Mike Gillis

Welcome to the ‘re-tool,’ Vancouver

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Three years ago, the Canucks were one win away from their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Today, that seems like a distant memory.

Vancouver is in the midst of a “re-tool” according to GM Mike Gillis, a statement confirmed with Tuesday’s stunning trade of goalie Roberto Luongo to Florida — one that came just nine moths after firing head coach Alain Vigneault, and eight after dealing Cory Schneider to New Jersey.

If the re-tool wasn’t on before today, it sure is now.

Gillis later acknowledged the magnitude of today’s deal, and what it represented.

“It takes a lot of courage to trade a player like Roberto Luongo,” he said. “It’s a wake-up call that we’re not performing where we should be.”

It appears as though more dominoes will fall. Ryan Kesler is one of the hottest commodities heading into tomorrow’s trade deadline and likely to be moved, as the Canucks are primed to capitalize on his highest market value. Alex Edler’s popped up in trade conversations for the second straight year, and Kevin Bieksa’s name has been bandied about too.

New faces are on the way in. Jacob Markstrom, 24, will join new No. 1 Eddie Lack (who’s 26) in an all-Swedish goalie tandem. Fellow 26-year-old Shawn Matthias, who Gillis called a “critical part” of the Luongo deal, will give Vancouver a new look up front.

“I’m so excited,” Matthias said. “I told my agent a while ago I’d love to go to a Canadian city. I’ve heard rumors of Vancouver for a while, I’m glad it happened.

“I’ve been smiling ear-to-ear since I got the news. I think my game is going to elevate playing in front of fans like that.”

Eventually, former first-round picks Nicklas Jensen, Brendan Gaunce, Hunter Shinkaruk and Bo Horvat will get their opportunities as well. But it’s worth noting this is being labeled a “re-tool,” not a rebuild. This isn’t about Vancouver waiting for the kids to mature — it’s about fixing things on the fly, mixing youth with experience, which is a necessity given how many veterans Gillis is locked into (and the fact nine of ’em have some form of a no-trade clause.)

Gillis acknowledged as much in his Tuesday conference call, explaining his goals for future trades.

“I don’t know if we’re done yet,” he explained. “If we do something else, it will be in the same vain of trying to get younger and trying to get more depth and more balance.”

Like we said: Welcome to the re-tool, Vancouver.

Video: Canucks escape Arizona with another win for the moms

at Pepsi Center on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
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With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.

After beating the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the Canucks held on for the 2-1 victory in Arizona on Wednesday, despite being without Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alex Edler (broken fibula) and Derek Dorsett, who was scratched from the lineup due to illness, as per Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.

It was only a few days ago, following a home loss to the Calgary Flames, that it felt like the Canucks’ playoff hopes were essentially dashed. They fielded their healthiest lineup in months and couldn’t score and couldn’t win.

Two quick wins later, they’re two points out of a Wild Card spot in the West, despite getting outshot in Arizona.

Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.

Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

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A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

“He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.

Video: Wideman hearing ‘a tricky case’ as NHLPA hopes to get 20-game suspension reduced

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There is no certain timeline for when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might rule on Dennis Wideman‘s appeal, according to a report from hockey insider Darren Dreger on NBCSN, as the Calgary Flames defenseman hopes to get his 20-game ban for hitting linesman Don Henderson reduced.

“Now, ultimately what they’re hoping from a Wideman perspective and the Players’ Association is that commissioner Gary Bettman will rule and he will reduce the number of games suspended down from 20,” said Dreger during a segment on NBCSN.

“Is he going to reduce it by three games? Five games seems a bit of a stretch. And when might he do that? There’s no timeline on this.”