Canucks camp kickoff: 10 things to watch

 

It all starts with head coach John Tortorella, who will be pulling the strings

 
 
 
 
Figure on new head coach John Tortorella (above) running a more intense training camp than his predecessor, Alain Vigneault. Other Canucks camp questions? CLICK ON THE PHOTO TAB ON THIS STORY, THEN ‘NEXT’ ABOVE THE PHOTO (if you’re on the web).
 
 

Figure on new head coach John Tortorella (above) running a more intense training camp than his predecessor, Alain Vigneault. Other Canucks camp questions? CLICK ON THE PHOTO TAB ON THIS STORY, THEN ‘NEXT’ ABOVE THE PHOTO (if you’re on the web).

Photograph by: Ward Perrin, PNG

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VANCOUVER — Meet the new boss. He’s definitely not the same as the old boss.

It shouldn’t take the Vancouver Canucks veterans long to figure that out once John Tortorella gets them on the ice at training camp.

The players report Wednesday for fitness testing and Tortorella promises he will be testing that fitness in a camp that figures to be more intense than the ones run by former coach Alain Vigneault.

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Tortorella inherits a team that has changed very little from the one that four months ago was swept out of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the San Jose Sharks.

General manager Mike Gillis promised a “reset” after the teams’ second straight first-round playoff exit, but Tortorella’s hiring and the stunning trade of goalie Cory Schneider were really the only significant off-season moves made by the team.

So it will be up to Tortorella to get more out of a fairly familiar cast of characters.

All eyes will be on Tortorella during camp — and all season for that matter — to see how he gets along with the Canucks veterans and, of course, the media. But there’s lots more to watch at training camp and here are 10 of them:

• ARE THE KIDS ALL RIGHT?

Tortorella is on record as saying he hopes a couple of kids come in and steal jobs from veterans and he had a good record of developing young players with the New York Rangers. So it’s safe to say youngsters like Bo Horvat, Brendan Gaunce, Nicklas Jensen and Hunter Shinkaruk are going to get very long looks during the pre-season.

• WHERE’S THE BITE?

Tortorella says the Canucks have to become a more difficult team to play against. To use his words, he suggested the team needed “more bite.” Well, it really wasn’t added in the off-season, so it’s going to have to come from within. Can the new coaching staff convince the veterans to play with more of an edge?

• BACKUP BLUES:

Last season’s backup, Roberto Luongo, is once again the starter. So who backs him up? The job is Eddie Lack’s to lose, but Lack is coming off serious hip surgery and hasn’t played a game since late 2012. Fellow Swede Joacim Eriksson is Option 2, but like Lack has no NHL experience. The Canucks appear to be a Luongo groin strain away from a goaltending crisis.

• CENTRE OF ATTENTION:

The No. 3 centre position is wide open and the battle to fill it figures to be one of the most intriguing stories of camp. Jordan Schroeder, with a one-way contract in his back pocket, could be the favourite. But he will be pressed by fellow first-rounders Brendan Gaunce and Bo Horvat, who physically both seem better suited as third-line pivots.

• CAN BOOTH BOUNCE BACK?

The Canucks are praying (pun intended) that David Booth can become the player he was once rumoured to be. You know, a big, physical power forward with great speed and a nice scoring touch. Booth has been a bust as a Canuck, is coming off a serious ankle injury and as of last week had still not been cleared to play. The team desperately needs his offence.

• BIG ZACK ATTACK:

It’s not hard to imagine Zack Kassian becoming a primary target for Tortorella. Canucks fans have grown tired of hearing how young Kassian is and how he needs time to develop. Tortorella will undoubtedly get in his face and challenge the big winger. It will be interesting to see how Kassian responds.

• WHO’S NO. 6?

The big battle on defence figures to be for the No. 6 spot, where Andrew Alberts, Yannick Weber and Frank Corrado will battle it out. There may be no clear winner here, but Weber will improve his chances considerably if he can live up to his billing as a guy who can help run the power play.

• SEDIN, SEDIN and ?????

Who will play right wing with Henrik and Daniel? Alex Burrows has done a solid job there, but it would not be a surprise to see Tortorella give Kassian a look on the top line if he shows well early in camp. That would allow Burrows to drop down and play with Ryan Kesler on the second line. One other Sedin-related note: Don't be surprised if they sign contract extensions before the regular season starts.

