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Article: Are The Canucks Back On Track? CBS Sports

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It seems that others are starting to notice, but they still have doubts?

They mentioned the difficulties of going through Chicago, St. Louis, Anaheim and the Kings, but I believe these Canucks have earned the right to be mentioned alongside them. After watching the Pitts game....Chicago, St. Louis, Anaheim and the Kings have to get past Vancouver... :)

**relax, I know it's a battle to get back to the Finals so my expectations are tempered. I'm just enjoying that game and the way this team put a full effort in!**

Following an offseason of change, are the Canucks back on track?
By Adam Gretz | Hockey writer
December 4, 2014 12:01 pm ET

Canucks_Back_On_Track.jpgUnder first-year coach Willie Desjardins the Vancouver Canucks are winning games again. (USATSI)

Following a disastrous second half of the 2013-14 season that resulted in them missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007-08 -- and for just the third time in 12 years -- theVancouver Canucks underwent a pretty significant makeover this past offseason.

General manager Mike Gillis was replaced by former Boston Bruins assistant Jim Benning. The John Tortorella experience behind the bench ended after just one tumultous season that at times bordered on the absurd, paving the way for first-year coach Willie Desjardins to take over. Long-time center Ryan Kesler became the latest core player to be shipped out of town, finally being sent to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a package of players that included Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa.

That is an awful lot of changes in a lot of key areas, and because of that it wasn't easy to get a read on what path the 2014-15 team might take. Was the 2013-14 season just one massive fluke? Or was it a sign that the Canucks' time as a Stanley Cup contender in the Western Conference was not only coming to an end, but that it was already over?

With 17 wins in their first 25 games this season and sitting just two points out of first place in the Pacific Division entering play on Thursday, it's looking like the Canucks might be back on the right track as the team finally seems to once again understand its identity.

Considering where this team was less than a year ago, that's a huge step back in the right direction.

When Tortorella replaced Alain Vigneault prior to last season, he brought with him his shot-blocking mentality that had become his calling card during his time in New York and seemed determined to take a high-flying offensive team and turn them into a more defensive oriented team. Not only did the Canucks lack the personnel to play that style of hockey, but it also seemed to go against the grain of the way the best teams in the Western Conference were playing, where puck possession has become king and shot-blocking has become something that is done out of necessity and as a last resort, rather than a skill that a team is built on.

It was a season-long struggle where their fans were forced to watch a hockey team fumble around on the ice trying to fit a bunch of square pegs into round holes. As the season wore on, it seemed to be a major point of concern within the organization. In early April, with the team still clinging to its fading playoff hopes, Gillis even talked publicly about his desire for the Canucks to go back to their offensive ways and play an up-tempo, high transition game.

In the end, it was the perfect storm of a flawed strategy meeting a roster that definitely had its shortcomings, but also didn't seem have an ounce of luck on its side all season.

Alex Burrows seemed to disappear from the map. Alexander Edler, an excellent two-way defenseman for many years with the Canucks, seemed to be on the ice every time a puck ended up in the back of their net, and even Henrik and Daniel Sedin started to look human instead of the supernatural two-headed monster they had been for so long.

Part of that was system. Part of that was a team that couldn't catch a break.

But for as bad as the Canucks seemed at times, and for as flawed as their approach was for much of the year, there were still signs that this team could be good again in short order. Even though they were no longer the high-scoring, offensive powerhouse they once were, they were still generating a fair number of shots and and winning the possession game, usually the sign of a team that is doing something right. With a few adjustments, there was still something there that could be quickly turned around.

Under the watchful eye of Desjardins, a championship coach in the American Hockey League before finally getting his first NHL shot with the Canucks, a few of those changes have been made and the early returns have been promising.

