Cards On The Table, The Canucks Should Go All In

By: Trent Leith / January 15, 2024  

One year ago, Brock Boeser had asked for a trade out of Vancouver, rumours swirled about whether Miller was going to be traded or not, and the Canucks were closer to winning the draft lottery than anything else.

But today, the Canucks are considered contenders, and many people see the Canucks as having a serious chance at a Stanley Cup. The Canucks had won 27 games at the halfway mark of the season, tieing a franchise record. The last time the Canucks reached that mark was their most successful season in franchise history, 2010-11. That was the year the Canucks won the Presidents trophy and went to the Stanley Cup Final.

It is no secret the Canucks have been a surprise. Most people had them as a bubble playoff team, to be in the wildcard hunt, and here they are, atop the standings. So are they for real? That is the big question in Vancouver. And it will continue to be until we see what they can do come playoff time, but until then, we have to wonder what will happen come trade deadline time.

Jim Rutherford and Patrick Allvin have a history of getting an early jump on the trade deadline. Even just last year, they traded Bo Horvat away and brought in Filip Hronek long before the trade deadline. There is a possibility that the top Canucks brass will make a move sooner rather than later.

Is It The Right Time?

That is the big question. Even Rutherford said for the Canucks to make the playoffs, everything needs to break right. Safe to say, everything and then some has broken right for the Canucks to date this season. But does that make them a contender, not just a team on a good run?

We won’t truly know until we see it, but we can forecast out. This season is particularly wide open, in almost every regard. If you look around the NHL, there are a lot of really good teams, but there isn’t a team you look at and think “It’s their Stanley Cup to lose”. Almost every team in the NHL has a major flaw, all but the Canucks seemingly.

The Colorado Avalanche are widely regarded as the best in the Central Division, and maybe even the entire Western Conference. But they don’t have great centre depth. The reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Las Vegas Golden Knights, can’t seem to get healthy goaltending. The Edmonton Oilers? Goaltending and consistency, and with those issues there is still a chance they miss the playoffs altogether. Toronto? Goaltending and defence. Tampa Bay? They are rapidly dropping off this season. The Canucks have a Vezina calibre goalie in Thatcher Demko, a Norris-level defender in Hughes, Boeser is in the Rocket Richard race and Pettersson is battling Hughes for MVP candidacy and their coaching is the favourite to win the Jack Adams. The path may never be easier for the Canucks, and the team may never be hotter.

A significant reason the Canucks are hot right now is that the depth for the Canucks has been incredible, especially the Garland, Bluegar, Joshua line. Unfortunately, both Bluegar and Joshua are pending UFAs both due significant raises due to their immaculate play this season.

Along with them, Sam Lafferty, Filip Hronek Tyler Myers, Nikita Zadorov, Ian Cole, Mark Friedman, and Casey DeSmith all are due for new contracts. And every single one of them has played above what was expected of them this year. All of that is not even the biggest problem facing the Canucks, as Elias Pettersson is due a massive raise as an RFA.

There is a chance, this team looks incredibly different next season due to not being able to keep all of these players together. This year each one of these players has been very important to the team’s overall success. The Canucks have found lightning in a bottle, their chances may never again be this good with the current core.

But What About the Future?

We as Canucks fans over the last 10+ years have had the idea of building towards the future drilled into our heads. “Don’t trade picks, use them, build with them“, “Don’t let a UFA walk, trade them for whatever you can”, and “Tank for a better pick“. These are all philosophies fans have subscribed to since The Twins retired. Management new and old hasn’t always shared the same mindset, but many fans have wanted an eye for the future to be the major focus in roster construction.

At a certain point, however, the future comes. It might be hard to see the forest through the trees when the team is winning, the players are red hot, and the path to the be-all-end-all is wide open. Old habits die hard. When I hear talk radio hosts talking about giving up a first and a prospect for Guentzel on an expiring contract, the hair on my neck stands up in fear. When I hear about giving up futures to upgrade at 2C for a couple of months, when Pettersson isn’t signed yet, I panic. But at a certain point, you have to change gears and realize, the future might finally be here.

The fact is, the future is here, and I need to change the way I look at the team, their assets, and what the goal should be for this season. The Canucks are having a President’s Trophy-level season, if that is not a sign that a team has taken a step into contention I don’t know what is. So will I love the Canucks trading futures for a rental? Probably not, I am a creature of habit after all. But the logical part of my brain tells me, “This makes sense, this is what teams at the top of the league do, you just don’t remember because the Canucks are never there” and I will have to stop stressing and enjoy the ride. Would I prefer a sign and trade vs. a pure rental? Probably. But that might not be an option, and if a rental can help bring a Cup to Vancouver for the first time, sign me up.

I’m tired of rooting for a losing team, let’s go all in, this team is special, and this team is good. This team could do it, and what better way to make sure Pettersson re-signs here than to engrave his name on the cup?