• LIFE OF RYAN:


For the first time in a long while, Kesler will be coming to camp feeling 100 per cent. A healthy Kesler, like the one who scored 41 goals and won the Frank J. Selke Trophy in 2010-11, could do wonders for the Canucks. There’s an interesting sub-plot here. Kesler has never responded particularly well to criticism and he’ll inevitably get some from Tortorella. How will be handle it?

• POWER UP:

The Canuck power play, so good in the not too distant past, was an absolute mess most of last season and finished 22nd in the NHL. Getting it back on track will be one of the keys to the season. Expect Jason Garrison and his hard shot to get a better look on the power play from a new coaching staff and new defenceman Yannick Weber will also be given an opportunity to run things from the point.

bziemer@vancouversun.com

Twitter.com/bradziemer

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VIEW MORE PHOTOS HERE OF CANUCKS TOP QUESTIONS, or if you're using a mobile app, tap the story image and swipe.

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Figure on new head coach John Tortorella (above) running a more intense training camp than his predecessor, Alain Vigneault. Other Canucks camp questions? CLICK ON THE PHOTO TAB ON THIS STORY, THEN ‘NEXT’ ABOVE THE PHOTO (if you’re on the web).
 

Figure on new head coach John Tortorella (above) running a more intense training camp than his predecessor, Alain Vigneault. Other Canucks camp questions? CLICK ON THE PHOTO TAB ON THIS STORY, THEN ‘NEXT’ ABOVE THE PHOTO (if you’re on the web).

Photograph by: Ward Perrin, PNG

 
Figure on new head coach John Tortorella (above) running a more intense training camp than his predecessor, Alain Vigneault. Other Canucks camp questions? CLICK ON THE PHOTO TAB ON THIS STORY, THEN ‘NEXT’ ABOVE THE PHOTO (if you’re on the web).
The Vancouver Canucks will take good looks at top prospects like centre Bo Horvat (ninth overall in 2013 NHL Entry Draft).
Another top centre prospect for the Vancouver Canucks is Brendan Gaunce (26th overall in 2012 NHL Entry Draft).
One Vancouver Canucks prospect who has impressed at the ‘kids camp,’ and could well feature in Vancouver this season, is winger Nicklas Jensen (29th overall in 2011 NHL Entry Draft).
The Vancouver Canucks like the silky skills shown by junior-age winger Hunter Shinkaruk (24th overall in 2013 NHL Entry Draft), who will get a long look at camp. Still, expect the sniper to be sent back to the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers for another year of seasoning.
Incoming head coach John Tortorella says the Vancouver Canucks need ‘more bite,’ and be more difficult to play against. Where will that come from? Is Dale Weise (above right) the cavalry, or will others indeed step up?
Who backs up Roberto Luongo between the pipes for the Canucks? Is it Swedish netminder Eddie Lack (above), who while in the Canucks’ organization for the last couple of seasons, is coming off serious hip surgery and hasn’t played a game since late 2012.
Or will Roberto Luongo’s backup in the end be rookie Swedish goalie Joacim Eriksson (above), who is unproven in North America?
Jordan Schroeder (above), with his one-way contract, could be the favourite for the third-line centre spot. But he will be pressed by fellow first-rounders Brendan Gaunce and Bo Horvat, who physically both seem better suited as third-line pivots.
David Booth (centre) has been a bust as a Canuck, is coming off a serious ankle injury and still needs to be cleared to play. His offence is desperately needed.
It will be interesting to see how young, rugged Zack Kassian (above) responds to new coach John Tortorella when the latter applies the heat on him.
Who will be No. 6 on the Canucks’ blue line? Newly acquired Yannick Weber, rookie Frank Corrado or the ever-reliable, albeit non-flashy, Andrew Alberts (above)?
Don’t be surprised if Daniel (left) and Henrik Sedin sign contract extensions with the Vancouver Canucks before the season starts.
A healthy Ryan Kesler, circa 2010-11 and a Frank Selke Trophy-winning campaign, could do wonders for the Canucks. But you have to wonder: Will he respond well to criticism from his new coach?
Expect Jason Garrison and his hard shot to get a better look on the Canucks’ power play.
Newly acquired Yannick Weber will be given an opportunity to run things from the point on the Canucks’ power play.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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