Some say Christmas or New Years is the best time of the year, because of the anticipation of what is to come. But for Canucks fans, the week leading up to the start of another new season is the most hopeful time of the year. The memories of past failures get hazier and the feeling of hope for the future keeps pushing logic to the side. The Canucks have some really good players and some players with potential, and then quite a few players that have significant gaps in their play.
Besides the obvious question of, “Can the Canucks get into the playoffs?”, maybe the bigger question is, “Does Petey want to stick around Vancouver long term?”
I think the answer to the first question is a no. The gaps of this team can be hidden some nights because of the great play of Petey, Demko, Hughes and Miller, but an 82-game season gives plenty of opportunity to show that the backend still has gaps and secondary scoring is weak. Taco is going to bring structure to this team, but that structure won’t be able to fix everything.
I don’t have a clear answer to the second question. If I had to place money on an outcome today, I would say that Petey would sign a 1-year contract and take his chances as an UFA. Of course, that means the Canucks have a couple options. If this team is in playoff position by the deadline, then the team has to hold on to him and throw all the money they can at him in the offseason and hope he wants to win in Vancouver. Now, if the Canucks suck, they should consider trading him. To be serious for a moment, they should be considering trading him now….or at least think about what kind of pieces they could get for him. Not an easy task. I might not be popular for saying the Canucks should trade him, but Petey has openly said he wants to be in the playoffs and win Cups. His words this offseason show that his attitude has not changed. He is driven to get to the next level. So if the Canucks are terrible before the deadline again, it might be the time to trade Petey….or maybe before the draft. Some would say that trading him would be terrible for this franchise…and it would, but if you have a player that wants out and has the talent Petey does, make sure you get as much as you can to move this team forward over the next 3 or 4 years.
I think this team will play a better..boring brand of hockey under Taco this year, but I do think that they will struggle to keep up with the better teams in the division. And as I pointed out in an earlier blog post, the reason they struggle is that the Canucks need to find a way to beat Eastern teams, to get that extra 10-12 points that they were missing last year. I want the playoffs…I am just not sure this team has changed enough to get there.
Besides some of the predictions I made in this post, there are some other things that are going to have to occur for the Canucks to have a successful year.
I wonder if my peers see the world the same…
jimmi doesn't see the whole world... only a small dark part...
While I agree with Westy's happy time optimism, BC Ferries and NHL cabal will quell the optimism soon enough.
I worry about the Nucks tuning out the boring Taco tactical map-making by early January. Maybe they win enough games early against the West and the East (please, please) so they can revert to bad habits for a 20 game stint, then push like crazy and miss the playoffs by only a few points.
I also worry about secondary and thirdary scoring. To be fair, I don't really worry about it. I accept the Nucks are a 1.5-2 line and 88 points Capt'n Quinn team with a few bonus bounces. That and strong special teams can certainly get the Nucks within a handful of points of making the playoffs.
What I do worry about is the lack of team speed - because Speedy Nights and SeaRabbits. The Nucks are not a fast skating team. As much as I enjoy watching Huggie sneaky skate up the ice and score, I also would enjoy our forwards skating fast and hard up ice and score. Maybe the addition of Lafferty and at some point, Mikheyev will get bring some speedups. And/or the Nucks really, deeply and truly, employ and maintain RikTok's lock on systematic low event smothering coverage. Maybe they will. And I'll happily take a sip out of the Cup of games in May/June.
My dim thoughts on Westy's Essential Top 5:
Beggsy - Early October should be a time of optimism for most hockey fans.
However, I think the lack of optimism from my NM comrades speaks truly on behalf of the fanbase.
10 years of mediocrity has taken a toll on this fanbase. Hell, the last time the Canucks hosted a home playoff game, I was in the early stages of a long-distance relationship. Now, I'm married with two kids.
Life moves fast...except if you're a fan of the Vancouver Canucks.
