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Positively Speaking

Not to compare this year to the Lost Season, but it has been a festival of positive thinking and excitement that I would use to describe the "vibe" of what the Canucks have going on up the Sea To Sky highway.

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

You can find almost everything you need at CanucksTV here . They pretty well give you the meat of every presser that you read and about at the Province, TSN1040 et al, and without their filter one way or the other, it is pretty easy to see the way things are going in Whistler.  Hell, even reading our media's take on it, they seem to be more enthused as well !

More than most people, athletes, and maybe hockey players more than any, look forward and not back.  With the new Triumvirate at the top, the injection of new talent in numbers about one third of the team ( add em up, and link here ), it was inevitable that there would be an excitement and newness to this team this year.

Two things.  The first video is from Day 1, but who is on the first page of the fitness testing ?  The Sedins merit high Roger Takahashi praise of course, but it seems like the most fit guy coming in is a defenseman just one year younger than The Twins.  Well done Kevin Bieksa.

And two, I love that it was new guy Sbisa that tells the tale of running into a bear ( while putt putting with a possible defensive partner ) .  it may be "WOAH BEAR" for some of our not British Columbian readers, but, at least up there, they are almost ubiquitous.  And they are black bears, mostly.  They are less  " killing machine " than their grizzly cousins.

As Juice as quoted in this story, being up at Whistler has given an admittedly slightly older ( with the attendant family responsibilities ) team the opportunity to get to know the younger players away from the weight room and rink, and you do have to think they pretty well own the village.  But what may be just as important is how the new positive attitude will work it's magic on that team as a whole. The injection of some younger talent is a part of it.  But with the weight of the Lost Season lifted, there is little doubt that the improved attitude had permeated down through the lineup in the offseason.

There were several of the players that never left for their Ontario ( or elsewhere ) homes, spending their time here working out.  Others that were here early, and still more that reported highly fit and motivated.  Failure, when you were, in recent memory, is a powerful motivator.  Even after the 2011 and 2012 back to back, at the top of the regular season, the team was still a team that was playing at a 100 point + clip in the lockout shortened season was still amongst the "elite".

That is what almost every returning player from those earlier editions has as a ceiling.  That is what Alexander Edler should expect of himself, instead of getting to wear the NHL version of the Green Jacket ( for the lowest plus / minus in the fricking league ).  Whether he gets that out of himself will be determined not only be the player himself, but by the way a new, more complimentary system ( for this lineup, more on that in a sec ) that takes advantage of the talents of the roster works out.

While I am not saying that AV and WD are anywhere near the same coaches ( and, of course, we have not seen game one yet to asses the latter ), the idea seems to be puck possession and speed, with a bit more third man high having responsibilities ( Torts third man high was expected to jump into the forecheck. Hell, that player was sometimes expected to jump into the corner in his own end, defensive responsibility be damned ! ), and taking advantage of speed while rolling four lines.

For a lot of these guys, that sure sounds a helluva lot like what they all remember, when they were having their best seasons, instead of last years' worst.  That alone should at least ensure that there is a lot less square pegs being pounded into round holes.  From all early indications, the system should take advantage of the current strengths of the roster.

Consider the above mentioned Edler.  While last year had the HockeyBuzz( es ) of the world babbling on about who was going to steal him away and bolster their own blue line, public statements, reports all pointed to the team having very little interest in moving the enigmatic Swede with the howitzer from the point and the ability to throw some of the bigger hits you'll see on any given night.  He simply has too many talents.  While it is early, it seems the new guy is thinking in line with many ( I would think I am not alone ! ) that Chris Tanev should be Edler's partner.  The meshing of a defensive wizard who can make the perfect pass in Tanev with a man who is best when he turns off the brain and plays on instinct in Edler has the potential to rival Juicy Hammer for immediate popularity and effectiveness.  Let Alexander Edler play.  That was one of the mistakes from the last guy ( right from the start with the singling out of one of the shyer guys on the team with "I am interested in this Edler guy..." quickly followed by the first of several finger wavings in the face in front of the cameras...I just think you do not get the best out of a guy with Edler's makeup with bombastic behaviour, in particular ).

Alexander Edler plays the best when he just plays.  Having a guy like Tanev to back him up makes sense.  People forget quickly how scary this guy was jumping into the rush at the right time. When he plays on instinct, that "right time" seems to happen more often.

As Harrison notes, there is a lot to see in the first lineups of the various groups that opened camp.  While the experimenting and whatnot will come as the players help the decisions get made in the preseason games to follow, in each and every group in that story, you can see a line that could very well open the season, as well as a pairing that is already penciled in in the minds of the coaching staff.  Edler / Tanev, Hammer / Juice, and Sbisa / Stanton do seem to balance out the lefts and rights pretty well ( though Stanton shoots left, he can play the right.  Frank Corrado would make the balance perfect if he was to win that spot ).

The Twins and their new Czech linemate on the right side is and was expected, as was the line that has been getting a fair amount of early ink for their play, the line of Burrows ( moving to the left from the right wing ) Bonino and Kassian.  There seems to be some pretty smart hockey thinkers on that one, with the potential for something special  Burrows moving to the left is interesting.  He talked in interviews yesterday of still enjoying and wanting to keep entering the zone from the right at times.  Getting him taking shots and driving the net from either side, but especially with the better angles created by the off wing shot.  With Kassian doing his thing and creating space, you have two creative passers and a guy that ( like Edler ), is best just shooting on instinct and trusting his talent.  And Alexandre Burrows may just be the most motivated of a team full of proud veterans eager to prove themselves after the nightmare of last year.  The entire line is one to watch in the preseason, but look for the Mr. Everything to prove himself from the very first shift.

That Richardson ( or another centre, that spot would seem to be fluid, and include Vey in the mix ) line, between Higgins and Hansen, looks like a pretty decent third line.  Those two wingers are perfect third liners, and have played together a lot in the past as well.  The line that has uber rookie Bo Horvat centering Matthias and Dorsett might not be the opening night fourth line, but it would seem the two wingers there are solid bets for those fourth line spots.

The lineup will change as the need do, and the Utica line up should be almost as exciting to ponder, with a bunch of the current prospects ( if they don't crack the big lineup, of course ) getting their first taste of "the pros"in Hunter Shinkaruk, Dane Fox, and Brendan Gaunce, amongst others.  Guys like Bo Horvat and Cole Cassels highlight the guys that are in the "go big in the preseason and win the spot, or go back to my junior home" conundrum that all talented 19 year olds have to deal with, and we have not even touched on the Zalewskis, Lains ,and Kenins of the world pulling a training camp surprise.

Every single one of those guys is emboldened as much as the veterans are.  While the motivations of the core are surely more about redemption, the newness of this season will have every single one of the players thinking they can crack the lineup.  The line has always been, in Vancouver, that if you can play, we will find a spot for you.  That is a powerful motivator for some of the lesser lights in the lineup.

The positive attitude that a new year brings is always a part of what makes this time of year one of my favorites.  This year, with an entire team, core, vets and rookies alike, all wanting to not only impress the new bosses, but also redeem the team in the eyes of the rest of the NHL, and the famously waffling fanbase, makes this one of the more anticipated preseasons in recent memory.

The questions of who this team is, and their ceiling will begin to get answered on Tuesday at 6pm, on the Rogers arena ice.  Change is indeed coming.

The positive attitude has already arrived...