th out of 28 teams

As with the first entry on our list, this is much more a result of the team being abhorrently bad in the 1998-99 season than being particularly good in 1999-00. Still, the improvement was dramatic. The Canucks went from having the worst season they’d had since the first three years in the 70s, to falling just 3 points short of a playoff spot. While Felix Potvin did play marginally better than Garth Snow had in the year prior, the biggest differences can be attributed to two forwards, a defenseman, and a coaching change.

Andrew Cassels, who signed with the team in the off-season, instantly stepped in and had a bounce back season, showing he could still play a top six role as a playmaking centre. Todd Bertuzzi, at 24 years of age had a breakout season and scored 25 goals, which turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg for him. Finally, Ed Jovanovski, who the Canucks had acquired in part in exchange for Pavel Bure, played closer to a full season with 75 games and began to improve. Last and certainly not least, the Canucks had fired “Iron Mike” Keenan following the 1998-99 season, making way for a young 38-year old Marc Crawford to step in. In this case, the Canucks would continue to improve into a very strong team during the early 2000s.

 

2. 1973-74 to 1974-75

smithg.jpg?w=400

1973-74 Record: 24-43-11 | 59 points | 14th out of 16 teams
Offense: 2.87 goals/game | 12th out of 16 teams
Defense: 3.79 goals against/game | 14th out of 16 teams

1974-75 Record: 38-32-10 | 86 points | 9th out of 18 teams
Offense: 3.39 goals/game | 8th out of 18 teams
Defense: 3.18 goals against/game | 9th out of 18 teams

Oh, what a difference a division realignment can make. With the addition of the Kansas City Scouts and the Washington Capitals, the NHL decided to re-arrange the divisions, and the Canucks were moved into the newly made Smythe Division. Not only were they moved out of the East Division which gave them a brutal travel schedule, but they were also put in a divsion without any dominant teams, which allowed Vancouver to rise to the top of the division in 1974-75. The Canucks were already beginning to improve, but the 1973-74 season, despite being the best in their short history at the time, was still a very poor season by most standards. 

The 1974-75 season featured a career year for Andre Boudrias and dramatic improvements from the likes of John Gould, Don Lever, Dennis Ververgaert, Chris Oddleifson, and Bob Dailey. A coaching change from Bill McCreary to Phil Maloney also seemed positive, but the biggest change for certain was the amazing season by Billy “Suitcase” Smith. Smith played so well that he finished 6th in Hart voting and was third in All-Star team voting, finishing behind only Bernie Parent and Rogie Vachon and ahead of Ken Dryden. Smith and the Canucks would even take a game off Dryden and the legendary 1970s Canadiens in the second round of the playoffs (they received a bye past the preliminary round because they won their division).

As exciting as it was, the Canucks would have to wait over 15 years to have another season a strong as this one, but it was one to remember.

 

1. 1990-91 to 1991-92

burep2.jpeg?w=640

1990-91 Record: 28-43-9 record | 65 points | 17th out of 21 teams
Offense: 3.04 goals/game | 17th out of 21 teams
Defense: 3.94 goals/game | 19th out of 21 teams

1991-92 Record: 42-26-12 | 96 points | 4th out of 22 teams
Offense: 3.56 goals/game | 11th out of 22 teams
Defense: 3.13 goals against/game | 5th out of 22 teams

Like some other years, this was a jump from being a horrible team, but unlike other years, this wasn’t just a jump from bad to decent, it was a jump from bad straight up to great. From being near the bottom of the league, the Canucks jumped up to 4th place in the entire NHL and there were a plethora of reasons for it.

It starts with a coaching change, where GM Pat Quinn decided to take over the bench and lead the team in another way. Just the prior year, near the end of the 1990-91 season, Quinn had made the best trade of his career in acquiring Geoff Courtnall, Cliff Ronning, Robert Dirk, and Sergio Momesso from the St. Louis Blues. While Dirk didn’t play a huge role with the team in 1991-92, all three other players did. Ronning led the Canucks with 47 assists and Momesso had a career year out of nowhere with 20 goals and 43 points in just 58 games. Igor Larionov finally broke out in the NHL with a solid 65-point season and Linden scored a career-high 33 goals. To top it all off, the Canucks had a rookie sensation electrifying the fans in the Pacific Colosseum named Pavel Bure, who, despite playing his first game later in the season, still took home the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie in 1991-92.

