By: Brayden Fengler / December 23, 2022
Depending on how dialed in you are as a Canucks fan at this stage of their 2022-23 season, this very title could bring about a myriad of different emotions. If you’ve already checked out after the team’s troublesome start to the year, perhaps you’re reading the title of this article and wondering if the team has actually turned it around.
However, if you’ve stuck with the Canucks game in and game out so far this season, then the very idea that there could be anything to look forward to in 2023 may sound humorous to you.
No matter your reaction to the title of this article, I’m here to tell you that there are in fact at least a few things to look forward to from the Canucks in the New Year. None of them are the Stanley Cup, but hey, there are a some items that should give Canucks fans hope as we flip the calendar to January.
It’s hard to believe that Thatcher Demko left the line-up with an injury only just this month. Even though Demko wasn’t playing at his highest level prior to his injury, the absence of the regular Canucks starter has been extremely noticeable.
As even the faintest possibility that the Canucks could be bailed out by a superhuman goaltending performance has just not been in the cards since Thatcher has been out.
Unfortunately though, with the 15 games that Demko has tended the pipes for this year, he’s earned himself only three wins, an average of 3.93 goals against per game and a shocking .883 save percentage. It’s been said time and time again that Demko is one of, if not the best players on the Canucks, and when he isn’t playing like he was for most of last season, saving and covering up his teammate’s mistakes, the club’s true colours shine through.
With Demko out those colours have been shining brighter by the day. But In a way, this has ultimately been a good thing, as it’s allowed for the facade of the Canucks’ short-term improvement last year to melt away, and more clearly reveal the areas in which this team is lacking.
For Demko though, perhaps the only good thing about getting injured when he did, is that when he left, he left with a poor record that now gets wiped clean so to speak. The start of the season will be distant and Thatcher will have the ability to rewrite his 2022-23 season story.
Even if Demko comes back and makes Canucks games fun to watch again, and helps them grind out a few otherwise underserved wins, it won’t put the cat back in the bag in terms of how un-ready this team is to contend in the league, and as sad as that is, it’s a good thing.
A Resolution to the Horvat Situation
Look anything is possible, J.T. Miller remained unsigned with seemingly minimal communication between his camp and the Canucks for most of last season and then his deal came together in a matter of days. So there is a chance that Bo Horvat and the Canucks can find some common ground further into the season, as we inch closer to the trade deadline.
The way Miller’s contract was handled is both a comparable and a part of the reason why the Canucks can not so quickly offer up a price that Horvat’s camp is happy with. In contrast to the statement made by Horvat and his Camp, Miller’s representatives never put out such a statement with so much written between the lines.
The Miller situation seemed important but in the background for most of last year. This year it seems that Bo and the Canucks have reached a significant impasse much sooner than was the case with Miller.
The statement from Horvat’s camp reads like a parent trying to convince their pre-teen child just to play along that Santa is real for a little longer. Because if we all stop pretending and come to terms with the reality of the situation at this time of year, it’s going to be very upsetting for a number of people.
No matter how the Bo Horvat situation wraps up, it will be good to see a resolution and you have to think we’ll see one before the March trade deadline. This team can simply not lose Bo for nothing in free agency. Realistically we are 3-4 months away from having this Horvat situation fully behind us, it’s just a hard pill to swallow when the writing seems to be on the wall already.
Allvin & Rutherford’s Trade Deadline
Last year when Allvin and Rutherfords’ first trade deadline rolled around they were still very much in sit-back and assess mode. In March of 2022, they had barely started managing the team and under new coach Bruce Boudreau, although they were a poor Canucks team on paper, they were playing well and perhaps giving Allvin some pause for how to approach the deadline.
However now this is very much Allvin and Rutherford’s team. They’ve made their bed with the Miller deal, acquiring players like Ilya Mikheyev and Andrei Kuzmenko, and they’ve shelved Benning prospects like Vasily Podkolzin and Nils Höglander down in the minors for more development.
For good or for ill, the version of the Canucks that will hit this trade deadline is very much the version that Rutherford and Allvin are responsible for. They should have a much better idea of what they want to do and the moves they want to make. An acceptable Bo Horvat deal goes without question as mentioned above.
Darren Dreger reported That the Canucks would be looking for “a young NHL centre” and a “young right-shot defenceman”. The Canucks couldn’t sharpen up their defence with a Miller deal, so perhaps one silver lining in losing Horvat would be that in the haul for him, the Canucks could finally fix their issues on the blue line.
Based on Dreger’s reporting it seems clear that Allvin is not looking to blow this team up completely, they want an “NHL” d-man, an “NHL” centre. They want players who are plug-and-play within this current version of the team. If the Canucks do make more moves this trade deadline, it would stand to reason, that the asking price, would be for similar “ready to go” pieces.
Brock Boeser is another always-rumoured, well-performing player that could help get the Canucks the kind of return that they seem to be looking for this year. Being that it was reported that the Canucks currently see Elias Pettersson as their one untouchable and you gotta think Demko and Hughes would be next on that list. The Canucks are already tied to Miller, and already planning to lose their Captain, so what other good pieces do they have left to trade?
Boeser, Boeser is the answer. He’s playing well enough this year with 16 points in 23 games, and at this point, I can’t personally handle another year of will they won’t they with a Boeser trade.
If the city is going to lose its captain, in the name of getting better, Allvin and Rutherford may as well rip off the bandage, and fill their cupboards a bit more by trading a player like Boeser along with Horvat in one fell swoop.
That doesn’t mean that they need to be traded together, but it does mean that this club should consider doing their tidy bits of business, as tidy and as close together as possible. it’s the slow drip of maybe losing Bo, maybe not, among other uncertainties that are slowly eating away at the remaining goodwill that the fans have for this new management.
We just saw Lane Pederson put on the Orca instead of Johnny Canuck recently and even score his first goal as a Canuck. Whether that continues into the new season or not, it’s been good to see the 25-year-old who has been performing well in Abbotsford, get a chance to mesh with top talent in Vancouver. Depending on how the next 3-4 months go for the Canucks, in terms of personnel changes, a player like Lane could be an important part of the Canucks’ short term future.
One immediate plus to the Canucks clearing house to whatever degree that they end up doing, is that it will give the AHL squad members some otherwise unobtainable chances to make the NHL team. Players like Höglander and Podkolzin may get a chance to claw back into the main club, or at the very least, they should be playing as though they are hungry for that possibility.
Yes, the Canucks have been playing at a level for the past… number of years, that should have allowed their farm team players plenty of chances to break into the big leagues. But even still once the Canucks formally make the choice to step back and sell a few pieces to “retool” (or whatever the hell you want to call it). There will be a hopefully brief but valuable opportunity for Vancouver to ice some unorthodox lineups with lesser-skated players, to see what interesting things may come out of the pieces that the club already has in storage.
New Year, New Caucks
You know what they say, new year, new me. Let’s hope the Canucks say that with some conviction in a week’s time. Because if there is any team in the league that could use a symbolic clean slate at this stage of the season, it is without a doubt, the Vancouver Canucks.