After a shaky start to the season, the Canucks have otherwise been one of the most successful teams in the NHL through the first month of play. After a huge win over the Florida Panthers, Vancouver owns a 7-3-1 record and has the top spot in the Pacific Division on their radar. Here are some news and notes from the week.
On Trevor Linden…
It’s been a little over a year since Trevor Linden and the Canucks parted ways. Linden replaced Mike Gillis as the Canucks’ President of Hockey Operations in April of 2014 and served in that role for four years before leaving the organization.
Though Linden said the divorce was amicable, the struggles of the organization under his tenure left an awkward taint on his legacy in Vancouver. Linden, of course, is a Canucks legend from his playing days, racking up 733 points in 1140 games as a member of the Canucks. “Captain Canuck” sits third in franchise history in games, goals, assists, and fourth in points.
Since parting ways with the Canucks, Linden has been noticeably absent from anything related to the team. This generally wouldn’t be surprising, but Linden has yet to be involved in any of Vancouver’s 50-year anniversary celebrations so far this season. Plenty of former Canucks, including Todd Bertuzzi, Kirk McLean, and Stan Smyl, were present on the ice for Vancouver’s home opener on Oct. 9, but Linden wasn’t there, sparking rumours and speculation about a rift between him and the organization.
But Linden confirmed that he was away from the season opener for personal reasons and that he would be involved with the Canucks’ celebrations this season in some capacity. Specifically, Linden told Business in Vancouver that he wanted to be a part of Henrik and Daniel Sedin’s jersey retirement ceremony.
On new additions, Ferland and Miller…
The Canucks hade a handful of new additions over the off-season, including Tyler Myers, Jordie Benn, and Michael Ferland, who were signed in free agency, and J.T. Miller, who was acquired in a trade. Some have had an easier time hitting the ground running.
Miller has been excellent thus far his Canucks career. Though the price to acquire him was steep, Miller has proved his worth to the Canucks early on, producing six goals and 13 points in 11 games while giving Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser and veteran presence on the wing. Boeser mentioned prior to Tuesday’s game against Vancouver just how big of a difference Miller has made on the team.
Brock Boeser, on the J.T. Miller trade: "Looks pretty good, doesn't it? He's a great guy. He's really good for some of us young guys. He's pushing us to play better and play smarter. He's a huge addition." #Canucks
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) October 29, 2019
Miller has slid in perfectly alongside two young forwards in Pettersson and Boeser. His game with these two revolves around speed and strength, winning puck battles and opening up space for the other two to create offence in the offensive zone.
“I want to be the guy that works and gets the puck back and opens up ice for those two that see the ice better than most guys in the League,” Miller told NHL.com. “I try to keep it simple. If I try to play really skilled like them, I get away from my game, start standing still. So I try to use my speed and size and stick with what works for me normally.”
“Me and [Pettersson] sometimes want to make plays when we should get it deep, and that’s what we’re kind of learning from him,” Boeser told NHL.com. “Sometimes, we don’t need to force those plays and (should) just get the puck deep, because we’ll get it back if we get on the forecheck.
The trio of Miller, Pettersson, and Boeser have roughly two-thirds of the shot attempts while on the ice at even strength and they’re out-scoring opponents nine to two thus far. It’s only been 11 games, but Miller looks like a key ingredient in forming one of the most effective lines in the league.
On the flip side, Michael Ferland has taken longer to get rolling. It was discussed back in the off-season that Ferland would be an ideal fit alongside Pettersson and Boeser as the trio’s power-forward that could get in and do dirty work to open up space. Instead, Ferland has been playing on the team’s third line with Brandon Sutter.
It wasn’t until the team’s four-game road trip that Ferland finally managed to score his first goal with the team. Ferland said getting the puck in the back of the net was a major relief for him.
“It was huge to grind it out and get that experience — it felt good,” Ferland told The Province. “I felt a little bit more confident after that. It’s a hard league to score goals. You have to get to the greasy areas and bang in some of those pucks. “A couple of games in and you start gripping the stick and you don’t play with the confidence that you’re usually used to.”
Some of Ferland’s teammates can empathize with the difficulty of trying to hit the ground running with a new team. Tanner Pearson, who has played for three different teams in the past year-and-a-half, spoke about how Ferland has been handling the experience.
“It’s definitely not the easiest thing,” he said to The Province. “He (Ferland) is a good pro and it’s going to happen for him. He seems in pretty good spirits and is always laughing and having fun with the guys. Even the one game (season opener in Edmonton), he came back in after and went to the stats sheet and said: ‘I better have five hits tonight.’ And he did.
“You look for that stuff when the puck isn’t going in, and if takes a big hit to get the boys going, he’s going to do that.”
On Troy Stecher…
As a result of the Canucks making a major overhaul to their blueline, Troy Stecher’s role on the team has massively diminished this season. After playing close to 20 minutes a night in each of his first three seasons in the league, Stecher has averaged just 13:28 per game so far in 2019-20.
Despite the lessened role, Stetcher, who becomes an RFA at the end of the season, has been taking things in stride. He mentioned a former teammate in Alex Biega on handling his new role.
“He was always prepared every single day, even when he wasn’t playing. I’m just trying to adapt that into my game and make sure that I’m ready for my opportunity, if it comes. And if it doesn’t, I need to make sure I’m still playing well,” Stecher said to The Province.
Stecher also noted that, at the end of the day, so long as the team is winning, he’s happy.
“Any time you win, you’re going to obviously enjoy things a lot more,” he said. But at the same time I’m a proud guy and I know what I can bring and I want to contribute to this team. For right now, this is my role, the team’s winning so you’re not going to say too much. The boys are rolling here, we have a good vibe in the dressing room and the guys are happy.
“That’s the most important thing.”