Vancouver Canucks

Linden: Canucks summer moves about ‘long-term vision’

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The Vancouver Canucks have certainly had their critics this summer, but president Trevor Linden insists everything is going according to plan.

“There’s no question that, after seeing things for a year, I knew we had to make some changes and get to a better place,” Linden told the Vancouver Province. “There were things I wasn’t happy with. I knew we had to do some restructuring and put new processes in place.

“That’s what I’ve spent the last month doing, and I’m really excited about the changes we’ve made. Whether they show up in wins and losses this season, I don’t know, but this is a long-term vision.”

Convincing others that his and Canucks GM Jim Benning’s vision is the right one though will take some doing. After all, Benning got booed by season ticket holders when he revealed that he could have traded Ryan Miller, but opted to deal Eddie Lack instead (that trade came with a return of two picks — third and seventh rounders). There’s been a number of other divisive moves in Vancouver, from giving Luca Sbisa and Derek Dorsett’s significant contracts to the acquisition and five-year, $21.875 million signing of “foundation piece” Brandon Sutter.

How those moves work out will go a long way towards determining Benning and Linden’s popularity in the short-term. However, if Vancouver is to be successful, it will need to see results when it comes to the drafting and developing of prospects. That was an issue for the Canucks for years beginning with the start of the cap era, but Bo Horvat’s solid rookie season might someday be viewed as a turning point.

“To me, the two most important things moving forward are the amateur scouting side and the player development side, and there are many aspects to player development,” Linden said. “There’s strength and conditioning, there’s sports science, there’s the medical side, nutrition, and they all have to be integrated.

“The only way we’re going to get better is to draft and develop our players. Then we have to do a good job of developing them and getting them here as quickly as possible. That takes up most of my time.”

So for now the Canucks still have a pretty old core, but perhaps in a few years the franchise will start to see the rewards of Linden’s focus on drafting and developing. In the end, the work he’s doing there could pay far greater dividends than the more high profile trades and signings Vancouver has recently engaged in.

Seidenberg says trade rumors were ‘a slap in the face’

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Suffice to say Dennis Seidenberg wasn’t happy about hearing his name in trade talks this summer.

“If I had heard it from the GM then I would have been concerned, but the thing that bothered me was that people even talked about it. That’s kind of a slap in the face. It means you’re not playing your best, and you obviously want to play to a level where people don’t question you,” Seidenberg told the Boston Herald. “On the other hand, you have to focus on your own game and not worry about what people say. If it comes from the top, then you have to be worried about it, but I’ve never heard anything.

“I’ve read it and I saw it, but at the end of the day, I have to focus on what I have to do.”

Seidenberg, 34, is coming off an up-and-down campaign, his first full season since tearing his ACL in ’13-14. His play, age and cap hit — $4 million through 2018 — led many to speculate he could be on his way out of town, especially with the B’s pressed so close to the cap ceiling.

Trade fires were further stoked when, just prior to March’s trade deadline, Seidenberg said he’d waive his no-trade clause if asked. A few months later, he again responded to trade rumblings, this time insisting he wanted to stay in Boston.

Since then, much has changed on the Bruins’ defense.

Dougie Hamilton was traded to Calgary, Matt Bartkowski signed in Vancouver and when the dust settled, Seidenberg emerged as a key component of a defense that looks to be comprised of himself, Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and Matt Irwin.

So now, the veteran German rearguard can focus on taking those trade rumors and using them as fuel for a bounce-back campaign.

“You never like people to write those kinds of things about you,” he said. “It just means that you have to work harder and do better.”

Lucic jokes about running through Rask ‘like I did (to) another goalie’

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Milan Lucic won’t get a chance to play against his former teammates in Boston until Feb. 9, but when that game finally happens, it should be a fun one to watch. If Lucic ends up delivering a big hit in that game, it will get plenty of attention.

The question is who would be the player unlucky enough to be on the receiving end of such a blow? In reality, it will be dictated by circumstances, if it happens at all. While the Boston Bruins decided to part ways with Lucic this summer by shipping him to the Los Angeles Kings, he certainly has no ill will towards the Bruins players. In fact, when pressed on TSN 1040 in Vancouver to pick someone he would want to target, he was reluctant to do so.

Finally he offered up his friend, goaltender Tuukka Rask by jokingly saying that he would “maybe run through him like I did (to) another goalie that I ran into before.”

