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Season Preview: Bowness Blueprints and Battle Plans

Donna Diamond spent some time with newly anointed Canucks coach Rick Bowness, garnering his thoughts on the upcoming BEARD Hockey season.

CBC Hockey, the exclusive source of video and live action for your Vancouver Canucks, after an on-ice "get to know you" day at Rogers Arena, managed to have one of their reporters, Donna Diamond, spend some time with newly anointed Canucks coach Rick Bowness, and garner his thoughts on the upcoming BEARD Hockey season.

DD: Thank you so much for doing this interview with me here today Rick, it's been quite a busy few months for you all here and I'm thrilled you could make some time! I'll start off by asking how you felt about being drafted in the Dispersal Draft, and then follow that with your thoughts about being drafted by the Canucks specifically.

RB: Well Donna, it's quite an experience to be honest. I was first drafted as a player in the mid 70's, twice in fact into the now defunct NHL and WHA, and I’ll tell you, back then, it was exciting because I was a young guy making it big. Now, I'm unsure if my heart can handle this again. I hope this is the last one, I really do. In a way there were 5 drafts going on at once; Pro's, farmies, draft picks, prospects, and us coaches....I really didn't know what to think so I just went to the cabin with the family for a couple weeks and just tuned out any media. That really is the best way to do it for me, and when I came back to civilization, I found I was back with one of my old clubs, Vancouver, so I really couldn't have asked for a better outcome.

DD: Word has it that GM Sanderson has given you a lot of say and leeway with how the team will operate, not only on the ice, but off as well. What can you say to that?

RB: Yeah, he reached out to me after I was drafted, and asked for my thoughts on the team so far, and what to grab going forward. We've collaborated since then pretty closely. He has his office, and this(the ice) is mine. It's a good relationship. If I see any needs, I will be going straight to him and talking about it, and if he has any ideas, he's going to pass them through me as well. It's the same system I had in Dallas in the NHL days, and I prefer it that way.

DD: Is it safe to say then that you had a hand in the Jason Zucker trade, the one that had you send some very good draft picks to the Rangers in exchange for the versatile winger?

RB: Yeah, it's safe to say that. The lineup looks fine on paper, but the reality of it is that (feces) happens. Injuries, fatigue, trades and what have you. I went to him (Sanderson) and asked how he thought the team might do if one of our scoring wingers was injured for any length of time, and a few days later, he told me we could get Jason (Zucker) to help with depth scoring, and I said I loved it. Well worth the picks in my mind.

DD: Scoring forwards? Do you have a plan for just who is going to be doing what on the ice already, before even having formal practices and a pre-season?

RB: Oh for sure, you have to be prepared. I have had interviews with all of the players, one on one, and these guys are professionals, they know their roles. The way I run my lineup is by specialization. By that I mean that everyone has a specialty, something that they do really well in comparison to their teammates and adversaries. If I put a bunch of scorers on one line, without any passers or faceoff guys, we aren't going to score many goals. So there are some very big role-players on this squad, and their is also a group of supporter players who's job it is to support the play, or even sometimes another player within the game. Our team was literally drafted based upon the concept of scoring forwards and supporting them.

DD: So you mean to say the team was built around scoring forwards, as opposed to "down the middle", or "goaltender out"?

RB: Definitely yes, and I give a lot of credit to Aaron(GM Sanderson) for that, he had the vision to see that elite scoring is rare in the league and load up on it. The team has the scoring forwards, and we are very strong and deep at centre, we have a fantastic defense corps, and the deepest goaltending tandem in the league bar-none. Don't tell the boss, but I have the easy job here now!

DD: I bet it’s not as easy as you say! Can you give us some insight into how you see the team being built, maybe a sort of "season preview" that we can take to the public?

RB: For sure Donna, I'll do my best.

Every forward line has a primary trigger man, and a setup. We are really planning on our first line having Pastrnak as the trigger, and O'Reilly as the setup.

Second line I have Guentzel as the trigger, with Danault as the setup.

Those are pretty basic, but the whole rest of the team is built around that. the third man up front might be a younger fellow like Andre Mangiapane to help build his confidence in his game, or it could be somebody like Fast, Motte, or Nick Paul, if I feel that we need a bit more grit or checking on the line. I can also pull a more defensive forward like Acciari or (Derek) Ryan and push them up if need be.

The third and fourth lines we will tinker with, but defense will be a bit more of a priority, considering we might not have the level of scoring skill that the first two lines do.

DD: Alright, and what about on defense?

RB: We're very happy with what we have assembled on D. The league is so deep at that position, and we have found a really good bunch of guys there. Ryan Suter will be playing big minutes, and so will Pionk and Calvin (de Haan). The idea is we will have a stay at home guy on every line, and more of a passer or transition type on every line as well. Of course we will adjust as needed, but this is the overall plan. Our defense will be solid on every shift of every game, and that should allow our forwards to really focus on the other end of the ice.

DD: What can you tell me about the special teams Rick?

RB: Haha, I'm pretty excited, especially for the powerplay. I don't know if I will have 4 forwards out there, I don't think we need to. I think we will probably try to overload the first unit with every bit of firepower we have, and preferably capitalize early on every man advantage that we can. As for the kill, this team was really build well for it. we have guys that can play defense up front, we have great defensemen, and of course, with Benny (Bishop) or Jarhead (Jaroslav Halak) in net, it really is just about making sure that any shots they do get, are clear and visible.

DD: Speaking of goaltending, it is being rumoured that you guys are looking to trade one of your goalies, can you lend any credence to those rumours?

RB: I can say that we have better depth at that position than at any other position, and that is a good situation to be in. Maybe one of them would be happier not being part of a tandem, in which case perhaps we could improve our team in other ways by altering the goaltending situation. If it actually changes, I am sure it will be for the best. Aaron could speak more to that.

DD: Right. So, can you tell the CBC viewers what sort of season you are expecting to have in Vancouver this year?

RB: Sure Donna. Vancouver is going to play high-flying, high scoring hockey this year. We have a more than capable defense, so expect us to trample a lot of these opposition teams. Our goal is the Stanley Cup. These guys know that they need to work their hardest, and be humble every single day of the year to accomplish that, and if they do, I think that we are absolutely the team has the best chances of winning it all.

DD: That's a wonderful goal to have! Can you tell us if there are any teams in the league that you feel will give the Canucks trouble in trying to reach that lofty goal?

RB: Look, we feel we have the best team, but there are lots of teams that we also feel are right up there with us. This won't be an easy journey at all. I look at what Corey (Chernuka) has done in New Jersey, I look at Anaheim, Chicago, Colorado, Washington, Florida, and Nashville as well as Edmonton. I might have missed a team, but this is really who we are up against. Like, I am sure I missed some there, but the BEARD is basically 2 leagues right now; those who are stacked and ready for battle, and the others that have other plans this season. It's going to be tough, we cannot afford to take any team lightly, and we will have to fight for every goal and point that we can.

DD: Thank you so much for the interview Rick, and good luck with the upcoming season!

RB: Of course Donna, it was great!

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