By: Trent Leith and Brayden Fengler / January 8, 2023
It was an interesting week for the Canucks. They certainly made the most of this past week, treating fans to two very different games with two very different outcomes.
If you missed either of the games this week or are just checking in to see if you missed any critical on or off-ice events from the Canucks, this is the place to be. Our Weekly Fares series will bring you right up to speed with your Vancouver Canucks, so you’re ready for the week ahead.
JT Miller – Defensive Specialist
The week started out with a JT Miller quote that had everyone scratching their heads: “The last couple weeks I’ve been playing really well at centre and I’d like to say my lack of production is a compliment to me not cheating the game and playing the right way.”
This seems to fly directly into the face of everything that Canucks fans have seen on the ice. The discourse over the past couple of weeks has included Miller’s short fuse. He was quick to snap at his goaltender and defenceman last week, and in the above quote, showed a seemingly oblivious level of self-awareness. He is a player who clearly holds those around him to the highest standard, but unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to be leading by example.
Jim Rutherford even had something to say on the matter, trying to put out some fires when we suggested, “It’s a work in progress.” Later, he said of moving to the centre, “But it’s hard to make that adjustment. It takes time and it could take a whole year.”
Rutherford stepped in to go to bat for Miller and it could be read a multitude of ways. It could be Rutherford doubling down on his $56M dollar player. Or maybe it’s Rutherford trying to control the narrative to make sure a market for the player still exists.
Either way, fans are calling for Miller to be everything from bought out, scratched, demoted, or traded based on his recent play. Miller surely must be seeing video of the same things Canucks are frustrated with. It seems bizarre that he would be proud of his production. Miller has a -13 +/-, which is the worst on the Canucks this season.
The Alexis Lafreniere Posiblity
Early Monday morning Rick Dhaliwal kept it short and sweet, and enticed Canucks fans with just a five-word tweet:
The 2020 first overall pick would certainly solve a problem for the Canucks, in that if they really are going to lose their captain and main defensive centreman, Bo Horvat, have committed to Miller long term with the idea of him being used as a centreman, then they will need a player like Lafreniere to permanently fill the hole on the left wing that Miller’s definitive switch to centre will leave.
Alexis is no Horvat, heck he’s even no Miller when it comes to point totals this year. Racking up just 17 in 37 games, compared to Bo’s 40 in 36 and Miller’s 30 in 36. But Lafreniere has size and speed and is perhaps just in need of a fresh start to get his elite abilities going again. He’s signed through the end of this season at a modest AAV of $3.7M.
If the Rangers are interested in Horvat, Lafreniere is the type of player that has immediate upside, but due to his performance in comparison to Horvat’s, the Canucks could easily demand more in return for their captain in this deal. The Canucks would also have to trade with the intention of signing the Canadian winger. This has the makings of a best-case scenario deal, as best case as you can get when you lose a player like Horvat.
Game 35: January 3rd Vs. The New York Islanders
Last week, Schenn became the NHL’s all-time hit leader, and on Tuesday he played his 900th NHL game. The start of the game was surprisingly uncharacteristic, with a dominant performance in the first 20 minutes. The Canucks had a 71.05% Corsi in the first period and controlled 60% of scoring chances. The Canucks would end the period up 1-0 thanks to a tip from Bo Horvat.
We have been tough on JT Miller at StadiumChinatown.ca lately, but it would be unfair not to mention his performance in the first period. His line with Sheldon Dries and Conor Garland had a 100% Corsi in the first two periods. They played a third-line role, but regardless, they lead the Canucks in shots for, all while not allowing any shots against.
The second period would be more like the Canucks we know and (tragically) love, giving up 3 goals. Thankfully the captain scored once again with assists from Miller and Hughes, bringing the Canucks to within one to end the period. The third carried on the trend, seeing the Canucks give up 3 more goals and leaving them wondering what happened as they left the ice and walked down the tunnel with another loss. This time with a final of 6-2.
The Canucks have this knack lately of playing a great stretch of hockey just to slowly cave as the game goes on and the Islanders have the ability to absolutely lock a game down with strong defensive play and relentless forecheck, preventing the Canucks from even breaking out of their own zone with possession.
Elias Pettersson Going to the All-Star Game
Elias Pettersson currently sits at the top of the Canucks’ leaderboard with 46 points this season, and just behind him is captain Bo Horvat, who is trailing Petey by three points. But where Bo really has EP40 beat is with his team-leading 28 goals, compared to Petey’s 17. Both should be shoe-ins for the All-Star game. Yet somehow only Pettersson was announced to be attending for the Canucks this week.
This inclusion in the 2023 All-Star game is well-deserved for Pettersson, but Bo Horvat is currently 4th in the league in goals… How on earth does he not make the cut for the All-Star game? Horvat can still be voted in by fans, but the fact that he needs to be is absurd. Regardless of his future in Vancouver, he is an All-Star.
Dylan Guenther Wins It For Canada
This is the one piece of news probably the least deserving of a recap this week, as every Canadian interested in hockey was no doubt watching the World Juniors gold medal game unfold. In case you missed it, Canada kept it exciting and took a 2-2 sixty-minute contest with Czechia into overtime. Of course, not too long after overtime began, Canada was gifted a two-on-one opportunity. An opportunity that resulted in Dylan Guenther scoring the golden goal.
This is notable from a Canadian aspect (Woohoo! Gold!), but it is also notable from a Canucks aspect because Guenther, currently an Arizona Coyote, was drafted by the Yotes using the pick that they acquired from Vancouver in the trade for OEL and Garland. Now, this isn’t to pump the tires on Guenther and say that the Canucks really dropped the bag on the OEL trade specifically because they didn’t get to draft him. It’s just another neat example of how someone else’s good fortune can trace back to a Vancouver misfortune.
Game 36: January 5th Vs. The Colorado Avalanche
Mysteriously, pre-game a banner was flown around downtown Vancouver that read #FreeTheSkate and no one seemed to know who paid for and organized it. There was speculation that it was a marketing ploy for the team, and the Canucks would come out wearing their retro Flying Skate jersey get-up. But Alas, right out of the gate, the Canucks disappointed everyone, and they hadn’t even dropped the puck yet.
As the Canucks skated out in their lame blue and green get-up, they faced off against the struggling (subjective) Avs. In the first period, the Canucks led the way in shots, but the Avs hit the score sheet first. JT Miller was designated back onto Elias Pettersson’s wing and seemed to work well. While that line was on the ice, shots were 6-1 in favour of the Canucks at five-on-five and they had a 66.67% Corsi. Weird, Miller seems to perform strongly on the wing.
The beginning of the second period looked like it was going to be a rough one for the Canucks, but in the second half of the period, the Canucks turned it on. It started with two goals from Kuzmenko in short succession to tie the game at 2. Moments later, Boeser put one past Georgiev for his seventh of the season which clearly frustrated Georgiev. After scoring three goals in less than 2:30, the Canucks would end the period up 3-2.
The third period would a be high-event, low-scoring finish to the game. The only goal scored would be a JT Miller empty netter set up by Elias Pettersson in the final two minutes. The Canucks inched their way closer to the playoffs with a 4-2 win over the Avs, outshooting them 43-31. Through and through, it was a very strong performance top to bottom from the Canucks.