Against the Winnipeg Jets, the Canucks had their first playoff series win since 1982 by beating them in 7 games, but fell to the Edmonton Oilers in the second round in six games. The next two years would be a roller coaster that Canuck fans would never forget and it would help cement the Vancouver as a bonafide NHL franchise that was here to stay.

 

Honourable Mention: 2009-10 to 2010-11
2009-10 Record: 49-28-5 | 103 points | 5th out of 30 teams
Offense: 3.32 goals/game | 2nd out of 30 teams
Defense: 2.71 goals against/game | 11th out of 30 teams

2010-11 Record: 54-19-9 | 117 points | 1st out of 30 teams
Offense: 3.20 goals/game | 1st out of 30 teams
Defense: 2.26 goals against/game | 1st out of 30 teams

Despite the strong season in 2009-10, the 2010-11 Canucks team was even that much more of a force to be reckoned with. It’s not often a team over 100 points can be improved on by that much, but the Canucks did it, thanks to some savvy moves in free agency by GM Mike Gillis and continued improvements in their core players.

 

It would only be fitting that the guy that broke the record of the #1's picture, and the guy that would have broke the record as well if not for injury(Pettersson and Boeser) lead the charge.

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2 hours ago, bigbadcanucks said:

Great read...thanks for writing and posting.

 

Not at all trying to be negative, or trying to be funny, by saying Billy Smith, I'm guessing you're saying Gary Smith.

Thanks! I sometimes get the names mixed up in my head. Changes made.

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Posted (edited)

Around the time they went to the 'Flyin V's', transitioning from the late 70's into the decade of the 80's, I recall there being a pretty cool vibe.

 

Hanlon, Gradin, Smyl, Fraser..a lot of nice pieces were added in pretty short order. Lots of my buddies(elementary school daze) were optimistic/excited about the team. But then this skinny, long haired p**fter in Alberta started a League-blitzkrieg. The whole west turned radioactive, with goaltender lifespans measured in wks...

 

Reminds me of a character winning entertainment awards in one of my fav movies..Dirk Diggler was on a roll in them late 70's..then the decade ended & the SHTF! Yeah..the 'Nucks are a Dirk Diggler bunch...

 

edit:Oh yeah, forgot to say, nice article, AJ :^)

Edited by Nuxfanabroad
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Posted (edited)

Brilliant piece AJ...

Like you've mentioned a few things that some quickly forgot...

The jump made in the first year of WD... as well as MG's ability to improve an already good team. It may have came back to haunt us, but at the time it was a bloody brilliant team, he built. 

 

Nice to read something that doesn't have to end up in controversy. Thank you +10

Edited by spook007

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2 hours ago, Nuxfanabroad said:

Around the time they went to the 'Flyin V's', transitioning from the late 70's into the decade of the 80's, I recall there being a pretty cool vibe.

 

Hanlon, Gradin, Smyl, Fraser..a lot of nice pieces were added in pretty short order. Lots of my buddies(elementary school daze) were optimistic/excited about the team. But then this skinny, long haired p**fter in Alberta started a League-blitzkrieg. The whole west turned radioactive, with goaltender lifespans measured in wks...

 

Reminds me of a character winning entertainment awards in one of my fav movies..Dirk Diggler was on a roll in them late 70's..then the decade ended & the SHTF! Yeah..the 'Nucks are a Dirk Diggler bunch...

 

edit:Oh yeah, forgot to say, nice article, AJ :^)

Canucks got treated more like Rollergirl when the Oilers were in town.

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This just underlines the key statistical indicator between a playoff and non-playoff team -- goal differential.  And further, it seems that the biggest improvements have come not so much from increasing scoring but doing better at preventing goals.  Last year, no team with negative differential made the playoffs, and only one with positive did not (Montreal).

