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The new guys

by Dave Tomlinson / Vancouver Canucks
Coming to a new team can be intimidating for any professional hockey player, regardless of experience or reputation, and the Canucks have had a handful of new players make the adjustment to playing in an intensive hockey market look rather easy.

In an off-season make-over entitled “Change Is Coming,” the new-fangled roster has had its newcomers make a distinct positive impact in the Canucks first month of the regular season. Ryan Miller, Radim Vrbata, and the two ex-Ducks Nick Bonino and Luca Sbisa, have all added in one way or another to the early success of the hockey club.

More ABOUT TOMLINSON

Dave Tomlinson, radio Colour Commentator for the Vancouver Canucks, and analyst of all things hockey.

Follow Tomlinson on Twitter at @DTeam1040

Ryan Miller came to the Canucks as a free agent acquisition while questions swirled in the summer as to whether his status as an elite goalie in the NHL was still intact. He has more than backed up his standing in the early going, recently registering his 300th NHL win while backstopping a team that has immense confidence in his play. He credits his ability to stay calm and relaxed, citing his demeanour to even be boring at times, as the reason he is able to park a bad game, and remain focussed in the big ones. His relationship with goalie coach Rollie Melanson is an evolving one, with give and take on both sides that allows for a common ground to be found in style of play. So far it has worked.

For Radim Vrbata, another free agent Canuck signing in the off-season, his desire to play on a top line and contribute was a compelling reason to sign in Vancouver with the understanding he’d play alongside Henrik and Daniel Sedin, and the choice was a wise one for all concerned. The top line for the Canucks has lead the way offensively, and Vrbata has slipped in so nicely that even the Sedin’s say they don’t need to tell him a lot about where to be on the ice because he is usually already there, and ready to shoot. That combination has allowed for Henrik and Daniel to work their subtle passing plays more effectively, knowing that when they set up Vrbata for a chance, he will pull the trigger instead of looking to pass back.

When talking shooting and scoring, the name Nick Bonino comes up, and at the time of this writing he’s balanced four goals and five assists for important secondary scoring through 12 games. Bonino had previously experienced the emotions of being traded, as his rights were shipped from San Jose, the team that drafted him originally in 2007, to Anaheim, 10 minutes before the close of the trade deadline back in 2009. He heard his name come up in trade talks while playing at Boston University, and tracked the NHL moves that day for as long as he could before having to shut off his phone to get on the ice for practice. Believing he was still Sharks property after practice, he was shocked to see he was moved, but went on to have success with the “other” California team. Coming to Vancouver was all about another opportunity for him, and he says the move north has been seamless because of staying in the Pacific Division, and playing alongside tireless workers in linemates Alex Burrow and Chris Higgins.

Luca Sbisa bucks the trend a bit in players getting moved from one team to another in that the off-ice part has been easier than the on-ice adjustment. Sbisa spent time in Vancouver as part of the Swiss Olympic team in 2010, and has also been on the visiting side during his time playing for Anaheim, so his knowledge of the city and it’s people has become secondary. Learning the ins and outs of the Canucks playing system has been the bigger challenge for him, but playing alongside fellow countryman Yannick Weber has smoothed out most bumps. Getting his first points with the Canucks certainly helps as well.

In all, the best way to acclimate to new surroundings is to go in open-minded and ready for change, and for Miller, Vrbata, Bonino and Sbisa, the acceptance onto a new team has worked out almost as well as they could have imagined. They have all contributed in some way to the 8-4-0 start the Canucks have authoured, and feel the best has yet to come.

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