Have you seen the standings lately?
With a 4-0 record, the Canucks are in first place in the NHL. With Tampa Bay losing on Thursday night, they’re also now the league’s only undefeated team.
Not bad for a team pegged by many to finish dead-last this season.
It’s early, so don’t plan the parade just yet. But you know what?
It’s been so long since Canucks fans had something to feel good about. That’s why you should savour this moment, because it won’t last.
Call your buddies in Edmonton, tell them McDavid’s a bum and they still suck. Call your friends in Montreal and tell them nobody cares about their stupid Stanley Cups.
You know why? Because Vancouver is #1, that’s why.
Ok, let’s get serious now. Here are seven legitimate feel-good stories for the Canucks early on this season.
1. Best start since 1992-93
The 4-0 start is the best start to a season by a Canucks team since 1992-93, when the Canucks finished with 101 points and won their division. That team boasted the likes of Pavel Bure, Trevor Linden, and Kirk McLean in their prime, to go along with the likes of Cliff Ronning, Geoff Courtnall, Petr Nedved, Greg Adams, and Jyrki Lumme.
The franchise’s only Presidents’ Trophy winning teams in 2010-11 and 2011-12 each had records of 1-2-1 after four games, respectively.
2. Willie Desjardins
Whiteboard Willie was made to look like a fool last year, as is often the case for a coach when his team falls flat on their face.
But this year? Everything he touches has turned to gold.
Let’s begin first with the team’s improved play defensively.
The team has admitted that they’ve changed the way they play. They’re not giving up as many chances as they have in the past, ranking third in the NHL (so far) in shots against.
“We’ve changed the way we play through the neutral zone,” GM Jim Benning told TSN 1040 on Thursday. “We’ve changed the back-pressure from the forwards coming back, pressuring the other teams. Our defence, with the back-pressure, I think it makes their jobs easier back there. I think our defencemen have played well, getting back, they’re handling the puck and getting it up ice to the forwards.”
Some people are crediting new assistant coach Doug Jarvis – despite not being privy to exactly what he has changed – but the buck stops with the head coach. When the team was a tire fire last season, Glen Gulutzan didn’t get the brunt of the criticism, did he?
Let’s give credit where credit is due, Desjardins has had a nice start. He’s even figured out 3-on-3 overtime too.
3. Jacob Markstrom
You have to feel for Ryan Miller so far this season. He didn’t give up a single goal in Vancouver’s opening night win, stopping all 25 shots he faced, yet didn’t get credit for a shutout because Loui Eriksson shot the puck in his own net while Miller was on the bench for a delayed penalty.
Then, before Miller could play his second game of the season, he experienced some tightness in his core, causing him to miss the last two starts.
But in his place Jacob Markstrom, the heir apparent, has looked very good. In three straight starts, Markstrom is 3-0, with a .932 save percentage.
4. Sutter has been a stud
A lot of fans snickered at the suggestion that losing Brandon Sutter for a significant portion of time – as they did last year when he missed 62 games – would have made much of a difference. Well damned if he isn’t making people believers now.
Sutter has been a stud for the Canucks, scoring a goal and three assists for them in four games.
Sutter helps the Canucks in all facets of the game, in all zones. What has been most noticeable so far is Sutter’s speed and shot coming down the wing. His skill-set lends itself to scoring off the rush better than anyone else on the team.
Now if they could just get him to change his goal song…
5. Horvat continues to grow as a player
With two goals and no assists, Bo Horvat hasn’t been as prolific as Sutter on the scoresheet, but he’s showing some great signs.
The goals are obvious, but the plays he’s made that haven’t resulted in goals have given fans a glimpse of what could be.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) October 21, 2016
6. Granlund can play
So far it looks like Markus Granlund’s strong preseason wasn’t a fluke. He’s leading the team in shot attempt differential, and by a relatively wide margin.
Playing out of position on the wing, he’s got a goal and an assist through four games, contributing to the team’s best line of late with Brandon Sutter and Jannik Hansen.
7. The things you were worried about haven’t happened
Reports of the Canucks’ demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Admit it, Luca Sbisa hasn’t been as bad as you thought. Philip Larsen, his defence partner, has been capable at 5-on-5.
Derek Dorsett and Alex Burrows on the same line hasn’t sunk the team. They’ve been able to score goals. They’ve been strong defensively.
Even with a relatively pedestrian start to the season from the Sedin Twins, the Canucks are winning games.
Yes, it’s early. But it’s successful too. And that as heck beats the alternative.