By: Trent Leith / December 16, 2021
The Canucks are going through some changes, I don’t know if you heard. First the Canucks changed coaches from Travis Green and Friends to Bruce Boudreau and Scott Walker and then later let Jim Benning and Co. go in place for Jim Rutherford a GM yet to be hired and newly appointed AGM Derek Clancey.
Jim Rutheford has been hired as the first President of Hockey Operations since Trevor Linden
got stabbed in the back left the Vancouver Canucks amicably. Jim’s effect on the team won’t be felt until he makes a trade at the earliest, but Boudreau’s effect on the team has been felt immediately.
It’s plain to see that one of Boudreau’s immediate impacts has been on the penalty kill. The team was sporting a league-worst 64.6% kill rate under Travis Green, since Boudreau got his jolly self behind the bench the Canucks are good for 13th in the league with an 88.1% kill rate in his five games. Prior to the coaching change, the Canucks had the worst penalty kill in NHL history through 25 games. It went from record-setting bad to above league average, granted it’s a small sample size.
One of Boudrea’s main changes has been aggression on the PK. Watching the Canucks on the penalty kill is no longer like watching lambs to the slaughter, rather at times it has actually been fun to watch. Whatever Green was doing was clearly not working, and he was not able to get buy-in from his team. You could blame roster construction, injuries or whatever Myriad of potential explanations, but Boudreau has come in and has effectively proven that the personnel to get the job done was always there.
The other big change with the current rendition of the penalty kill is the personnel. Boudreau is giving all his players a clean slate and a chance to kill penalties, and that is something Green never did. In his first game behind the bench, Boudreau put Pettersson on the PK and within seconds Pettersson had a scoring chance and drew a penalty shot.
Pettersson has not become a mainstay on the PK, but he has been given the chance to show he can chip in and help when need be. Prior to Boudreau’s arrival, Petey had played 10:24 minutes of shorthanded time through his whole career, in his first 5 games under Bruce, he has played 2:34. That is hardly big minutes on the PK, but it shows everyone is getting a chance to prove their worth to the new coach.
Boeser’s Bounce Back
It was no secret that Brock Boeser was not playing in tip-top form this season until late. Before Boudreau became the bench boss, Boeser hadn’t scored since Nov 7th in the offensive outpouring that was the Dallas Stars game. In his five short games in the new era, he leads the team with three goals and is tied for second in points with five.
Boudreau seemed to come into his new role with a goal in mind right off the hop, and that goal was to get his top guys going, and the first on that docket, Brock Boeser. Boudreau’s advice to Brock? Shoot. Just Shoot. And wouldn’t you know it, it worked. It’s not rocket science, it’s not new advice, and it’s nothing Green never said, but sometimes a fresh perspective giving you the same advice is all you need.
We’ve all been there, you give your partner some advice on something and they shrug it off, then their friend gives them the same advice and they take it to heart. Sometimes you can lose the ear of those around you, and it seems that was Green’s greatest downfall.
A Fresh Start Creates a Fresh Look
We mentioned guys stepping up on the penalty kill, but guys are stepping up all over the ice, and part of that is due to simply being given a chance. Podkolzin is averaging 15:30 minutes a game since Bruce took over. Under Green, Podz was starting to earn more ice, but in total, he still only averaged less than 12 minutes a game. Podkolzin has been given 2:57 of shorthanded time under Brucey Bear, while under Green he got a total of 1:16 minutes despite having penalty killing in the KHL under his belt.
On the powerplay, Podkolzin was averaging 0.58 minutes of ice under Green and is up to 1.31 minutes a game on average under Bruce. Important players are getting a chance to prove themselves to a coach that is admittedly unfamiliar with the group he has before him. Refreshingly players are jumping at the chance to prove their worth to this team.
It is clear that Podkolzin has made a strong impression on Bruce Boudreau, as not only is he getting more ice time in all situations, but he no longer has to battle for time in the third period. Under Travis Green, Podz would spend much of his time in the third period stapled to the bench, especially late in games when The Canucks are trying to tie or hold on to a close victory. But under Boudreau, Podz has been trusted with some of the most important ice time in every game.
Bruce, There It Is
Not only are the players buying what Bruce is selling, but the fans are also doing the same. One game ended with a jersey thrown on the ice, and the next ended in a standing ovation for the team as they shut out the LA Kings. A new chant was born, and Canucks lore was changed forever. All that changed, was the Boudreau Effect
Boudreau became the first coach to start his tenure with a 4-0 record and has pushed that further to a 5-0 record after the recent comeback win over the Columbus Blue Jackets where the Canucks fought back from a 3:0 deficit.
There are positive chants in the arena, there is fun to be had at games and the feeling around the team’s fans is at a high not felt since the Canucks had their infamous Bubble performance. While Bruce claims to dislike the “Bruce, there it is” chant, it’s clear the fans don’t much care and are happy to be watching winning hockey.
No one is saying it out loud but, many fans are taking a peek at the standings every so often to see how far the Canucks are from the playoffs, especially as teams in the division continue to slide.
All of these improvements are coming during a small sample size of only five games. The big question now is how sustainable is this through a larger sample size and what happens when Bruce Boudreau’s honeymoon effect wears off on the team. But in the short term, Games are finally fun and exciting and that should be celebrated.