By: Brayden Fengler / September 4, 2021
The Vancouver Canucks will make the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs. Bookmark this, screencap it, physically print off a copy of this article and save it for playoff time, I’ve got a take coming in hot.
This article may age poorly, and knowing Canuck luck the odds of that are high, but it’s that time of year again where hope starts creeping in. The sands of time have made the pains of this team’s past performances turn into just a faded memory.
On paper, this new Canucks team is a contender, and unlike previous years you don’t have to squint to see it. If Jim Benning’s prophesied intangibles actually click for this group, with their newly added depth and further developed current players and prospects, we will all be in for a treat come playoff time.
New Players, Who Dis?
From top to bottom this team is brand new, well okay maybe not brand new, maybe they’re more like a flipped house. The house has been gutted and has had 12 million dollars of junk removed from the premises. The foundational pieces are still there, but this team has seen more than just a fresh coat of paint during this off-season.
In two of our most recent pieces, we have projected out what we believe to be the most likely line combinations for both the Canucks offence and defence come October. For a more in-depth look at every line and player added, make sure to give those a read.
The main takeaway from this off-season is that this team now has offensive depth in a way that they haven’t seen in many years. Bo Horvat will no longer need to be on the shutdown line, opening up a more offensive side of his game that he hasn’t had the liberty to explore. This is thanks to the addition of Jason Dickinson who will slot nicely into the third centre role.
Dickinson’s addition also frees up J.T. Miller to reunite with the lotto line. Although Miller may personally even prefer centre, and we here at StadiumChinatown.ca have spoken positively about that role for him in the past, the reality is that the best use of Miller is on the wing.
In 2019-20 Miller earned 72 points in 69 games played, whereas last season when he was slotted into a centre role, he earned only 46 points in 53 games. He went from a point per game player on the wing, to significantly under that while at centre ice.
The addition of Connor Garland also further boosts the offensive power of the second line, and not to mention a second-year Nils Höglander will likely be on that line as well. The skill and production disparity between the clubs first and second line hasn’t been smaller in years.
On the defensive side, additions like Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Tucker Poolman, Luke Schenn and Brad Hunt may seem riskier on paper. However if OEL performs even slightly better than he has in his recent years with the Yotes, and even if just one of Poolman, Schenn or Hunt click with this club, then the defence may not have as big of a hole in it as some are fearing.
The cap implications of say, Poolman for example being a dud… well that’s another thing to fear that I’d rather not get into right now…
The Old and New
It’s not just the newly added Canucks players that should give this team playoff potential. It’s also Canucks players and up and coming prospects that should give this fan base more than just a glimmer of hope for the playoffs.
Vasily Podkolzin is all but a lock to be brought into the fold this season. Unless the youngster has an unpredictably poor training camp his spot in the line-up is all but a lock. As far as defensive prospects are concerned it’s a win-win with the two young left-handed D-men fighting for a spot on the third line.
Either Jack Rathbone shows more of the same as he did at the end of last season, and continues to impress or Olli Juolevi finally breaks through and gives Benning a reason to keep him in Vancouver rather than Abbotsford.
For the “old guard” or what is more accurately the old “new guard” as most of this team is still very young, as mentioned up top, it will be a huge benefit to this team that Bo will now get to shine in a more offensive role.
It will also be great (if the team ever signs him…) to have a healthy Elias Pettersson back. There were so many other storylines going on last year, that it’s almost easy to forget that Petey wasn’t around for most of it. Now hopefully well healed from a wrist injury, a re-signed, refreshed EP40 is going to be vital for any potential Cup run.
Additionally, Quinn Hughes stated at the conclusion of the last season that he will be specifically working on his defensive game, as reliable defence was really lacking from his tool kit last season. If Hughes can deliver on this promise, and maintain offensive production, Canucks fans may want to start booking the day off work for the parade.
Lastly, the shining star from last season was no doubt Brock Boeser. Boeser topped the team’s scoreboard last season, and despite the teams overall disappointing outing, Boeser notched a team-leading 49 points (23 G, 26 A).
If Boeser maintains this pace, along with Pettersson’s return to health and Miller’s return to the wing, the Lotto Line may be cashing out more jackpots than they ever have in years prior. Especially now that they can rely heavily on secondary scoring, which has not been a luxury of theirs in the past.
But What Do Some Early Numbers Say
It’s all well and good to speculate, and in a sense with a team that’s seen this much of a shakeup, that’s all you can really do. But there is of course this thing called math that some people are able to harness and use in a way that tells them what may happen in the future, crazy stuff. So what do some of the early numbers say in regards to Canucks production in this coming season?
If your dream is to have the Canucks win it all this year, don’t go to Oddshark for reassurance. Currently, they have the Canucks at the 21st best odds in the league at +5000. Their Odds put the Canucks in the bottom half of the Pacific Division in the “win it all” category. This with the Kings, Sharks and Ducks being the Pacific Division teams below the Canucks in that order.
Sean Gentille of The Athletic, doesn’t have the Canucks rated that favourably either. In the websites latest power ranking piece published on August 6th, the Canucks are ranked 24th in the league. Numbers-wise 24 out of 32 isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for playoff contention, and he didn’t have a very positive written opinion on the team either.
“Do I like where they’re going? no. Do I think they’re on track to be legitimately good at any foreseeable point? I do not.”– Sean Gentille, The Athletic
Most outlets and oddsmakers aren’t ranking the Canucks too highly at the moment. However, with that being said, the season hasn’t started, and once the puck drops I think it’s more than realistic to expect there to be 1, 2, 3, or even 4 reasons to be genuinely hopeful that this team will be on it’s way to performing well in the months ahead.
On paper the Canucks are undeniably improved, but will that improvement be good enough to get them to the playoffs? I think undeniably, yes. Again, take a picture and stick it on the fridge. We’ll see how well this take ages.