By: Brayden Fengler / February 25, 2023
Orange and blue just aren’t a good look for some people, and Canucks fans would likely say that Bo Horvat is one of those people. It’s been nearly a month since former Canucks captain Bo Horvat was traded to the New York Islanders, and for many die-hard Canucks fans, Horvat’s absence on the Canucks bench is still painful night in and night out.
It likely will be for a while, as Horvat wasn’t just a character player, he was a character person. Good people are not so easily forgotten in life, whether in personal relationships or as leaders of beloved franchises.
Bo left some pretty big shoes to fill, as during his time as a Canuck this year he scored 31 goals, averaging 1.10 points per night, and dominated on special teams.
The Canucks didn’t trade Bo to be better right now, so it’s reasonable to assume that no one Canucks player has yet to fill Bo’s shoes completely right away, but there have been some, that in their own way have been excelling as Canucks in the shadow of Bo Horvat’s departure. What do these players say about the future of the team, and what do they say about their own value?
Not Over It
This article will touch briefly on stand-out players that have excelled during the small sample size of games that the Canucks have played since their former captain left the team. However, it’s important to stress, that it’s been just that, a small sample size.
Although performances from some players may allude to promising performances in the months and years to come, it’s far too early to see the complete picture of how Bo leaving has affected this team, and it’s also far too early for this city to be emotionally passed his leaving.
Sports acquisitions, moves, and trades do not usually phase me much, emotionally speaking. It’s easy to get wrapped up in a player’s personal journey, or an overall compelling human interest storyline, but I recognize that this is all just business.
With that said, I am not over Bo Horvat’s departure as a Vancouver Canuck. I feel like I should be, but emotionally as a person who follows this team, and someone who like many fans, recognized the good in Bo Horvat the person and the player, it’s hard to look past the business of it all. Bo Horvat said himself that there was a time over the summer when he was confident that he was going to be a Canuck for life.
Even now, when he’s no longer a Canuck, and may very likely never be again, it does not feel like this is a truth that can be so easily accepted.
Maybe, I and all the other hung-up Canucks fans should have come to terms with Bo’s trade weeks ago, but it still feels impossible to shake the feeling that we’re living in some sort of alternate timeline where the world was robbed of Bo Horvat’s glory years as a Canuck.
Who’s Moving up the Depth Charts
Even though Bo Horvat hasn’t worn a Canucks jersey since January, he still sits tied for second on the Canucks this season in points, tied with J.T. Miller and Quinn Hughes.
Needless to say, the remaining players have big shoes to fill this season and beyond. Unsurprisingly, Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, J.T. Miller, and Andrei Kuzmenko have remained atop the Canucks leaderboards before and after Horvat’s time with the Canucks this season.
There have been a few players that have improved their stock since Bo left the club. Conor Garland has gone from .5 points per night to .78 points per night since January 31st. He has seemingly thrived under new coach Rick Tocchet, and whether his production will serve to win him staying power with the new coach and the GM, at the very least he’s increasing his trade value. This is good for the club, as Garland is trade bait ahead of this year’s deadline.
Brock Boeser’s deployment has increased over a minute on an average night overnight since Bo’s departure, yet his performance has remained virtually the same as before Bo left. This is a little unfortunate as like Garland, Brock is a potential trade target ahead of this year’s deadline.
Patrik Alvin would’ve likely hoped to see trade bait like Brock showcase increased production after being given more ice time. Boeser has earned seven points in nine games, which isn’t terrible, but the fire in Boeser’s game just doesn’t seem to be there.
In watching Boeser’s play he doesn’t seem to have much intensity, he’s often looking for passing opportunities rather than making skillful plays on his own accord. He’s not invisible out there, but when pieces as big as Horvat leave the puzzle, you would hope to see players like Brock hungry to replace that production.
Thankfully one of the new Canucks obtained in the Horvat deal, Anthoney Beauvillier, is excelling in Vancouver so far. Beauvillier, 25 years old, is a few years younger than Bo, and although he’s a winger and not a centre like bo, he is currently producing like a top-line player should. In nine games played for Vancouver so far, he’s produced an even spread of four goals and four assists.
It doesn’t hurt that he’s been spending most of his minutes with Pettersson and Kuzmenko, however, it’s easy to be an anchor to good players, but it’s harder to do what Beauvillier is doing and excel if you’re not a good player yourself. Beauvillier, to this point, during a horrible Canucks season, is at least already proving to have potential beyond this season.
It’s easy to feel hopeless right now as a Canucks fan, heck when is it hard? But despite the pull towards the dark, there is a chance that Bo’s absence has allowed the spotlight to shine on a few other Canucks players ahead of the deadline, which may earn the team a better hand to play at this year’s deadline.
Or perhaps this team falls apart, even more, which would grant them a high-value draft pick that they otherwise wouldn’t have gotten if they kept Bo.
Regardless, Bo is no longer in Vancouver, he’s signed in New York, for what may very well be the rest of his career. Bo Horvat’s Canucks are gone, but hopefully, by the end of this year, we’ll have a better idea of who these new Canucks are going to end up being.