VANCOUVER – It’s time to move on.
That’s the message from Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault, who says the best way for his club to deal with the pain and frustration of losing in the Stanley Cup final is to focus on the upcoming season.
“We have to turn the page on last year,” Vigneault said Friday as veterans reported for the first day of training camp. “At the end of the day we didn’t win. We’re in this to win. I know we are going to have a very motivated group.”
Vancouver lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup on home ice to the Boston Bruins in June. The defeat was a bitter end to the most successful season in team history.
The Canucks won the Presidents’ Trophy with the best record in the league for the first time in franchise history, while leading the league in scoring and fewest goals allowed. Vancouver also set franchise records for points (117), wins (54) and road wins (27).
Even though the Canucks did a lot of things right, the season will be remembered for what went wrong against Boston.
“We had a really great season,” defenceman Dan Hamhuis said. “It’s too bad it kind of gets summarized by one disappointing game at the end.”
As heart-breaking as that loss was, the Canucks now must focus on the long road back to the final.
“It was a really difficult journey last year to get to where we were,” said Hamhuis, who underwent surgery for a sports hernia this summer.
“It might even be harder again this year. We are prepared for that. We got a good taste of that. We know what it’s going to take to get there. Guys are more hungry now than they ever have been.”
Around Vancouver there’s concern the short summer gave the Canucks little time to recover from injuries. There’s also fear the players will find it hard to take games in October and November seriously.
Captain Henrik Sedin said those are excuses the Bruins can use, but not the Canucks.
“We lost in the finals,” said Sedin. “We haven’t proven anything yet.
“We are going to have to start over and win. That starts with Game 1.”
Coming away empty-handed after getting so close still bothers Sedin.
“I don’t think you are going to get over it in the next little bit,” he said. “It’s going to take some time.
“You are going to have to win it to get over a loss like that.”
Players spent Friday having their fitness tested. They start skating on Saturday, with the first exhibition game set for Tuesday.
The Canucks come to camp facing some questions and with several holes to fill in the lineup.
Losing defenceman Christian Ehrhoff to free agency costs Vancouver 50 points on the blue-line.
“The defencemen coming back are going to need to step up,” said Hamhuis.
Centre Ryan Kesler and speedy forward Mason Raymond are both injured. That leaves a huge hole on Vancouver’s second line.
Kesler, last season’s Selke trophy winner, underwent hip surgery over the summer. Raymond is still recovering from a vertebrae compression fracture suffered in Game 6 against Boston.
Kesler isn’t sure when he will return.
“It’s coming along nicely,” he said. “My original goal was the beginning of the season. I’m not going to set a time frame.
“My main goal is get back to 100 per cent health. How ever long that takes is up to my hip.”
Raymond isn’t expected back in the lineup until November.
Centre Manny Malhotra underwent two more procedures on his injured left eye during the summer. Malhotra returned to the lineup for the final after suffering a career-threatening eye injury in mid-March.
“Everything that needed to be done was done,” said Malhotra. “The rest is up to me how well I heal.”
Vigneault said the injuries open up chances for other players.
“Players that wanted more ice time are going to have that opportunity to earn that ice time and show what they can do,” he said.
“The reason why you have a training camp is to permit player to come out and show what they can do.”
One player looking to prove himself is Cody Hodgson. The centre, who was picked 10th overall in the 2008 draft, has battled injuries in the past but comes to camp healthy.
“It’s been a great summer and I worked hard,” said Hodgson. “It’s a great opportunity.”
During the final, the Bruins pushed the Canucks around like a bully. There have been concerns the Canucks didn’t add enough toughness in the summer.
“We brought in some young players, some veteran players that have that dimension,” said Vigneault.
“We’ve got eight exhibition games. We’re going to see who is going to step up.”
Also looking to make an impression at camp will be some veterans hoping to salvage their careers.
The Canucks have brought in forwards Owen Nolan, 39, and Todd Fedoruk, 32, plus 38-year-old goaltender Manny Legace.
Goaltender Roberto Luongo said like every team Vancouver’s goal is to win the Stanley Cup. The Canucks just have a better idea of the struggled involved.
“That’s a long way ahead of us to be thinking that far,” said Luongo. “We all saw what it took to get there.
“It was hard and it was long. I don’t think we should get ahead of ourselves right now. We have to be ready to go as a team.”