It seems fair to assume that he was referencing his hit on Ryan Miller back in 2011:

Of course, Miller now plays for the Canucks, giving the fact that he brought it up on a Vancouver radio station another dimension. Lucic, who is from Vancouver, is used to being part of the rivalry between the Bruins and Canucks. Now that he’s no longer part of that, his games against his hometown team might have a different feel to them.

You can listen to the full interview here.

It’s Pittsburgh Penguins Day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Pittsburgh Penguins.

After another disappointing finish in the playoffs, the Pittsburgh Penguins decided to change course by replacing GM Ray Shero and head coach Dan Bylsma with Jim Rutherford and Mike Johnston respectively prior to the start of the 2014-15 campaign. The results, at least as far as last season was concerned, were not desirable.

To be fair, Pittsburgh was strong for much of the campaign and was even in the running for the Presidents’ Trophy through March 12 with a 39-18-10 record. However, they went 4-9-2 for the remainder of the season and they just barely secured the second Wild Card seed. That set up a first round series against the New York Rangers that the Penguins lost in five games.

For a team that’s home to two of the best forwards in the league, the Penguins’ big weakness last season was actually their offense. Years of subpar drafting beyond first round picks and a top-heavy salary balance sheet seemed to finally catch up with the Penguins as they were thin on scoring threats outside of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Chris Kunitz, James Neal, and Jussi Jokinen provided the Penguins with at least 57 points each in 2013-14, but the 35-year-old Kunitz slid to 40 points, Neal had been dealt to Nashville in exchange for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling, and Jokinen left as an unrestricted free agent. Consequently, Malkin and Crosby were the only Penguins players to record more than 57 points last season.

Pittsburgh went from being tied for the fifth best offense in 2013-14 to finishing in a tie for 18th just one season later. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury had a strong campaign and that continued into the 2015 playoffs, but the Penguins provided him with just eight goals of support over five games against the Rangers.

Off-season recap

Rutherford has moved to bolster the Penguins’ offense over the summer. He brought Phil Kessel to Pittsburgh in a blockbuster trade with Toronto that also involved the Penguins conceding 2014 first round pick Kasperi Kapanen. Nearly a month later, Pittsburgh acquired Nick Bonino, Adam Clendening, and a 2016 second round pick from Vancouver in exchange for Brandon Sutter and a 2016 third round selection.

Pittsburgh further addressed its forward depth with the signings of Eric Fehr (three years, $6 million) and Matt Cullen (one-year, $800K).

Combine that with the return of Pascal Dupuis (blood clots) and Pittsburgh’s group of forwards should look significantly different this season.

It’s Montreal Canadiens day at PHT

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If you wanted the story of Montreal’s ’14-15 campaign, all you had to do was watch the NHL Awards.

Or more specifically, the Carey Price awards.

Price was at the microphone four times to celebrate his banner campaign: Once for the Hart Trophy as league MVP, once for the Vezina as the NHL’s top netminder, once for the Ted Lindsay award as the most outstanding player as voted by the players, and once for the William Jennings Trophy as a goalie on the team that allowed the fewest goals in the regular season.

OK, he did have to share that last one with Corey Crawford. But you get the idea.

Simplistic as it sounds, Montreal’s season was mostly about Price, in that the Habs went as far as their star goalie would take them. Sure, other Canadiens played integral roles — Max Pacioretty scored 37 goals, P.K. Subban was a Norris Finalist — but for the most part, the 50 wins and 110 points and second-round playoff appearance was due to No. 31.

Which begs the question:

Can he do it again?

Off-season recap

GM Marc Bergevin’s spent most of the summer attending to in-house business. All three of his trade deadline pickups — Brian Flynn, Torrey Mitchell and Jeff Petry — were extended, with Petry scoring the biggest with a six-year, $33 million deal.

Youngsters Alex Galchenyuk, Michael Bournival, Jarred Tinordi, Christian Thomas, Greg Pateryn and Nathan Beaulieu were also given new deals, while veterans Mike Weaver, Sergei Gonchar, Manny Malhotra and P.A. Parenteau (via buyout) were sent packing.

As for new faces? Zack Kassian was acquired from Vancouver in exchange for Brandon Prust, while Carolina castoff Alex Semin was signed to a one-year, $1.1M deal after the ‘Canes bought him out.

At the draft, Montreal used its first-round pick to select WHL Everett blueliner Noah Juulsen 26th overall.

All in all, it was a perfunctory offseason for the Habs. Firmly in the mix as an Eastern Conference contender, the club didn’t feel the need to make a big summer splash — in fact, based on the Flynn and Mitchell and Petry contracts, it could be argued that Bergevin’s upgrading happened on Mar. 2, not July 1.