By: Trent Leith / April 16, 2022
With the Canucks’ season all but mathematically dead in the water, the Canucks still somehow continue to give flickers of hope to their fans as they continue to collect wins. But despite those wins, a playoff berth is still very unlikely. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t reasons to watch the games ahead, especially as the Canucks immediate future beyond this season is still very uncertain. This last handful of games is likely the last time you will see the players you know and love all playing together.
With that in mind, here are the top-three things unrelated to the playoffs, that Canucks fans should be watching for before the end of the season.
A Brock Boeser Come Back
Boeser’s future with the Canucks is, like many other players, uncertain. Boeser is due a large payday as an RFA, with a qualifying offer of $7.5M, leaving plenty of room for speculation on if the new Canucks management team will be comfortable with that. Will the new regime want to pay him, trade him, or be able to negotiate a contract that is more team-friendly?
Boeser was recently caught in the crossfire of a famously lethal Elias Pettersson hit. Pettersson had lined up to hit Ben Hutton of the Vegas Golden Knights when Brock Boeser’s arm got caught up in the impact. Boeser would leave and later return to the game but he hasn’t played in another contest since.
On Wednesday it was reported by Irfaan Gaffar that Boeser met virtually with a specialist and learned that his injury does not require surgery. This is good news for both Boeser’s potential trade value, and his value to this team moving forward should he stay in Vancouver. Gaffar also reports that Boeser may not be done for the season, as Boeser is hoping to get into game action before the curtains close on the Canucks 2021-22 campaign.
This is something to watch for, for the health of a fan favourite in Vancouver, but also for future considerations involving Boeser. If Boeser’s injury becomes worse than it seems to currently be based on Gaffar’s reporting, he would be a player that is harder to sell at full value. Boeser has a history of injury in the NHL and is already coming off of a down year while being owed a pay raise.
Those who work closely with, or follow as fans are concerned about Boeser’s qualifying offer, but you would have to assume that other GMs around the NHL are having similar concerns about the player. The best-case scenario for everyone involved would be for Boeser to return to game action and get right back up to game speed without missing a step. Only time will tell if that ends up happening.
Get The Kids Some Time
There are two specific players currently in the AHL playing for the Abbotsford Canucks that should get some time in the NHL before the season’s end. It’s hard for coaches to justify making call-ups and using unproven players in games that still have such large implications of making the postseason, despite how minimal the chances seem to be. That said, the Canucks need to find some time for both Jack Rathbone and Spencer Martin.
Jack Rathbone was with the Canucks to start the season, but after an underwhelming 9 games with no goals or assists and a minus-five on-ice goal differential, he was sent to Abbotsford to further develop his game. Unfortunately for Jack, between COVID-19 and injuries, he has only played 32 games this year, but in those games, he has 35 points. Rathbone has found his stride once again in Abbotsford and it’s time to give him a chance to try and prove himself in NHL games before next season. It would be a good chance for him to be able to show what he is capable of to Jim Rutherford, Patrik Allvin and Bruce Boudreau, none of which have seen him at the NHL level.
Getting a chance to see the most important Canucks defence prospect play in the NHL would help the new bosses get a feel for what they have in the player, and that information would be vital moving into summer when the team is likely to change a lot in their on-ice personnel.
Spencer Martin is another player that should get a handful of starts for the Vancouver Canucks. Spencer Martin played three games for the Canucks earlier this season. After Martin’s impressive performance in his emergency call-up, he was signed to a two-year, one-way deal effectively making him the Canuck’s backup next season.
While his deal is very low risk as far as cap hit and term go, coming in at $762,500 for two years, there is risk involved in Martin having only played three games prior to the Canucks putting all their eggs in this basket.
If Martin plays as he did in that short stint, the Canucks will be just fine, in fact, great with this new deal in place. But if Martin was riding an unusual hot streak and isn’t capable of playing up to that standard, or something close to it for many more games at the NHL level, then the Canucks may be in hot water and have to struggle to find a replacement backup goaltender, yet again.
Getting Spencer Martin some games before the end of the season would give leadership a second sample of how Martin may perform prior to the season starting in October, and should it be needed, the Canucks would have the entire summer to find a suitable replacement backup goaltender as insurance.
Conor Garland Finding His Game
Conor Garland has had less than one season with the Canucks after the trade in the summer pulled him away from the Arizona Coyotes, so far though his season has left many wanting more.
“I just haven’t felt like myself all year. I haven’t played a game from start to finish where I felt like myself. I think about last year where you just play — my coach in the American League used to say “When you play with a clear head you play well” and I haven’t been able to play like that all year. I don’t know why but it just has happened.” Garland told the Athletic in a great deep-dive into Garland’s first season. You should really read that article next.
Garland has been the basis of a lot of trade rumours in Vancouver since the coaching and management changes were made. It was around that time that his performance dropped off. We here at StadiumChinatown.ca agree that Garland is a player that should be held onto by the Canucks, but fortunately for everyone that has seen how I perform in fantasy hockey, thankfully we don’t call the shots, and Garland may not fit the mould that Allvin envisions for this team.
Much like Boeser, it’s important for Garland to increase his worth to this team, to prove he is worthy of having on your NHL team. If he doesn’t convince the Canucks brass of so, he needs to play well enough that he can convince other GMs around the league to make him an asset that the Canucks can trade.
“I’m very confident that I’m going to have a great year but I’m more confident that I can finish the season well. These are big games, that’s really where my only focus is on is winning these games.” he went on to tell the Athletic.
Garland knows he isn’t playing to his potential, and it’s something he needs to show that he can do down the stretch.
The playoffs for the Canucks, like your favourite breakfast cereal as a child on top of the fridge, are probably just out of reach. But that is far from a good reason to stop watching the games. During the final stretch of a season teams often look much different, try new things out and effectively get a head start on the next season, and that should be reason enough to tune in every night you can.