VICTORIA – While the wait continues for Brock Boeser and the weight continues to be an issue for Jake Virtanen, there were other stories to emerge on the first day of the Vancouver Canucks 2019 training camp.
As expected, the day ended with a grueling skate for all of the forwards and defencemen taking part in the workouts at Save-On Foods Memorial Centre. Pushing players to their limits to conclude the opening camp session has become a staple for head coach Travis Green in each of his three years on the job.
For newcomer Micheal Ferland, adapting to the operating procedures of a new coach is nothing new. The rugged winger is playing for his third organization in three years after getting dealt from Calgary (where he played under Glen Gulutzan) to Carolina (where he had Rod Brind’Amour behind the bench). Now as he adjusts to a new team and new teammates, Ferland has no concerns about adjusting to Green’s style of play in Vancouver.
“Honestly, a lot of the teams play a similar style now,” he explains. “Everyone wants to play fast. They all want the d-men to play up in your face. There are a few little changes (here) but nothing crazy.”
Sven Baertschi put in hours in the summer preparing for the rigors of the first day of camp fitness test. The veteran knew what was in store for players having been through it in the past two seasons with Green at the helm. For Baertschi, who was limited to just 26 games last season with a concussion and later lingering effects of that same head injury, it was important to push himself in the off-season to have peace of mind that he’d be up to the challenge of the opening day of camp.
“You can prepare for it. I did quite a few (heavy skates) throughout the summer to make sure that I was ready to go,” he says. “It just helps pushing toward that threshold and trying to get stronger legs and the way we want to play here has a lot to do with that. We want to play at a high pace and doing that consistently you have to get your skates in. I skated more this summer than ever before because I missed so much time. Obviously, you can’t really make it game-like throughout the summer but I was trying to push myself and missing that much time, I just wanted to make sure I felt comfortable on the ice again and getting into battles again and just knowing I could go out there and play.”
On the topic of players that lost time to injury last season, the Canucks hope veteran defenceman Chris Tanev can play more than the 55 games he was limited to last season. Tanev, who turns 30 in December, has plenty of incentive to stay in the line-up this season. The Toronto native is set to become an unrestricted free agent next July and needs to stay healthy to maximize his value in his next contract whether it’s with the Canucks or on the open market. To that end, the shot blocker and penalty killer enlisted the help of the Canucks' equipment staff over the summer to modify the gear he’ll wear this season.
“The trainers made me a bunch of custom gear after last year and the year before going back-to-back broken legs," said Tanev. "It’s fully new shin pads and they’re all decked out and some new gloves. There’s a lot more protection than there was so hopefully that help. I trusted them and wanted to find something that would protect me and I think they’ve done that – hopefully anyways. They look good and feel good right now and obviously we’ll see as the years go on. I’ve had them all summer. They’re definitely a lot more protective than my other ones so I’m happy about it."
Tanev, who skated alongside rookie Quinn Hughes on Friday, has suited up for just 55, 42 and 53 games the past three seasons. His high-water mark for games played in any NHL season is 70 back in 2014-15. From a contract perspective, imagine the difference getting into 75 games this season could make to a pending UFA rather than dealing with the narrative that he’s injury prone and simply can’t stay healthy. It could easily be a difference of a few million dollars and a few extra years on his next deal.