Look, there are things to like about this team. Elias Pettersson is one of the best players in the NHL. I firmly believe if the Canucks made the playoffs last season, Pettersson would have been a Hart Trophy nominee. He basically did what Matthew Tkachuk did for the Florida Panthers, with the only difference being that Tkachuk and the Panthers actually made the playoffs.
Unfortunately, it will likely take another MVP-like performance from the Vancouver Canucks in order to make the playoffs.
Westy and Jimmi are right about the Canucks likely playing a more boring style of hockey. That's fine, they need to. I still think there's enough skill to score at an above average rate.
The Achilles heel of this team is still the defence. Quinn Hughes has been left without a legit partner, unless he pairs up with Filip Hronek. Doing so however, leaves the rest of the defence in a state of flux.
And sorry Westy, it'll take a damn miracle for Tyler Myers to play at a 2nd pairing level.
The most important player on the Canucks this season isn't Pettersson or Hughes...it's Thatcher Demko. Vancouver needs Demko to play at a near Vezina level if this team wants to make the playoffs and go on a run.
And that's leads to the main issue with this team. If your recipe success is an MVP season from your best player, coupled with a Vezina-like performance from your starting goaltender, JUST to make the playoffs, then that says everything you need to know about this franchise.
Hey, it's sports, anything can happen. Maybe I'm just jaded by 10 years of losing.
Or maybe I'm just repeating the above paragraph to myself, because I want to believe in a winning team and cheer for a winning team, but I don't see that team on paper right now.
Anyways, the Canucks are squished into a second tier in the Pacific Division, alongside Calgary and Seattle. Based on those two teams, coupled with a weak Central Division, I don't see a reason why this team shouldn't have a good chance at getting a Wild Card spot.
Let's hope they can achieve that, because as Westy alluded to, Petey's future in Vancouver might depend on it.
“To be very to the point, the changes that we made, we have a playoff team if everything goes right,”
Hoo boy. That's not exactly a statement that inspires confidence, eh? The problem is, this may be the most honest thing Canucks management have said in the past decade. He's not wrong. The Canucks are easily better on defence than they've been in the last few seasons, but anything apart from standing pat with the back end they had was going to be an improvement. With new faces Carson Soucy (sadly already on the IR), Ian Cole and a healthy Filip Hronek, as well as smarter usage of Tyler Myers, the Canucks D have seemed to be jelling into something that isn't going to constantly be at risk of losing them games as we saw last season. Solid, more structured defensive play, that reduces the number of shots the goaltenders face on a nightly basis will go a long way towards their goal of returning to the postseason.
They've made some interesting changes to the bottom six, and with a healthy Thatcher Demko and a more reliable backup in Casey DeSmith, should have the goaltending that can give them a chance to win every night, and with Demko motivated to erase the memory of last season, they will be much better than the goaltending carousel we saw last season.
Up front, that's where the interesting questions are, for me at least.
First and foremost? Elias Pettersson. Heading into the final year of his contract, we should expect big things from him, especially coming off a season where he was on a tear for most of the season after getting off to a somewhat quiet start. He's been on a line with Anthony Beauvillier and another guy we'll be watching closely this season: Andrei Kuzmenko. After the Canucks shocked people by luring the talented sniper from the KHL last season, they were again shocked when he put up 39-35-74 in 81 games. Can he reproduce those numbers again this season? Well, on a line with Petey and first unit PP time he'll get the opportunity, but the 27.3% shooting percentage may be hard to pull off again, especially with him being a known entity now.
The second line is intriguing, with JT Miller needing a strong season to continue justifying that heavy contract, Brock Boeser finally being the player the Canucks believing he can be (and possibly getting traded if they fail to make the postseason) and their linemate, Philip Di Giuseppe. PDG has been a revelation so far, working his ass off to build on a solid showing after getting called up from Abbotsford last season. He'll have to be consistent to keep that spot, but he's full value for it, and gives that second line a little bit of grit along with the goal scoring pedigree you get from Miller and Boeser.