The Vancouver Canucks promised a “reset” after being swept from the start of the NHL playoffs last spring – a change in thinking led by new head coach John Tortorella, who will oversee an opening-night roster that features the same core of players but one that is younger than last season.
The Canucks’ 23-man roster features 13 forwards, eight defencemen and two goaltenders, with the late additions being 23-year-old forward Zac Dalpe, acquired in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes last weekend, and 24-year-old Ryan Stanton, picked up off waivers, officially announced Monday.
The bet is on the veterans to produce a different result this season, under the guidance of Tortorella, with the hope the Canucks are more than a one-line team powered by the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel. The hope is that the team will receive significant contributions from players who were injured last year, such as Ryan Kesler and David Booth.
“Changing the coach and changing the voice is the biggest change you can make,” team president and general manager Mike Gillis said in an interview Monday. “You are trying to get more out the same group, that’s what everybody’s doing.”
The roster could likely be in considerable flux. The team probably won’t, for instance, carry eight defenceman all year.
The Canucks enter the season with some salary cap breathing room, which they have not had in recent years, and the fluctuating gap of between $1.2-million (U.S.) and $1.9-million or so, depending on the roster configuration, gives the team some flexibility to make moves, Gillis said.
The likes of 20-year-old defenceman Frank Corrado is one likely an addition later in the year, the GM said. Corrado was sent to the Utica of the AHL to benefit from significant ice time.
After the Canucks were swept in the first round in May by the San Jose Sharks, Gillis declared the team needed to get younger and bigger.
The team is younger, even without Corrado, or the 18-year-old rookies who received considerable attention in training camp. The declarations of the push for youth, from Gillis and Tortorella, had eyes focused on the team’s 2013 first-round picks, Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk, but they failed to crack the roster. Horvat was sent back to junior on the weekend, and Shinkaruk got the same news Monday.
Still, Vancouver’s average age is a fair chunk lower than it was in January, standing at 28, down from 28.9 at the start of the truncated 2013 season. Subtracting the likes of veteran Manny Malhotra and adding players such as Mike Santorelli, the Canucks now rank around the middle of 30 NHL teams in average age, rather than fourth-oldest, as they previously were.
In size, the team remains about the same, and again roughly in the middle of the league. An average height of close to 6-foot-2 is a smidgen higher than last season, and the average weight is 202 pounds, down a couple from 2013.
The newest arrivals show up with a lot to prove.
Dalpe has 10 points in 41 NHL games over three seasons and has, to start, a five-game window to advertise his worth while Zack Kassian is out with a suspension. Stanton has 30 days on the main club, having come off waivers, and will have to battle to get on to gameday rosters.
“We’re looking at this season very optimistically,” Gillis said of the Canucks in general. “I like where we sit. I like our roster. These guys are hungry.”