NHL Hockey

Canucks, Oilers open season with new hopes

The Vancouver Canucks have won their past five season openers. They'll go for six in a row Wednesday night when they travel to Edmonton to face the Oilers.

It's a matchup of teams that both missed the playoffs last season and finished near the bottom of the Western Conference. The Canucks (35-36-11, 81 points) were 12th in the 15-team conference, and the Oilers (35-38-9, 79 points) were 14th, ahead of only the Los Angeles Kings.

"It's no secret we haven't been a great team for the last few years," Canucks coach Travis Green said. "When I came in here two years ago, we talked about making improvements, and the way you make improvements is you get younger players in that help your team, you sign different players or other guys get better on your team that are here already.

"I think we've had a combination of all three things happening probably every year that I've been here, and we want to slowly keep getting better."

The Canucks' biggest offseason acquisition was 6-foot-8 defenseman Tyler Myers, signed away from Winnipeg with a five-year deal worth $6 million annually.

They also acquired a pair of top-six forwards, signing free agent Micheal Ferland from Carolina and acquiring J.T. Miller in a trade with Tampa Bay.

Ferland is expected to play on the left wing on the first line with center Elias Pettersson, last year's Calder Trophy winner as the league's top rookie, and right winger Brock Boeser, who had a shortened training camp because of a contract dispute and then a concussion.

Miller is slated to be the right wing on the second line with center Bo Horvat and Tyler Pearson.

Rookie Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes could be in the Calder conversation this season.

The Oilers, who have missed the playoffs in 12 of the past 13 seasons, have a new brain trust in general manager Ken Holland and coach Dave Tippett.

"What I've said from day one is that our goal is to compete for a playoff spot," Holland said. "We've got a nucleus of players, we need to surround them better. On the short term, on the one-year look, on the '19-20 look, our goal is to put some veteran players on the bottom part of the roster and compete for a playoff spot.

"On the longer look, while that is going on, we need to develop players ... I'm not talking rebuild, I'm talking we've got to compete for a playoff spot. Did we make the right moves? The answer is in the 82-game season."

The Oilers' big three of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins combined for 119 goals and 290 points last season. McDavid recently returned after offseason knee surgery.

Despite that production, the Oilers surrendered 274 goals -- 42 more than they scored.

Veteran Mike Smith was brought in to share goaltending duties with Mikko Koskinen -- though no starter had been announced for the opener -- and the Oilers revamped their bottom two forward lines.

"The goal here is to be in the playoffs, to compete for a playoffs," Holland said. "But it's October the second. I'm going to worry about the playoffs in March. We've got to put ourselves in that position. It's all talk. ... If we take care of business, we'll put ourselves in that position."

--Field Level Media

Updated October 1, 2019

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