It’s an exciting time to be a fan of the Vancouver Canucks right now.
After cleaning house on Sunday evening, which saw the organization finally part ways with head GM Jim Benning and Assistant GM John Weisbrod, as well as head coach Travis Green, the team took to the ice on Monday evening, hoping to kick off this new era of Vancouver hockey on the right foot.
The Canucks were able to secure their fourth home win of the season in exciting fashion, exploding for four goals in the final 40 minutes while also playing an up-tempo, hard-hitting style of hockey that fans hadn’t seen all year long.
It’s important to give some credit to the players, who appeared rejuvenated and refocused following Sunday night’s transactions, but the big tip of the cap should go to Stan Smyl and Bruce Boudreau, who addressed the media a few hours before puck drop.
Smyl first took to the podium on Monday afternoon, alongside owner Francesco Aquilini, marking his first press conference as Interim General Manager.
And he did not disappoint.
Smyl, whose #12 hangs in the rafters after playing 896 games with Vancouver, made sure he was direct, honest and deliberate with his responses, attributes that both the media and fanbase have rarely seen during the past eight years.
"“Bottom line, our performance this season has not been good enough. We do have some talented young players and a good core to build around. But we need to be better… There is pride in wearing this Canuck jersey. There is also a huge responsibility that comes with pulling on that jersey… It’s an honour to be sitting here today. This opportunity and responsibility means the world to me, and I will work extremely hard to get this team back on track.”"
The Canucks legend continued on by addressing the team’s current dismal start to the season, specifically focusing on the unified boos and thrown jersey at the end of Saturday night’s contest against Pittsburgh.
"“The end of that game was difficult. Just hearing the fans. That’s when I felt ‘I have to get involved here a lot more’ and express my views a little stronger. At the end of the day, we’re all responsible – from the players to the management, to the coaches, to the ownership. And we’ve got to make it better. I think we’ve taken a step back in the direction we want to go. We’ve got to put that game plan together and follow through with it.”"
Smyl served as team captain for eight years between 1982 and 1989, and it was clear that he has continued to carry over his on-ice passion for this franchise into his numerous front office roles over the past few years. Smyl spoke about the team’s current lack of accountability and identity, and how it’s time to stop all of the “finger-pointing” between players, coaches and management.
Of course, Smyl, who previously held the position of Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations, won’t be the long-term managerial solution for this team, but he’s the perfect fit for the job right now.
Aquilini did take the time to discuss the next steps for his organization, specifically in regards to the search for a new General Manager and possible President of Hockey Operations, but Smyl made sure to jump in and remind everyone that he will not only be directly involved in these decisions, but will also have difficult conversations with Aquilini if needed, stating that he and Francesco have previously “disagreed and agreed on things, and that won’t change”.
And at the end of the day, no matter what role he takes on, Smyl will undoubtedly be dedicated to this organization as their journey moves in another hopeful, but also critical direction, and this should be a breath of fresh air for this fanbase.
"“I have been a Canuck for 40 years. This is my team. My only team.”"
The momentum continued shortly after Aquilini and Smyl spoke, with Boudreau getting his first opportunity to speak to the Vancouver media as well.
Boudreau, who previously coached in Washington, Anaheim and Minnesota, kicked off his press conference by talking about the expectations for this club given their young, talented key pieces, such as Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser, both of whom spoke with Boudreau in length during the morning skate on Monday.
Specifically, Boudreau touched on Boeser’s goal-scoring potential, and how the right winger just needs to “get back to shooting” to rediscover his dangerous offensive talent.
Boeser, who was born in Burnsville, Minnesota, scored his first-ever NHL goal against Boudreau and the Wild in March 2017, and has notched 102 goals in 275 games since then, including the eventual game-winner on Monday.
Pettersson wasn’t as successful in Boudreau’s Canuck debut, extending his even-strength goalless drought to 26 games this season. However, the young Swede did manage to register an assist on Conor Garland‘s eighth goal of the year, and just missed a glorious penalty shot opportunity in the middle frame.
Pettersson also drew the penalty shot while his team was shorthanded, a responsibility that the former Calder Trophy winner could take on moving forward.
Boudreau was fired by Minnesota on February 14th, 2020, and has been itching to get back into the game ever since, specifically north of the border.
"“I’ve always wanted to coach in Canada.”"
Even though Boudreau is joining the organization at 66 years of age, the former Jack Adams winner still believes that he can get the most out of any of his talented, fresh star players, taking pride in the fact that he can still “think like young guys”, which should be extremely helpful for the Canucks and their young core of players in Pettersson and Boeser, as well as Quinn Hughes and Thatcher Demko.
In addition to Boudreau, the ownership group also brought in Scott Walker as an assistant coach.
Walker, who previously played for Vancouver between 1993 and 1998, will be in charge of the penalty kill, taking over from another former Canuck in Nolan Baumgartner. It’s been no surprise that the Canucks have been absolute atrocious while down a man, as indicated by their league-worst and history-breaking 65.5% success rate, but it appears that Boudreau and Walker are up to the task.
Unfortunately, it’ll be quite the climb for those two to try and get their new team back into the postseason hunt.
Vancouver currently sits dead last in the Pacific Division and 27th in the league, with a 9-15-2 record and .385 points percentage.
Realistically speaking, it is likely already too late for the Canucks to salvage this season and make their way back into the playoffs, but that doesn’t means fans won’t be treated to competitive, action-packed hockey during the remaining 56 games, especially given Boudreau’s track record on reigniting struggling teams.
"“I don’t understand why you can’t be a great offensive team and a great defensive team at the same time. When you have the puck, you’re going. When you don’t have the puck, you’re checking.”"
The Canucks will be looking to secure another victory for Boudreau on Wednesday night against the Boston Bruins. Puck drop is set for 6:00pm PST.
*To listen to the full press conference from Aquilini and Smyl, click here.
*To listen to the full press conference from Boudreau, click here.