32 Teams In 31 Days NHL Team Recaps: Vancouver Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks are at a weird time in their team’s history. In more recent years, the way they drafted had them on the come up to finally peek out of the rebuild and look to move forward as a franchise. This iteration of the Canucks should be a realistic contender to earn a playoff berth. But brash moves from previous management tried to make a misshapen playoff team and ended up shooting the franchise in the foot. The decision to let Jim Benning go was way overdue, and with that decision, there is a new sense of confidence in Vancouver that is already well on the rise. So back to square one. But not entirely. Even with a weaker roster, the Canucks benefit from an excellent prospect pipeline and a great crop of young talent spearheaded by Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and Brock Boeser.

The new management group has inherited a team that looks like a preschooler’s first art project. A roster that’s not poor enough to rebuild, not good enough to contend, poorly positioned cap-wise. What makes it worse, is that it is built so that the majority of their non-essential cap commitments are difficult to move in the new flat cap marketplace. This leaves many to believe that this offseason played out in such a pedestrian fashion for the Canucks. In their first season in charge, the harsh realities of the flat cap made it prohibitive for Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford and general manager Patrik Allvin to shed salary, get younger, and upgrade their defense corps at the pace that the club had hoped for. Granted, they have been restrained given the condition of the team. But there is order so far, and they are building an impressive foundation, but have yet to put any significant stamp on the team.

So far the Canucks have bolstered their forward group with Ilya Mikheyev, Andrei Kuzmenko, and Curtis Lazar in hopes they can take the next step in their first full season under Bruce Boudreau. These moves don’t stir major confidence in the overall scheme of things for the fan base. But they gave to reserve judgment until they make a move that claims the team for their own. The fact that Rutherford, Allvin, and others were left with a dog’s breakfast by the previous management group, and still managed to make decent progress is a great step in the right direction.

The new players they added aren’t going to move the needle, but they look to add pieces that can support their core they are trying to develop. Especially keeping in mind the prospects they got in the draft and in years prior. We know the main guys on the Canucks. But the next wave featuring Nils Höglander, Vasily Podkolzin, and newcomer Jonathan Lekkerimaki are what’s next for making the Canucks the contender they want to be. So for now, the team has to focus on the group they currently have, and what they can do to make this roster work for the time being.

The Canucks went into the offseason hoping to upgrade a defense that leaned too heavily on Thatcher Demko last season. Yet they return for this upcoming season with relatively the same group. That may change during the season, but without any stark changes to the roster, the general manager group will look to work with their assets at hand. That makes it even more important for coach Boudreau to find the right mix among a forward group that is deeper and faster but doesn’t appear to fit together easily from top to bottom. In this position, it makes things challenging right now given the state of the hockey business. Outside of the young stars they wish to build around, the Canucks don’t have too many key assets that teams are looking to give good returns for. Bo Horvat and JT Miller are both excellent players that are guys that help your team win now but deciding on whether to keep them or get a return on their investments raises some major questions. Keep the two in hopes of major change within the next year or two, or ship them off to take the long road to making a championship team again.

The Canucks are going to have to make a lot of tough decisions. How they navigate this team will be different and difficult for the new front office group and the fans. Jim Benning was known league-wide for how much he screwed himself and the Canucks. But they finally got rid of their boogeyman. A new beginning and a fresh start. Time for them to rise from the ashes like a Phoenix. But it will take some time. A couple of years back we saw the potential of this team and how well they could perform given the right assets around their core. Now they have to start almost from scratch to improve it. Hopefully, everyone is invested because a few more seasons of the right rebuilding might pay off faster than people think. And then the Canucks will be a real shock in the Pacific Division. A team with Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes at the helm is scary. Add three more lethal weapons and call me terrified. I have hope for the Canucks to get better. But for now, it’s going to be slow and steady if they want to make things right and if they wish to change their past narratives for their success in the future.


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