NEW YORK -- Travis Green was loud, clear and point blank at the dawning of his first training camp as coach of the Vancouver Canucks.
Prepare to work and work hard, he told his players, and make a lot of changes to your game. You will be held accountable and required to get out of your comfort zone.
Defenseman Alex Biega remembers that first meeting, when Green took a lot of players by surprise with what Biega called an unconventional delivery of a message that said the Canucks needed to change, and quickly, if they wanted to net positive results after finishing last season with 69 points (30-43-9), 29th in the NHL and ahead of only the Colorado Avalanche (48).
Biega played for Green with Utica of the American Hockey League, so he knew what to expect when the Canucks hired Green on April 26. That first meeting was when Biega realized things in Vancouver would be different this season.
"I think the guys are buying into the system in general," Biega said during a visit to the NHL offices in New York on Monday. "We're doing well."
The Canucks are doing very well, much sooner than expected, and have emerged as one of the League's surprises. At 11-9-4, they're tied with the San Jose Sharks for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. It was expected to be another rebuilding season in Vancouver. Instead, the culture change was immediate since Green took over.
"We put a plan in order of how we wanted to play as a group and so far, the guys have bought in," Green told Sportsnet's "Prime Time Sports" last Thursday.
Green is proving he is the right coach at the right time for the Canucks, who are 2-1-1 on their six-game road trip across the continent entering their game at the New York Islanders on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, SNP, NHL.TV). In addition to Biega, 29, forwards Bo Horvat (22), Sven Baertschi (25) and Jake Virtanen (21) are among Vancouver's developing players who Green coached in Utica.
"What I recognized right away is he didn't change anything about his coaching style," Biega said. "He just brought what he was successful at in the minor league level and is doing it now at the NHL level. The accountability factor is huge for him. That's one thing I've noticed right away that's paying dividends with him.
"He's one of those guys who recognizes what you have to do to not only stay in the League but be an effective player. He's hard on guys. Even in practice he's very consistent in terms of preaching guys the way the game has to be played."
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Like any NHL team, there's always more to learn. Before beginning their road trip, the Canucks saw a two-goal lead against the St. Louis Blues vanish en route to a 4-3 overtime loss at Rogers Arena on Nov. 18. On Sunday, Vancouver dominated the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden but couldn't survive a late charge in what became a 4-3 shootout loss.
"Right now, maybe after a quarter of a way through, we're trying to find the consistency to our game and the way we are playing," Biega said. "We have to continuously try to find our way to grind through games on the road and get road wins.
"If we keep developing individually and collectively, we have a good chance of doing something special this year."
Biega's teammate, Daniel Sedin, is in position to do something historic against the Islanders on Tuesday. The veteran forward is two points from 1,000 in his NHL career and joining his twin brother, captain Henrik Sedin, as the only players to reach the milestone with the Canucks.
"To me in the media outside of Vancouver, [the Sedins] don't get enough credit," Biega said. "They're consummate professionals who do the right things all the time. It's no secret that they've been so successful, because their actions speak for itself. I'm really excited to be on a team where you can see Daniel accomplish that milestone. It's going to be exciting for him and his family."