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There is no single moment when a hockey team fully belongs to the men who crafted the current roster, just as there is no precise point on the colour spectrum where green becomes blue.

But even in the absence of an obvious demarcation, it can be declared: the Vancouver Canucks are Trevor Linden's team now.

Linden was hired 18 months ago amid an inferno, the final days of John Tortorella. Every early step Linden made was an emergency manoeuvre. The primary philosophy, however, was a careful reworking of the hockey team, not an overhaul.

Through Linden's first season in charge, it looked smart: The Canucks played better than many people predicted, cracked through 100 points, and finished second in the Pacific Division. Vancouver entered the playoffs last spring as favourites against the upstart Calgary Flames. And then the young Flames embarrassed the Canucks, upending Vancouver with speed and vigour.

The rivalry is renewed Wednesday, the opening night of the NHL season. Vancouver visits Calgary, with a second engagement set for Saturday night in Vancouver.

The trajectory of the two teams has diverged. The Flames are in ascent and the Canucks' drift downward. This year's Canucks are widely predicted to miss the playoffs, in a Pacific Division and Western Conference that are more challenging than they were a year ago.

As Vancouver and Calgary's places in the hierarchy of the NHL have reversed, it is Calgary's strategy to bet heavily on talented young players that today reverberates in Vancouver.

On Monday, Linden officially unveiled a roster with three rookies, two of them 19-year-olds. It was a radical departure for the Canucks.

Vancouver, going back decades, has had the fewest teenagers play and contribute of any of Canada's NHL teams. Among the few teenagers to make a mark here was Linden, who at 18 scored 30 goals in his rookie season. It was the beginning of a revival for the team in that era, one that culminated five years later in a near Stanley Cup victory in 1994.

Linden is not an orator and is not the type of man to draw parallels between generations, but it's clear the same thinking is in place. Make-the-playoffs was a mantra last year. This year, Linden said: "We're going to be in the fight and that's where we want to be."

Regardless of whether the Canucks struggle and miss the playoffs, the decisions Linden has made form the core of the team that will have to, for years to come, battle Connor McDavid's Edmonton Oilers and Sean Monahan's Flames.

Vancouver's 19-year-olds are Jake Virtanen – who grew up in the Vancouver suburbs – and Jared McCann, both drafted last year in the first round, 11 weeks after Linden was hired. More significant, at present, is the new second line, centred by 20-year-old Bo Horvat, who last year made the team at 19, the first Canucks teenager in a decade. Horvat got better all winter long. This year, 23-year-old Sven Baertschi will be on his wing. And on the blueline, there will be the seemingly-out-of-nowhere 22-year-old Ben Hutton.

The Canucks, especially under Mike Gillis, were in the Detroit Red Wings mould: no kids. When Tortorella was on his way out the door, he made a cutting but true observation: the aging Canucks had gone stale.

"These guys," Linden said of the Canucks' youth brigade, "are going to bring a spark and an element of life."

It will also – in theory – spark attention in Vancouver, where fan interest faded after the near Stanley Cup five years ago and subsequent cratering. Fans can cheer for the future – and, almost as rare as seeing teenagers play here, they can cheer for a hometown player, Virtanen.

"People are genuinely excited," Linden said.

When the roster was decided Monday, several reporters had expected general manager Jim Benning to speak about the various decisions, including the surprise of putting 22-year-old defenceman Frank Corrado on waivers. He was later picked up by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

But Monday was bigger than that. Benning was Linden's first and most important hire and is a key architect of the new Canucks but this is Linden's team. The one-time on-ice hero was hired to save a team in tatters and rebuild it into a contender.

The transition will be difficult. It's no fun to see your season end in early April. And, longer term, it's tough to say Vancouver's young players can rival those in Calgary or Edmonton.

And, right now, as much as Vancouver's story is youth, how the Canucks fare this year rests on the shoulders of the three oldest men on the team, all 35, goalie Ryan Miller, and Henrik and Daniel Sedin.

Canucks brass in years past often talked about an injection of youth – but it never happened, team captain Henrik Sedin noted.

"When you look at the teams that have been successful, they've got young guys coming in and contributing early and right away. We've been missing that," Sedin said.

"If you look back, and you really look at it, how many rookies have come in and made a difference on this team the last 10, 15 years? There's not many. It is needed."