Canucks’ Bo Horvat on sweeping changes: ‘Our team needed a spark’

Canucks captain Bo Horvat discusses what message new head coach Bruce Boudreau had for the team, saying he brought a positive energy to practice, and is excited that his track record suggests he'll play his top players a ton.

Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat said the changes the team made to the leadership group Sunday were difficult to see, but were also necessary to help get them back on track.

“It’s never easy to see people like that go,” Horvat said Monday of the franchise’s front-office and coaching shakeup that took place over the weekend. “I’ve been working with [former head coach Travis Green] and [former assistant Nolan Baumgartner] and Jim [Benning] since, basically, I got here. It’s never easy, this part of the business, for sure.”

Horvat, drafted one year prior to Benning’s hiring, has played his entire NHL career so far under the Benning regime. He’s enjoyed his most productive seasons under Green’s guidance, and was named captain by the newly-departed leadership group in 2019.

The Canucks fired Green, Benning, Baumgartner, and assistant GM John Weisbrod Sunday, bringing in new head coach Bruce Boudreau along with an interim management team in an attempt to right the ship in Vancouver following a dismal start to the season that sees them sitting in last place in the Pacific Division coming out of the weekend.

“Our team needed a spark, and Bruce coming in and having positive energy and wanting us to do well and believing in our group, I think it brings us new life, but at the same time we have to go over there and prove it now,” said Horvat, post-practice. “It’s up to us. It’s always been up to us. We’ve all got to be accountable in there and go out there and prove it.”

Horvat said he spoke individually with Boudreau earlier Monday — Boudreau’s first time skating with the team — and said the new bench boss has “a lot of positive energy” and “he wants to get the best out of his players.”

Over the course of his three head-coaching stops in Washington, Anaheim, and Minnesota, Boudreau has built a reputation for being able to bring a boost of energy into a lineup and incite immediate change within a team’s identity by leaning heavily on his best players and pushing younger skaters to reach career-highs with a fast-paced playing style.

“I’m excited about the way he wants us to play — obviously a fast game that is aggressive within our structure — and I think that’s gonna be good for our group,” said Horvat. “It’s gonna be good for our young guys to get skating and all of us to get skating and using our speed to our advantage and our aggressiveness.”

They don’t have much time to prepare — the 2021-22 Canucks: Part Two begins Monday night when the 8-15-2 club hosts the Los Angeles Kings.

With Boudreau’s hiring comes a new identity. With front-office changes comes, potentially, a roster shakeup too. But Horvat made it clear Monday that he believes in the current Canucks roster and also expressed his personal commitment to the club.

“We do have the core pieces here that we need to be a successful hockey team. I really believe in our group, I believe in our core players, I believe in our young guys, and I want to win here. I want to be a Canuck, I want to win here as a Canuck, and I really believe in our group. Just looking at management, they believe in us too,” he said. “It’s up to us now to go out there and prove what type of team we’re going to be, our identity, and what we’re establishing here going forward. It’s really important. It starts now.”

When asked to address the topic, Horvat said he doesn’t believe another rebuild should be in order.

“I don’t think anybody wants to rebuild here,” he said. “I think we have the core pieces, I think we have the young guys to take the next step. We have a foundation here — it’s just a matter of us going out there and doing it. All of us holding each other accountable, holding a higher standard, I think is the best way to put it, in our room where we know what type of team we have — we just have to go out there and do it now. There’s no excuses.”

Like Horvat, Canucks forward Tanner Pearson also preached accountability among the players during his media availability on Monday.

“I think every guy in that room is ready to get going … we need to,” Pearson said. “Accountability has to be the key thing right now.”

Pearson praised the way Green led the team, telling reporters he doesn’t believe this was a case of the Canucks players tuning out their former coach’s message.

“He’s doing his job trying to get us ready,” he said, “and we’re on the ice trying to get the job done — so it can fall on us, too.”

Of the players to speak Monday, defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson had the least amount of experience playing under Green’s leadership. Still, he had positive parting words for his now-former Canucks coach.

“I’ve only been here a short period of time. I thought Travis had been treating me very good and his whole team there, I think he had been doing a really good job,” he said, while also acknowledging that the season was not going the way anyone had hoped. He also described a positive first impression of Boudreau.

“Bottom line, it’s gonna be us players in that room looking to get out of this and find a way to get better,” he said.

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