There’s optimism in Vancouver again

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Funny what a victory over the NHL’s best team can do to the mood in a city.

Even better if the NHL’s best team happens to be a hated rival.

This morning, the night after a 3-1 Canucks win over the Chicago Blackhawks at Rogers Arena, Vancouver hockey fans woke up to read about an “inspiring performance” from a team that played its “best game in ages.”

Never mind that ‘Hawks coach Joel Quenneville called it his team’s “worst game of the year,” Canucks fans haven’t seen many performances like the one they saw Monday from their guys. (Not lately, at least. They saw plenty two years ago.)

Vancouver outshot the Blackhawks, 32-25, and played much of the game in Chicago’s end of the ice.

“I thought our effort level was great, our execution was great, our defensive play was great, physicality, it was the whole package,” said goalie Cory Schneider, who stopped 24 of 25 Chicago shots. “If we play that way, and we know we can, we can beat a lot of teams in this league.”

Daniel Sedin was named first star after scoring once and adding an assist. His brother Henrik was the second star, with two helpers.

If the Canucks are going to have success in the playoffs, the twins will need to win the possession battle and produce.

“From the first shift we were focused on getting pucks deep and we were on the forecheck and forechecking the right way, which is a key for our team,” said Daniel.

Granted, it was only one game. It didn’t completely erase the memory of performances like last Thursday’s 5-1 loss in Dallas, or all the wins that might have been losses if not for Schneider.

With the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference wrapped up and no chance to move up, the Canucks play out the string by hosting Anaheim Thursday and going to Edmonton Saturday.

Canucks announce Travis Green as new head coach

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The Vancouver Canucks made it official today, announcing Travis Green as their new head coach.

Green replaces Willie Desjardins, who was fired after three seasons on the job.

The past four years, Green has been the head coach of the Canucks’ AHL affiliate in Utica.

“Travis is a talented head coach who’s played a key role in the development of our young players through four seasons with the Comets,” said GM Jim Benning in a statement. “He has an intense desire to win and build a team identity that is hardworking, responsible on both ends of the ice and competitive. He has an excellent understanding of where we are as an organization and we’re confident in his ability to help build our team and develop a winning culture.”

Green, a former forward who played over 1,000 NHL games including the playoffs, will take over a transitioning Vancouver roster. He was hired in large part to develop the club’s young players.

“You need young players, and you need them to play,” Green said in an interview with the Canucks’ website.

Of course, the need for youth in the lineup doesn’t mean Green will be gifting anything to anyone.

“I expect a lot out of my players,” he said. “I’m demanding. Expectations will be high. But players want that. They want to be held accountable. There’s going to be a lot of communication between myself and the players. I believe in it. I want them to trust me. I want the best for my players.”

It’s going to be a tough job for Green, who’s never coached in the NHL. While the Canucks do have some promising youngsters, they still need to accumulate more as they move on from the Sedin era.

“I want to start to develop a culture that breeds winning,” said Green. “You know, that’s a process. That takes some time. But that starts today.”

No names, but Sabres have ‘put a lot of work’ into GM and coach searches

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There have been plenty of candidates floated for the vacant head coach and general manager gigs in Buffalo. Ownership won’t say who they are, but it definitely sounds like some have already been contacted.

“We’re keeping it under wraps,” Kim Pegula said on Wednesday, per WGR 550 radio. “But we definitely have put a lot of work in this week.”

It’s been six days since the Sabres made sweeping changes by firing head coach Dan Bylsma and GM Tim Murray, capping off a tumultuous period which began with reports of Jack Eichel not wanting to sign a contract extension this summer if Bylsma remained the bench boss.

Since then, a number of replacement names have surfaced. We’ll focus here on the GM position given. By all logic the Sabres will first hire a GM, who will then have a say in hiring the head coach.

By all logic, of course.

Dean Lombardi, who won a pair of Stanley Cups in Los Angeles before being dismissed in an equally massive housecleaning, has been rumored as a candidate. But Lombardi’s replacement in L.A., Rob Blake, said he’s yet to be contacted by any clubs requesting an interview.

Some have suggested Buffalo could dive into its history, and bring back a former player in an executive role. This is why former Sabres captain Chris Drury has come up so often. Drury, 40, has risen up the management ranks quickly in recent years, and currently serves as Rangers GM Jeff Gorton’s assistant (Drury is also putting together the Team USA entry for the upcoming World Hockey Championships).

In that vein, former Buffalo coach and GM Rick Dudley has also been floated, as has Jason Botterill. Botterill, who played three years with the Sabres organization, is the associate GM in Pittsburgh and widely regarded as one of the brightest up-and-coming execs in the league.

If the Sabres opt to take a different tact, and look for “new blood,” Sportsnet’s John Shannon ran down a list of candidates:

Other names worth adding? Bill Zito, the assistant GM in Columbus, and Norm Maciver, the assistant GM in Chicago.

Given the number of candidates listed here, it’s not surprising that the Pegulas have put in a ton of work looking for their new GM.

There’s a ton of work to be done.

Kesler will have his hands full with McDavid, and vice-versa

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“It’s not me against McDavid,” says Ryan Kesler. “It’s the Anaheim Ducks against the Edmonton Oilers.”

OK, fine. But when one team has the NHL’s leading scorer, and the other a five-time Selke Trophy finalist, that’s a matchup that people are going to talk about.

Especially when the Ducks have last change, like they will tonight in Game 1 at Honda Center. Expect to see plenty of Kesler whenever Connor McDavid hits the ice.

“Kes takes it personally when he plays against the top players,” said Ducks teammate Kevin Bieksa, per the O.C. Register. “He’s just very competitive. He has the will. I keep hearing he gets inside people’s heads but I just think you do that by outplaying them.”

Kesler and Bieksa were also teammates in Vancouver, where Kesler became the Canucks’ first-ever Selke winner in 2011.

McDavid, meanwhile, will receive his first Art Ross Trophy in June. He’ll probably get his first Hart, too. Yet he knows it won’t be easy against Kesler, whose combination of speed and tenacity makes him such a great checker.

“He’s been up for the Selke for how many years in a row,” said McDavid. “That obviously speaks for itself. He obviously understands his defensive role.”

In case you’re wondering, McDavid played five games against the Ducks this season. He had two goals and five assists, and the Oilers went 3-2-0.

Kesler played all five of those games, too. He had two goals and no assists, and the Ducks went 2-1-2.

Flames ‘likely’ to leave Brouwer unprotected: Calgary Herald

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He turns 32 in August, and he’s got three years left on his contract with a sizable cap hit of $4.5 million.

He didn’t have a great playoffs either.

So we shouldn’t be too surprised to read that the Calgary Flames are “likely” to leave winger Troy Brouwer unprotected in the expansion draft.

From the Calgary Herald:

The acquisition of Curtis Lazar at the trade deadline for a second round pick came with a public assurance from GM Brad Treliving that Lazar was a reclamation project he planned to protect.

Thus, the list of seven forwards protected will likely include Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Mikael Backlund, Michael Frolik, Micheal Ferland, Sam Bennett and Lazar. First and second-year players like Matthew Tkachuk are exempt.

Brouwer had just 13 goals in 74 games for the Flames this season. He signed in Calgary on July 1, leaving the St. Louis Blues as an unrestricted free agent.

As the Herald notes, there’s no guarantee that Vegas will select him. But certainly, his old general manager from their days together in Washington, George McPhee, will give it some consideration.

McPhee gave Brouwer a three-year extension in 2012, calling him “a physical and versatile power forward who can play both wings. … He is a Stanley Cup winner and a great leader.”