For the first time in a long time, the Canucks are going through a bit of a youth movement. Refreshing, isn’t it?
The Canucks’ youth was on display in last night’s 4-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers, where Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi, Jake Virtanen and Ben Hutton all hit the score sheet. Virtanen’s first NHL goal was easily the loudest ovation of the season from the Rogers Arena faithful.
Sure, the guys doing the heavy lifting on most nights are still veterans like the 35-year-old Sedin twins, Ryan Miller (35), Radim Vrbata (34) and Alex Burrows (34). But Virtanen (19), Jared McCann (19), Horvat (20), Hutton (22) and Baertschi (23) contributing, the youth movement is for real.
That was further solidified by the news that the Canucks aren’t going to send McCann or Virtanen back to junior this year. Watch as the team has a bit of fun scaring the crap out of them before eventually telling them that they’ve made it:
Look how excited McCann and Virtanen’s teammates are for them.
Having young players contributing to the success of the team can breathe a lot of life into veterans. Youthful exuberance is contagious.
Virtanen was laughing when he was asked who was more excited for his first goal, he or his linemate Alex Burrows:
I think Burr was pretty excited. He hit me on the head, I almost felt like I got a concussion. He hit me so hard on the head on the bench, and it was good, it was really exciting.
This is what Alex Burrows had to say about mentoring young players:
It’s so fun, I’m so happy for them to come in, they’re so happy to be here. They’ve worked their entire lives, they want to be NHLers and everything’s new for them. Everything’s fun, everything’s great for them being in this league. Just to see them and try to talk to them about plays. I really like to see them do well and approach the game everyday.
I don’t think Burrows would speak with the same excitement in his voice if he was talking about a goal from Brad Richardson last season.
Fan apathy has been present in this city ever since the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and it’s understandable. We’ve seen what it takes to win it all. We’ve seen the best of the Sedins, Burrows, and Dan Hamhuis. Those players will always be beloved in Vancouver, and they’re still good players, but they can’t excite the fanbase like they once did. How could they? We’ve seen their best and we know what they’ve got. They can’t do it on their own.
Watching the Canucks’ young players excel is what will excite fans.
It’s still early, but Jared McCann leads the team in goals with 5, despite limited minutes. Virtanen is the type of player (speed, size, power and aggressiveness) that we have never really seen in a Canucks uniform. Horvat looks like a grizzled veteran at age 20. Hutton is showing signs that he could be a future top-4 defenceman and power play quarterback, if he isn’t already.
These are the reasons why fans lose their minds on Twitter and talk radio when the kids get benched by head coach Willie Desjardins. Fans have been Higgins’d to death for the three seasons. I mean no disrespect to Chris Higgins in that statement, he’s an effective player, but he’s the safe player. Fans don’t want safe. They want hope. They want something to get excited about.
For the Canucks to climb the mountain, they’ll need young players come into their own and become difference makers, ideally before the Sedins retire. They won’t win the Stanley Cup this year, but who’s to say they can’t do it in 2+ years? That’s the beauty of potential.
We don’t know how good Horvat, McCann, Virtanen and Hutton can be just yet, but given their age, the sky’s the limit.