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Mike Gillis talks Canucks on 'NHL Hour'

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This is the Vancouver Canucks' 40th anniversary season -- and at the halfway point, it's shaping up to be quite the celebration.

The Canucks entered Thursday's play with a 26-8-5 record and an NHL-leading 57 points. That included a seven-game winning streak they will take into Friday's game against the Oilers and a 12-0-2 run over their last 14 games.

According to team president and general manager Mike Gillis, a guest on Thursday's "NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman," responsibility for the success starts with the coaching staff and trickles down to the players, with everyone contributing.

"I think we have a really well-coached team," Gillis said. "We've got all of our players buying into a system of play that I think reflects today's NHL … the rules changes that have occurred seem to promote a certain style of play that we've adopted here and right now we're having success with it."

From the dynamic twin tandem of Daniel Sedin (22 goals) and Henrik Sedin (41 assists), who co-lead the team in scoring with 50 points, to the goaltending of Roberto Luongo (19-8-3, 2.38 goals-against average, .920 save percentage), the Canucks have been getting first-rate performances up and down their roster.

"It starts with goaltending and Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider have been excellent the past six, seven weeks," Gillis said. "We've had some games that we might not have been in early on -- they've provided solid goaltending every night out. We've had the benefit of their really strong play.

"Ryan Kesler has played the best hockey I've ever seen him play in the last seven weeks. He's really taken a leadership role on this team. He has stepped up his play. He has made his linemates better. He has been outstanding at both ends of the night.

"Daniel and Henrik (Sedin) have continued their evolution as players. They have been very solid. Alex Burrows getting back into form after his shoulder surgery has helped them a lot. Defensively, Dan Hamhuis has been excellent, but as a group I think our defense has been really strong -- conservative when they need to be, but jumping up in the play when the situation arises. We've had everyone contributing, and we're very fortunate in that way."

It hasn't just been the big names coming through for Vancouver -- role players like Jeff Tambellini and Jannik Hansen were singled out by Gillis as unsung heroes, as well as Schneider, who hasn't lost in regulation this season (7-0-2, 2.45 GAA, .922 save percentage) while making sure Luongo doesn't get overworked.

Gillis also pointed to a handful of offseason acquisitions the Canucks made since their playoff ouster last spring by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks.

"We've added four significant players in Keith Ballard, Dan Hamhuis, Manny Malhotra and Raffi Torres," he said. "They've come into Vancouver and they've been major contributors to our success so far and we're hoping to continue that down the stretch here and into the playoffs.

"I think we have a stronger team in terms of balance and depth. We're very conscious about the type of people we try to encourage to come here. We wanted strong character, we wanted to be able to face adversity and get through it, and I think when you combine those new guys with Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows' new approach to how they're playing, I think we're a stronger group overall."

Vancouver will be looking to advance beyond the second round of the playoffs for the first time since making the Stanley Cup Final in 1994 -- and for the third time in four seasons, the Canucks have a different captain. Henrik Sedin was given the "C" just prior to the start of the 2010-11 campaign after Luongo held the honor the last two seasons --  a rare feat for a goalie, but one that Gillis feels might have had an adverse affect on his overall game.

"I didn't anticipate the amount of scrutiny and the difficulty Roberto would face with that decision," Gillis said. "We chose the player that we thought had the most character, the most accountability and great leadership skills, and we haven't changed our opinion about that.

"As you know, here in Vancouver we face a lot of media attention, and it just seemed that it put Roberto in an awkward position in dealing with the media, in how he responded to questions about teammates, among other things, and notwithstanding the fact we know that he has great leadership skills and ability and took his role as captain not just seriously but with tremendous pride … we left the decision up to him and he came back and thought it would be best for the team if he relinquished the captaincy, and in hindsight he's been allowed to focus more on goaltending."

Luongo gave up the "C" during the offseason, two years after taking over from Markus Naslund.

With half the season left to be played and an extremely tight race in the Western Conference, it's not a guarantee the current version of the Canucks will be the exact same one that begins the Stanley Cup Playoffs in mid-April. But when asked by Bettman what he might change about the team, Gillis didn't seem inclined to want to do much.

"Right now we're pretty satisfied with the players we have. We know they play hard and they care about the results, and they're a really good group of people. They work hard in the community for us and for others, and we're really pleased to have them. So unless something popped up that was pretty extraordinary, we're definitely pleased with our group as it stands today."
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