Internally, the Canucks made the switch to move Edler back to his natural left side and paired him up with shutdown defenseman Chris Tanev, one of the biggest bargains in the NHL at just $2 million against the cap this season, to form what has been one of the better defensive pairings in the league so far. Edler was never as bad as the league-worst minus-37 number he put on the board last season, but he definitely had his share of struggles working on a different side of the ice and in a pairing with Kevin Bieksa, a duo that has never really seemed to work well together. But with Tanev, they have been a force and will need to carry the workload now that Dan Hamhuis is sidelined with an injury.

When it came to external changes, one of the biggest has been the addition of free agent wingerRadim Vrbata, one of the more underrated goal-scorers in the NHL in recents, to ride shotgun with Henrik and Daniel Sedin, a spot that was long occupied by Burrows.

But as Desjardins has attempted to make the Canucks a more balanced, deeper team that can consistently role four lines against the opposition, Burrows has taken a different role on the team's second line alongside Bonino and Chris Higgins. That line has been given the nightly task of playing against the other team's best players and so far has done an excellent job shutting them down. And a healthy Burrows has seemed to be the one that has been driving the bus for that trio.

The other added bonus is that while that line is eating up the tougher assignments, the newly formed top-line has been feasting on more favorable matchups and scoring at a pace that is more Sedin-like, even if their production has hit a bit of a slump in recent weeks.

Are they the team from a few years ago that is going to win the Presidents' Trophy and be one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup?

As currently constructed, probably not. Not in the Western Conference with the likes of Chicago, St. Louis, Anaheim and even the Kings if they ever get their act together this season.

But now that they are back to playing a style of hockey that better suits their personnel and no longer have to deal with the unsettled mess that was their goaltending situation for the past two years, they are an awful lot closer to that team than the circus that was the 2013-14 version.

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I'm enjoying the overall optimism that seems to be everywhere, I'm hoping that we hit our peak at the right time and stay healthy for a solid and deep playoff run.

As for the article it doesn't really seem thread-worthy, just re-hashing everything we already know.

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Good read. I'm absolutely loving how well we've rebounded this season. The Sedins are back, we have four lines that can score for the first time in god knows how long and our goaltending is finally stabilized. If we can add one more top four defenceman I think we're gonna be in for a treat.

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They're a product of a new coach first and foremost if you ask me. We saw it with the Pens when Bylsma took over. Therrien had them @ .500 hockey, Bylsma came in 3/4 into the season and took them to the Cup. I know there are other examples of this albeit not as impressive but a simple coaching change can make all the diff.

And a coach that exactly knows what to do with this team to get it to work. Torts is a good coach as well. You have to be to win the Cup, but instead of working with what he had, he tried to make this team and these players something they weren't. And that was his problem here

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"....the Tortorella experience behind the bench ended after just one tumultuous season that at times bordered on the absurd, paving the way for first-year coach Willie Desjardins to take over."

That is putting it gently.

It is unfortunate such a disgrace put an abrupt end to the Gillis era.

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Brilliant read.

Like the fact they start to think that maybe something is still brewing up Vancouver way.

The fact they don't even mention, how strong the 2 bottom lines have performed, suggest they still don't realise, what it is that is making the team click just now. The rolling of 4 potent lines has definitely given us a new dimension.

Not only relying on the Sedins to bail us out is key, and will be come play offs......

(Sorry getting a little ahead of myself here, but so happy about how the team seems has bounced back this season).

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Sorry to see this: I'd rather just keep flying below the radar. Of course other teams in the league know, but when the media gets involved it can change how the NHL head office approaches things, if you know what I mean.

I have no idea what you mean. Specifics?


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I've believed this team lead by the twins all along. As long as we have them we are elite cup contenders.

Only Anaheim, kings, hawks and blues stand in our way.

The eastern teams are a cake walk.

2015 cup or go home. That being said, the refs will probably do their best in the playoffs to make sure we get knocked out. But we got by teams even with refs against us in 2011. We're good enough to repeat.

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I just feel this is too good to be true, I just keep waiting for our collapse. Am i the only one?

You obviously don't know what happened last year and what the team has done "before" and "after" that fiasco. There will be no collapse I assure you.

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