 

We were net -29 last year, which means if we score 15 more and allow 15 less, we are right in there.  Considering the additions of Miller, Pearson, and Ferland who alone should make up that scoring difference, we have the young players a year older and adding better offense on the back end with Hughes and Myers.  Could the anemic PP alone score another 5-10 goals?  Then there's the subtraction of the likes of Pouliot and MDZ from the back end, and a healthy(er) season from our primary shutdown Cs Sutter and Beagle should certainly be able to prevent 15 more?

 

I certainly wouldn't be betting against this team.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Hutton Wink said:

This just underlines the key statistical indicator between a playoff and non-playoff team -- goal differential.  And further, it seems that the biggest improvements have come not so much from increasing scoring but doing better at preventing goals.  Last year, no team with negative differential made the playoffs, and only one with positive did not (Montreal).

 

We were net -29 last year, which means if we score 15 more and allow 15 less, we are right in there.  Considering the additions of Miller, Pearson, and Ferland who alone should make up that scoring difference, we have the young players a year older and adding better offense on the back end with Hughes and Myers.  Could the anemic PP alone score another 5-10 goals?  Then there's the subtraction of the likes of Pouliot and MDZ from the back end, and a healthy(er) season from our primary shutdown Cs Sutter and Beagle should certainly be able to prevent 15 more?

 

I certainly wouldn't be betting against this team.

 

 

Agree here completely its not just about scoring more goals its about less going in our net as well. When the inevitable injuries hit Edler and Tanev our Defense features Myers Benn and maybe even Fantenberg before we hit Biega, Sautner, Brisebois. That alone is an upgrade on Hutton and Stecher. Stech isnt awful hes just not great as a number 1 D man. This should help reduce our goals against, help Marky get less prime shots and improve the possibility that teams get caught up ice allowing for more offensive opportunities.

Goal differential as simple as it sounds is what wins games. you can score 9 but if the other guys get 10 you still lose

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4 hours ago, Hutton Wink said:

This just underlines the key statistical indicator between a playoff and non-playoff team -- goal differential.  And further, it seems that the biggest improvements have come not so much from increasing scoring but doing better at preventing goals.  Last year, no team with negative differential made the playoffs, and only one with positive did not (Montreal).

 

We were net -29 last year, which means if we score 15 more and allow 15 less, we are right in there.  Considering the additions of Miller, Pearson, and Ferland who alone should make up that scoring difference, we have the young players a year older and adding better offense on the back end with Hughes and Myers.  Could the anemic PP alone score another 5-10 goals?  Then there's the subtraction of the likes of Pouliot and MDZ from the back end, and a healthy(er) season from our primary shutdown Cs Sutter and Beagle should certainly be able to prevent 15 more?

 

I certainly wouldn't be betting against this team.

 

 

so, what you are saying is "defence wins championships"?

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IF is a strong word in sports but IF the Canucks can have middle of the pack injury "luck" and IF the Markstrom that played last season is the same guy this year, an improvement of 15 to even 20 points in the standings is more than possible.

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On 7/13/2019 at 5:45 PM, -AJ- said:

Hey all! Given all the hype about the potential dramatic improvement of the Canucks this coming year, I was inspired to do some research and write up an article on the largest improvements the Canucks have seen over the course of their history in the NHL. I figured given the slow time of year, some of you might enjoy a fairly quick read. I've pasted it here for convenience, but feel free to read it on my actual site where the formatting will be nicer and more pleasant: https://hookedonhockeyhistory.wordpress.com/2019/07/13/top-5-team-improvements-in-canucks-history/

 

 

The Vancouver Canucks as a franchise have had a very tumultuous history, and that continues to this day. However, there are many fans (including yours truly) that believe that better things are to come and that the very busy summer of 2019 by Jim Benning and crew could potentially pay off in a big way. With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting and fun to look at times in the past when the Canucks saw significant improvement from one year to the next, to see what changed from year to year. Let’s get to it.

