The Canucks went through a lot of change in 2015. From new young players making an impact in their lineup, to fan favourites leaving town, to their return to the playoffs, here are the top 10 Canucks stories.
For the first time in a long time, the Canucks had a teenager making a real impact on their team this year. But it didn’t start out that way.
Horvat began the year on the fourth line, receiving limited ice time. As the season went on, Horvat’s confidence grew, and so did his production. After just 7 points in his first 29 games, Horvat found his groove in 2015. He finished the year off with 18 points in 39 games, and was a player head coach Willie Desjardins could rely on.
Horvat was at his best when the games meant the most, in the playoffs. He put up 4 points in 6 games, while playing a regular shift.
Not many players were more responsible for the Canucks’ bounce-back season in 2014-15 than Alex Edler.
Edler, who looked lost under John Tortorella, excelled under the new leadership of Willie Desjardins. Edler formed a very effective shutdown pairing with Chris Tanev and played in all situations, averaging 24 minutes of ice time per night.
Vancouver had a new cult hero in 2015, and his name was Eddie Lack.
Lack, who took over the starter’s role when Ryan Miller was injured in February, starred in goal. As the team’s starter with Miller out down the stretch, Lack posted a sparkling .927 SV% in 23 games.
People wanted to know what Eddie Lack had for dinner (tacos??), if his mom was going to watch him play, and what he was saying on Twitter. The usually quiet Rogers Arena crowd were inspired enough to chant “Eddie Eddie” repeatedly.
After a one-year absence, the Canucks returned to the playoffs in 2015. The team became a four-line team for the first time in a long time, with 12 players finishing with 10+ goals.
They finished with 101 points, an 18-point improvement on the season previous, and home ice advantage in the first round.
Most pundits thought the Canucks got a favourable first round playoff matchup against the Calgary Flames. They were right, too.
But the Canucks still managed to lose to the upstart Flames, in 6 games. It was the low point of the season, as the series appeared to be theirs for the taking. To make matters worse, Vancouver had a 3-0 lead in Game 6, but went on to lose 7-4.
General Manager Jim Benning made a number of unpopular moves this offseason, unloading some fan favourites. No player was more adored than Eddie Lack, who was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for a third round pick in June.
Canucks management chose veteran Ryan Miller over Lack, despite the fact that Lack had posted better numbers and was younger/cheaper.
Three days after Eddie Lack was dispatched, longtime Canuck Kevin Bieksa was on his way out of town. After a potential trade with San Jose fell through, Bieksa was on his way to join his old friend Ryan Kesler in Anaheim.
Bieksa was a heart-and-soul player in Vancouver for 10 years, but it was clear that he had reached his best-before date in 2015. The Canucks received a 2016 second round pick in exchange for the rugged blueliner.
No player brought out more emotion out of everyone he was surrounded by than Zack Kassian. The enigmatic power forward was infuriatingly inconsistent, yet possessed a unique skill-set.
The frustration of his off-ice behaviour eventually caused Jim Benning to deal him (and a fifth round pick) to the Montreal Canadiens for Brandon Prust.
The rookie lap in warm-up became routine, as a total of 9 players made their NHL debut for the Canucks in 2015.
After years of going back to the well with old players, the Canucks saw an injection of youth into their lineup this calendar year. Horvat, a 19-year-old rookie, played on the team during the 2014-15 season, while a pair of 19-year-olds joined the team in 2015-16. Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann, along with Ben Hutton, made the Canucks out of training camp.
Daniel Sedin never stopped being an elite player, but you would have been well within your right to think his days as an elite goal scorer were over.
Daniel averaged 30+ goals for six straight seasons, but failed to get more than 20 goals in his last three seasons. With 16 goals so far in a resurgent 2015-16 season, he’s on pace for 36 goals.