Break up Bruce Boudreau’s Vancouver Canucks!
Now 5-0 since the coaching change, after a glorious three-goal comeback versus the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night, it seems Boudreau has already stroked Priority No. 1 off the refrigerator to-do list, which was to restore a basic element of team and togetherness.
Vancouver won a game it would have lost every time, at least it seems, in the latter stages of Travis Green’s tenure.
For whatever reason, the team that couldn’t dig in has found a considerable measure of resolve.
What was lost, well — Bruce there it is.
I theorized at the time of the hiring that this decision was rooted in public relations first. Boudreau’s knack for settling a dressing room and pulling quality performances out of every aspect of the lineup was the best attempt, again, at least it seemed, at having the masses lower their weapons for a moment.
It didn’t strike me as the move that would truly fix the deep-seated issues, and instead only offer some shine to something that wasn’t working.
But after five wins, it is worth considering how drastic Green’s role really was in the team’s failures. What we have seen under Boudreau could be more than a dead-cat bounce.
This group always appeared to be more than it had shown. The top nine was always formidable. There was talent on the blue line and two capable netminders in the crease. If Boudreau has each individual at or near the top of their performance ranges through whatever voodoo he possesses, this can be more than just optics and basic restoration.
The Canucks are only four points back of a postseason spot after gobbling up the last 10 available. They play in the worst division in hockey. Edmonton is sputtering. Vegas has completely turned the corner. Anaheim hasn’t proven itself as a surefire postseason lock just yet.
There is a lot of runway, and the right coach seems to be in place.
And with Jim Rutherford following Boudreau in, the quick-fix qualities at the coaching position now also exist in hockey operations.
Up: Senators hockey
Speaking of sudden success, the Ottawa Senators are rolling this month.
Since Dec. 1, there are only five teams with a better record than Ottawa, which has won five of its last six games. That run includes wins over four of the best teams in the league and veritable championship contenders in the Hurricanes, Avalanche, Lightning, and Panthers.
Boosted by the eight-goal outburst in their win Tuesday over the Panthers (who had been nearly unbeatable on home ice), the Senators have the fourth-most goals scored in December, trailing only the Avs, Golden Knights and Maple Leafs.
Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson have led the way offensively during this surge. Tkachuk’s eight goals trail only Auston Matthews and Max Pacioretty this month, while Batherson’s 12 points are the fourth-most over the same time period.
There are parallels with Vancouver, but the Senators’ hole is far deeper. Still the expectation for this team entering the season could still come to fruition if the Senators remain an annoyance down the stretch, stealing points from postseason contenders.
Down: Belief the Oilers had solutions
Edmonton has been worse than mediocre since its unbelievable 9-1 start.
Over the last month, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have cooled fairly considerably, along with the incredible power play, and these dips have exposed both the unforeseen elements of this season but more notably everything that still ails the franchise.
Reeling after six straight losses, the Oilers have a 35 percent share of the total goals scored in their games this month. McDavid has had a hand in nine of the 14 goals they have scored in seven games, while the bottom half of the roster has managed a single goal — Colton Sceviour in garbage time, basically, in a loss Tuesday to the Leafs — over that span.
The likes of Warren Foegele, Derek Ryan, Devin Shore, Ryan McLeod and Tyler Benson are without a single point during this skid, contributing exclusively to the deficit McDavid and Draisaitl are perpetually working to overcome.
Nothing has changed, it seems, for this team, which is currently clinging to the eighth seed in the conference after its unbelievable start.
Ken Holland should be looking at getting a head-start on in-season acquisitions.
This season is that important for the Oilers.
Down: Ducharme’s hold on the Habs
At a certain point, when the only thing that a team does is lose, it’s hard to find new and innovative ways to describe its failures without offending anyone.
Even so, it seems Jeff Petry was through with trying.
After another loss, Petry delivered, through what seemed like deliberate subtext, a scathing review of head coach Dominique Ducharme’s performance this season, mentioning structure and disconnect as reasons for the team’s failures.
Not that new team architect Jeff Gorton is knee-jerk in any way as he carefully sorts through candidates to work in tandem with down the line, this is the sort of noise that only creates more noise around the on-ice product, with which can only be ignored for so long.
Ducharme should be desperately working on that structure, and not leaning on the assurances he was given.
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