 

5. 1987-88 to 1988-89

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1987-88 Record: 25-46-9 | 59 points | 19th out of 21 teams 
Offense: 3.40 goals/game | 18th out of 21 teams
Defense: 4.00 goals against/game | 17th out of 21 teams

1988-89 Record: 33-39-8 | 74 points | 14th out of 21 teams
Offense: 3.14 goals/game | 21st out of 21 teams
Defense: 3.16 goals against/game | 3rd out of 21 teams

A quick look at the numbers above makes it crystal clear what the difference was between these two seasons: defense and goaltending. While the team actually scored less than the year prior, their defensive game dramatically improved and the team made the playoffs again as a result. That said, this is one of the cases were the improvement is more a factor of how bad the team was in 1987-88 than how good they were in 1988-89. The improvement was large, but it’s hard to stay as bad as they were in 1987-88 for long. 

The additions of Paul Reinhart and Robert Nordmark were welcome additions and at the end of the day, Kirk McLean just played much better than the prior year. Steve Weeks also continued his solid play and traded starts with McLean. The emergence of a young rookie named Trevor Linden didn’t hurt either.

The Canucks almost upset the Flames in the first round, but couldn’t quite finish the job. They would flail again for the next two years, but finally experience a resurgence after that, showing that the 1988-89 season was a sign of things to come.

 

4. 2013-14 to 2014-15

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2013-14 Record: 36-35-11 | 83 points | 25th out of 30 teams
Offense: 2.39 goals/game | 28th out of 30 teams
Defense: 2.72 goals against/game | 15th out of 30 teams

2014-15 Record: 48-29-5 | 101 points | 8th out of 30 teams
Offense: 2.95 goals/game | 6th out of 30 teams
Defense: 2.71 goals against/game | 17th out of 30 teams

In my mind, there’s not much doubt that the difference maker in this season was coaching. The John Tortorella regime was a terrible one for everyone involved in the Canucks organization and as much as he’s maligned now, Willie Desjardins was a breath of fresh air in comparison. The Sedin twins returned to nearly a point-per-game and the offense of the Canucks soared while the Sedins brought yet another winger to a career year with Radim Vrbata scoring 31 goals to lead the team. A bevy of middle six wingers who could score like Nick Bonino, Chris Higgins, and Alex Burrows also helped. Reasonably decent offense from the blue line and a whopping 70-game season from Chris Tanev was a welcome surprise. The Canucks unfortunately fell to the Calgary Flames in 6 games in the first round and it turned out that the 2014-15 season was just a flash in the pan, but it was fun while it lasted.

 

3. 1998-99 to 1999-00

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1998-99 Record: 23-47-12 | 58 points | 26th out of 27 teams
Offense: 2.34 goals/game | 23rd out of 27 teams
Defense: 3.15 goals against/game | 25th out of 27 games

1999-00 Record: 30-29-15-8 | 83 points | 18th out of 28 teams
Offense: 2.77 goals/game | 14th out of 28 teams
Defense: 2.89 goals/game | 20th out of 28 teams

As with the first entry on our list, this is much more a result of the team being abhorrently bad in the 1998-99 season than being particularly good in 1999-00. Still, the improvement was dramatic. The Canucks went from having the worst season they’d had since the first three years in the 70s, to falling just 3 points short of a playoff spot. While Felix Potvin did play marginally better than Garth Snow had in the year prior, the biggest differences can be attributed to two forwards, a defenseman, and a coaching change.

Andrew Cassels, who signed with the team in the off-season, instantly stepped in and had a bounce back season, showing he could still play a top six role as a playmaking centre. Todd Bertuzzi, at 24 years of age had a breakout season and scored 25 goals, which turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg for him. Finally, Ed Jovanovski, who the Canucks had acquired in part in exchange for Pavel Bure, played closer to a full season with 75 games and began to improve. Last and certainly not least, the Canucks had fired “Iron Mike” Keenan following the 1998-99 season, making way for a young 38-year old Marc Crawford to step in. In this case, the Canucks would continue to improve into a very strong team during the early 2000s.

