By: Brayden Fengler / October 12, 2022
The Canucks begin their 2022-23 campaign tonight against the Edmonton Oilers, one of the only two teams kind enough to allow the Canucks to walk away with a victory in the pre-season. If Vancouver’s pre-season record of 2-6 is any indication of how the Canucks will perform in their first run of regular season games, then the bar hasn’t been set too high for the team.
However, the pre-season is the pre-season for a reason. Teams aren’t made whole yet, largely being composed of prospects and rookies, rather than veterans and regular skaters.
This is a fact that Canucks management and seasoned fans are no doubt aware of, but given the Canucks tragically poor performance during most of their pre-season games, it’s worth reminding oneself of this reality before looking ahead to the regular season.
At this time of year, with so much left unwritten, one can only hope that the Canucks will have a better start to their season than they did last October. If Bruce is still behind the bench by December 6th then at the very least that mission will have been accomplished. Beyond that lofty milestone, here are a few other things that I hope the Canucks are able to demonstrate in their first few months of the 2022-23 season.
Someone call an ambulance! In typical Canucks fashion, it didn’t take long after training camp began for a few prominent names to make their way onto the injury/illness report. Brock Boeser, Ilya Mikheyev, Tyler Myers, Conor Garland, and Quinn Hughes are among the heavy hitters that have already found themselves missing time this fall.
Boeser had the most prominent injury this pre-season. He has been dealing with a hand injury that was initially thought to keep him out of the Canucks starting lineup for a few weeks. However, Boeser has been in a non-contact jersey for a few practices and as Bruce Boudreau informed the media over the long weekend, he looks to be recovering ahead of schedule and is projected to start the season opener on Miller’s wing.
The same can not be said about Ilya Mikheyev, who will remain on IR after sustaining a knee injury during the first game of the pre-season. Mikheyev’s timeline for return is not extensive, but there’s no telling how quickly the former Leaf will be effective for the Canucks once he returns, having missed the runway that is the pre-season.
Most recently, Canucks all-star defenceman Quinn Hughes has reportedly been dealing with a non-COVID illness that has kept him out of the last couple practices. Although he is listed on the opening day roster, only time will tell if he will be missing any games to start the regular season.
Tyler Myers will join Mikheyev on the IR to start the season, due to a lower body injury that he’s sustained. The latest on Myers is that he might not be back until the end of the month. His absence isn’t a huge loss in the points category for the Canucks – unlike Quinn’s or Brock’s – but Myers no doubt has his own unique presence on the blueline that is important to the Canucks’ system.
Rounding off this section of the article with some silver linings. After suffering an injury that had him day-to-day, Conor Garland is scheduled to be on the Canucks’ opening day roster. Additionally, other injuries like Travis Dermott and Phillip Di Giuseppe are less consequential to the overall backbone of this Canucks team.
On the whole, the Canucks are largely healthy for a team that has already seen a fair amount of injury and illness before the first real puck drop of the season. It would be great for the organization if the team can avoid further speed bumps and give the fans a good look at the proper Rutherford/Allvin version of this team, without having key injuries clouding their vision.
Hit the Ground Running
Last year, Conor Garland seemed to be the only Canuck who didn’t benefit from the Boudreau bump. Garland’s record before Bruce took over last year largely outshined his record under Bruce later in the season. Despite the team’s poor performance under former coach Travis Green, Garland was among the top three producers, touting a .73 points per game average. Looking at that same stat from December of last year onwards, Garland’s production dipped to a .65 P/GP.
For a player that has a work ethic like Garland, you always want to see them succeed. It can be hard to watch a player like that fall short. It’s one thing to be underperforming and still have another gear to shift into, but it seems that Garland is always giving 110%, leaving it all on the ice. When it’s not clicking for a guy like that, it can be disheartening for the player and fans alike.
I truly hope that Garland can have a strong start to the year. Although he is not as essential to the scoresheet as some of his other teammates, he can be incredibly important to the team’s secondary scoring plan when playing at his full potential. Thankfully, Garland had a strong pre-season this year.
The other regular Canuck that I hope comes screaming out of the gate this season is Elias Pettersson. I write a piece along the lines of “Where is Petey” each year and, quite frankly, I’m sick of it. Sure, I could just not write those pieces, but it’s a story that’s popped up in some form for the past two years. I hope that this year Petey doesn’t even give this plotline a chance to develop.
When Pettersson is hot he’s hot but when he’s cold, well we’ve all seen it, it takes time for EP40 to heat back up again. It’s essential for the Canucks to have a strong start to the year so that Petey can come out of the gate like a bat out of hell.
Kuzmenko Fits In
Andrei Kuzmenko had his pick of the litter this off-season for where he wanted to play, so unlike a new draft pick that the team hopes will enjoy living and working in their city, Kuzmenko has already proven that he wants to be here. From what we’ve seen on and off the ice, that still seems to be true.
As was suspected, Kuzmenko seems to be jelling well with his Russian pal Vasily Podkolzin, and – based on what interactions we’ve seen through the media – it’s looking like he’s finding chemistry with players that aren’t native to Russia as well.
In terms of on-ice performance, Kuzmenko isn’t expected to be a 30+ goal scorer. Our bar isn’t and shouldn’t be anywhere near that, but 20 goals seems reasonable. Kuzmenko is key to this team’s chances of making the playoffs.
Much like Garland, he’s going to be more important than your average depth player. Kuzmenko needs to provide quality middle of the lineup minutes, strong secondary scoring, or an unexpected snipe when the opposing team under-matches their lines.
If Kuzmenko can have a strong start to his season that should only serve to further strengthen his desire to stay and play in Vancouver for years in the future.
Wins or Moral Victories
Last season was filled with more moral victories than actual wins, and although that seems like a crazy thing to wish for, it wouldn’t be the worst thing for this club. Compared to how the Canucks kicked off last season, if the games are close, morale is high, and everyone looking at this team has thoughts of tweaking and adjusting rather than imploding it, I will consider that a successful start to the season.
That sentiment won’t be around next year. However, after what the Canucks went through last year, I think it’s a fair thing to wish for. Personally, I think it’s an improvement if the Canucks have either W’s or good vibes to start the season. At some point that scale is going to need to tip more towards the W’s category, but right now, let’s just hope that morale stays high and – even if they’re losing – the margins stay slim.