In my opinion, the Vancouver Canucks should look at the 2009-10 season as a considerable success.
Yes, I know that the images that stick out in most hockey fans’ minds involve the team floundering against a clearly superior Chicago Blackhawks club. They certainly didn’t seem like they were “all there” and that probably strikes many as a sign of organizational (and roster) weakness. There is no denying the fact that their season ended on a sour note.
Yet, I’ll also point out that this team overachieved to win their division and earn some individual accolades. Let’s not forget that the Canucks faced a historic road trip, playing a staggering amount of games on the road before and after the Olympic Games. Instead of falling apart, the team banded together. Henrik Sedin won the Hart Trophy and a few other players made resounding breakthroughs in their respective games. In the big picture, the team has a lot to be proud of.
Still, it’s clear that the Canucks decided to make significant changes. The Vancouver Sun details some of the front office shuffling going on (the article expands on the higher-level moves), but the most important on-ice decisions will involve their coaching staff. Here is a little more information regarding who might back up head coach Alain Vigneault next season.
The changes come the same week the Canucks rebranded their arena, and the week after free agency allowed the hockey team to boost its lineup.
But the makeup of the coaching staff is an unresolved issue.
General manager Mike Gillis confirmed this week that former Anaheim Ducks’ assistant coach Newell Brown had been interviewed but did not specify for what position. The Sun has learned that Walter, hired two years ago, may not remain with the team.
Head coach Alain Vigneault’s assistants were offered contract extensions in April, but the Canucks’ failure to announce their hockey staff for next season led to speculation that changes were coming. The first one, three weeks ago, saw Dallas-based goaltending consultant Ian Clarke replaced by Rollie Melanson.
The scuffling New York Rangers — coming off a 6-3 loss Sunday in Anaheim, and with just two wins in their last seven — are expected to have a slightly different lineup tonight in San Jose.
Up front, winger Matt Puempel is likely to replace rookie Pavel Buchnevich. And on the back end, Dan Girardi will come in for Kevin Klein.
The Girardi-for-Klein switch is no huge surprise. Both d-men have been battling injuries, with Klein only returning Sunday after an extended absence due to back spasms. Head coach Alain Vigneault told reporters that he “didn’t want to put two injured defensemen in at the same time,” so Klein gets the night off tonight.
As for the potential scratching of Buchnevich, that decision would be slightly more controversial. The 21-year-old has two goals and three assists in his last 11 games, but clearly has not gained the full trust of his coach.
Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start in goal after a tough return to the net against the Ducks.
It doesn’t sound like Jacob Markstrom will play any more games for the Vancouver Canucks this season.
The 27-year-old goalie has been trying to recover from a knee injury suffered in the Canucks’ skills competition on Feb. 26.
“I don’t think things are great,” head coach Willie Desjardins said today. “We’ve got to make a medical decision on him.”
It has to be frustrating for Markstrom, who was hoping to challenge Ryan Miller for the starting job this year. The tall Swede played well at times, going 10-11-3 with a .910 save percentage — but in the end, he only made 23 starts.
“He’s a good goalie,” Desjardins said of Markstrom. “He can challenge for the number-one spot. Every time he goes in net, I’ve got lots of confidence in him. He’s left his mark this year.”
Markstrom is signed through 2019-20, while Miller is a pending unrestricted free agent.
It’s possible that the Canucks will re-sign Miller and come back with the same netminding tandem next season.
Joe Gambardella, the UMass-Lowell senior that scored 52 points in 41 games this year, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with Edmonton, the club announced on Monday.
Gambardella, 23, captured this year’s Walter Brown award as the top American-born collegiate player in New England. He beat out the likes of Clayton Keller, Colin White, Charlie McAvoy and Tage Thompson for the honor, and joined a distinguished list of past winners.
Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey won the Walter Brown in ’16 and ’15, while Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau won it in ’14.
Gambardella is the first UMass-Lowell player to ever win the award, which has been given out annually since 1953. It capped off a nice year in which he also paced the River Hawks to the NCAA tournament.
An undrafted free agent, Gambarella’s ELC will kick in next season. It’s also worth noting that one of his UMass-Lowell teammates, defenseman Michael Kapla, signed with the Devils earlier today.
The Arizona Coyotes will honor Craig Cunningham with a ceremonial puck drop on April 8 before their final home game of the season against the Minnesota Wild.
From the team press release:
Cunningham, who survived a medical emergency prior to the Tucson Roadrunners game on November 19, has made a remarkable recovery. Fans will have an opportunity to congratulate him on the tremendous courage, willpower and perseverance he’s demonstrated throughout his rehabilitation.
Cunningham was recently honored by the Roadrunners.
The 26-year-old’s hockey career is unfortunately over after doctors were forced to amputate part of his left leg due to concerns over infection.
True to form, though, he’s maintained a positive attitude.
“Obviously I miss playing every single day, and I miss the atmosphere around the locker room,” Cunningham said, per the Arizona Daily Star. “The guys have been great. From Day 1, they’ve been to see me every day. It’s been pretty incredible.”