 

2. 1973-74 to 1974-75

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1973-74 Record: 24-43-11 | 59 points | 14th out of 16 teams
Offense: 2.87 goals/game | 12th out of 16 teams
Defense: 3.79 goals against/game | 14th out of 16 teams

1974-75 Record: 38-32-10 | 86 points | 9th out of 18 teams
Offense: 3.39 goals/game | 8th out of 18 teams
Defense: 3.18 goals against/game | 9th out of 18 teams

Oh, what a difference a division realignment can make. With the addition of the Kansas City Scouts and the Washington Capitals, the NHL decided to re-arrange the divisions, and the Canucks were moved into the newly made Smythe Division. Not only were they moved out of the East Division which gave them a brutal travel schedule, but they were also put in a divsion without any dominant teams, which allowed Vancouver to rise to the top of the division in 1974-75. The Canucks were already beginning to improve, but the 1973-74 season, despite being the best in their short history at the time, was still a very poor season by most standards. 

The 1974-75 season featured a career year for Andre Boudrias and dramatic improvements from the likes of John Gould, Don Lever, Dennis Ververgaert, Chris Oddleifson, and Bob Dailey. A coaching change from Bill McCreary to Phil Maloney also seemed positive, but the biggest change for certain was the amazing season by Gary “Suitcase” Smith. Smith played so well that he finished 6th in Hart voting and was third in All-Star team voting, finishing behind only Bernie Parent and Rogie Vachon and ahead of Ken Dryden. Smith and the Canucks would even take a game off Dryden and the legendary 1970s Canadiens in the second round of the playoffs (they received a bye past the preliminary round because they won their division).

As exciting as it was, the Canucks would have to wait over 15 years to have another season a strong as this one, but it was one to remember.

 

1. 1990-91 to 1991-92

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1990-91 Record: 28-43-9 record | 65 points | 17th out of 21 teams
Offense: 3.04 goals/game | 17th out of 21 teams
Defense: 3.94 goals/game | 19th out of 21 teams

1991-92 Record: 42-26-12 | 96 points | 4th out of 22 teams
Offense: 3.56 goals/game | 11th out of 22 teams
Defense: 3.13 goals against/game | 5th out of 22 teams

Like some other years, this was a jump from being a horrible team, but unlike other years, this wasn’t just a jump from bad to decent, it was a jump from bad straight up to great. From being near the bottom of the league, the Canucks jumped up to 4th place in the entire NHL and there were a plethora of reasons for it.

It starts with a coaching change, where GM Pat Quinn decided to take over the bench and lead the team in another way. Just the prior year, near the end of the 1990-91 season, Quinn had made the best trade of his career in acquiring Geoff Courtnall, Cliff Ronning, Robert Dirk, and Sergio Momesso from the St. Louis Blues. While Dirk didn’t play a huge role with the team in 1991-92, all three other players did. Ronning led the Canucks with 47 assists and Momesso had a career year out of nowhere with 20 goals and 43 points in just 58 games. Igor Larionov finally broke out in the NHL with a solid 65-point season and Linden scored a career-high 33 goals. To top it all off, the Canucks had a rookie sensation electrifying the fans in the Pacific Colosseum named Pavel Bure, who, despite playing his first game later in the season, still took home the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie in 1991-92.

Against the Winnipeg Jets, the Canucks had their first playoff series win since 1982 by beating them in 7 games, but fell to the Edmonton Oilers in the second round in six games. The next two years would be a roller coaster that Canuck fans would never forget and it would help cement the Vancouver as a bonafide NHL franchise that was here to stay.

 

Honourable Mention: 2009-10 to 2010-11
2009-10 Record: 49-28-5 | 103 points | 5th out of 30 teams
Offense: 3.32 goals/game | 2nd out of 30 teams
Defense: 2.71 goals against/game | 11th out of 30 teams

2010-11 Record: 54-19-9 | 117 points | 1st out of 30 teams
Offense: 3.20 goals/game | 1st out of 30 teams
Defense: 2.26 goals against/game | 1st out of 30 teams

Despite the strong season in 2009-10, the 2010-11 Canucks team was even that much more of a force to be reckoned with. It’s not often a team over 100 points can be improved on by that much, but the Canucks did it, thanks to some savvy moves in free agency by GM Mike Gillis and continued improvements in their co re players.

 

whoa... i remember lever, vervegarte, etc... been a long time but i remember in the late 80's when Gretz said vancouver didn't belong in the league but after him and the rest left or retired, it was edm's turn to suck even worse. FU Wayne! :)

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