By: Brayden Fengler / February 17, 2021
The first time the Vancouver Canucks beat the Ottawa Senators this season, we were all able to witness the calming effect that one win can have in this market during a volatile time. That calming effect was definitely in action after Saturday’s win over the Calgary Flames, however, the fan base was all too soon pulled back into their tailspin, after Monday’s disappointing overtime loss. With all this push and pull the city is feeling, where can the organization and it’s fans look to, in the hopes of stability. The answer may lay with #6, Brock Boeser.
Canucks Continue to Search for Solid Ground
There was nearly a weight lifted off the shoulders of the hockey club this weekend. But as has been the case far too many times this season, an unfortunate loss struck the team, and the tides of rage, and calls for change have yet to fully subside. It’s a near certainty that those very tides will roll back in, if there aren’t signs of sustained progress with this team.
So what do the Canucks do? Well, in times like this, it’s helpful to reflect on the past, and compare previous struggles that were able to be overcome.
Even though Elias Pettersson has improved in recent games, he still hasn’t been the show stopper that Canuck’s fans know and love. Additionally J.T. Miller has been showcasing some really remarkably mismanaged plays during his time on ice as well. While these two aren’t the only problems the Canucks face right now, they are 2/3 of the most recognizable line on the team.
This collective drought of theirs is not sustainable for the Canucks as a whole. Now, with all that doom and gloom out there in the open, it’s important to remember that it wasn’t too long ago, when another member of the Lotto line, Brock Boeser, was struggling to have a productive season of his own.
Brock’s Rocky Road to Production
When looking at Canucks’ numbers this season, it’s clear the Boeser passes both the eye test and the paper test. As he sits one point behind a point per game pace, in addition to being the second highest points earner on the club, only behind Quinn Hughes. This of course was not the case in the previous season.
Brocks slumped last year, multiple times in the season. Not counting the four game pointless stretch before his rib injury, Boeser recorded two prior instances of five game pointless streaks earlier that season. In this time period Boeser was shuffled up and down the line, but failed to truly find a spot that put him on the board consistently.
Boeser obviously had a more concrete reason that can be pointed to for his slump. This in comparison to what members of the top line are going through right now. Brock’s back injury lingered with him last season, before he even faced new injury problems that year. Brock’s start and stop season mixed with the NHL’s start and stop season last year, definitely did not aid him in finally getting his lethal shot back, and living up to the hype from the season prior.
At a certain point though, a slump becomes mental, regardless of what brought it on. A player can be presented with every chance in the world to bust a slump, but in the end, it’s on them.
Pettersson, and Miller more so, don’t need a change of scenery and the same line shuffling that Boeser saw last year. Instead they just need time, these are elite players yes, but this is an extremely bizarre season, and we shouldn’t expect every player to adapt immediately to the changes it brings. We are already seeing improvements in Petey’s game, who’s to say Miller isn’t far behind?
Boeser Is the Example
Boeser played one game after returning from his injury last year, before the NHL season was cancelled, and in that game, he again went pointless. In the playoffs he earned 5 points in 17 games played, which still showed a continuation of his pre-injury performance. However, despite the continued irregularities that this current season has brought, Boeser has proven early, he is back to producing for this team.
The key takeaway here is that it was just time, nothing drastic changed for Boeser, that allowed him to click into gear. It was time and patience, and support from his team and coaches.
We know Pettersson definitely did not look like himself in his first few games. It wasn’t just the lack of production, it was the fumbles, the giveaways and the turnovers that you just don’t see from him normally. Now, thanks to his natural work ethic, and team support, he seems to be busting those bad habits.
The Miller of it All
It’s really J.T. Miller now who seems to be stuck in that no man’s land, which Canucks fans have trouble waiting on. It is However, understandable why there may be less patience around Miller, as there are more black and white examples of his poor performances.
The most glaring example of a miscalculation by Miller, was the 1 on 0 he gave to Austin Matthews during the Canucks lose to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Miller is not a defenceman, so should he have been responsible for Matthew? No, not really. But when you’re that out classed, it’s apparent that there could’ve been at least a little something more done there, in an attempt to stop the Leafs top player.
Monday’s loss to the Flames also had no shortage of flubs and cough ups by Miller. It simply can’t be, that the fourth line of this hockey club has better control of the game when they’re out there, than Miller does of the puck. However right now, that is the case.
What’s the Real Problem With the Canucks
On the February 8th episode of 31 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman mentioned that he spoke with an unnamed coach, who thinks something is going on in the Canucks dressing room. The anonymous coach reportedly stated that he believes the players “aren’t playing for themselves”. This conversation on 31 Thoughts, was prompted off the back of their J.T. Miller discussion.
This anonymous coach is right. There is now a deep routed problem with J.T. Miller specifically, or any of the Canucks as individuals. We are 19 games into a pandemic shortened season, with a team who witnessed massive changes due to free agency, and early season injury shuffles. The issue here is room chemistry. It’s a delicate thing to build, harder yet to fix, and each player deals with it on their own time.
Good things come, to Bo’s who wait
Change doesn’t happen overnight. The organization has done a great job at making it clear that the players, the GM and the coach are here to stay (for now). Now, it’s up to the guys on the ice to take that vote of confidence to the bank.
Once again, look to Brock Boeser, he struggled last season, but in the face of many challenges to his game, he eventually bounced back. We hope that it doesn’t take the Canucks the remainder of the season to iron out their issues. However, now that the leaders know that change likely won’t come until the off season. The players can hopefully stop looking over their shoulders and get to work building a solid group, without fear of separation. All of the struggling players will be better for it.