The 2021 Canucks – How Do You Even Fix This?

By: Brayden Fengler / November 13, 2021  

This article wasn’t supposed to be like this. I had planned to sit down with a beer in hand on Thursday evening and watch in awe and amazement as Jack Rathbone returned to the lineup. Then with hope in my heart, I was going to pen a beautiful love letter to the Canucks fanbase, recounting all of the joys and wonderful things I had witnessed during that game.

However this is not that timeline, those were not the Canucks’ that would’ve earned such positive words. Instead, I am left with nothing to write about other than what is on everyone’s minds after Thursday night’s meltdown. What do we even do with this team? Is this it for the Canucks’ season, is this the way it’s going to go. Jack Rathbone was back, Thatcher Demko was in net, this team is healthy… what can even be changed.

The Problems and There Are Many

If this is your first time reading an article from, please know that they aren’t always filled with doom and gloom. Here we’re often balanced in terms of reckless optimism and intense criticism, but today, this article falls in the latter category. The thing about Thursday’s game is that there isn’t one situation to point fingers at, it was an across-the-board catastrophe. It was a culmination of all the little mistakes that we have watched this team make since game one this year.

Elias Pettersson has looked shaky on the puck in games past, and Thursday was no different. He bobbles the puck for a turnover in the defending zone and the Avalanche wasted no time to score. The Canucks have had awful defence, even when it’s the forwards who are controlling the puck near their own goalie. The Canucks played like they expected Demko to bail them out at every turn, no matter how good we all know Demko can play, he can’t be expected to save everything the Canucks let him face last night. 

Those few problems are just what was most prominently highlighted in yesterday’s game, but They are not the only issues that this team has. The Canucks are 25th in the league in straight-up points and are only above Seattle in the Pacific Division in terms of points as well.

Vancouver’s power play is 21st in the league at an awful 16.7% percent and the biggest crime of all is that out of 32 teams the Vancouver Canucks have the worst penalty kill in the National Hockey League. Only 62.8% of the time does this team prevent another team from scoring on them. This is absolutely, unequivocally, horrendous.

If the PK was a college exam the Canucks would likely be near failing. As a matter of fact, depending on your educational upbringing, a 62.8% may as well be a failing grade. This team better be prepared to lose their electronic privileges for a month.

Again most of our articles aren’t full of bad vibes and finger-pointing, but honestly, it’s just cathartic for me personally, to rattle off even a handful of reasons why this team is playing like trash. Like the stages of grief, the first stage is acceptance, and at this point, last night’s game tipped me and many others off to the unfortunate possibility that this team might not just be bad right now, they might just be bad…

The Canucks need bigger things to happen to this team right now, bigger than Madison Bowey being brought up, and unfortunately bigger than Rathbone being brought up as well.

Elliotte Friedman said on a recent 32 Thoughts Podcast, that in a normal season, the first of November is usually a good time to make a fair judgment on the likely outcome of most teams. Friedman also notes that other analysts say it’s after American Thanksgiving, that it’s the fairest time to make these assessments. So by that account, the Canucks have until November 25th, to turn this ship around.

Throw an Idea Out There, What Do You Got?

This past summer, a question was posed. The origin of this question escapes me, but I’m not naive enough to think that I came up with it. The question goes like this, who would you rather be the GM of, the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Vancouver Canucks?

At the end of last year’s Playoffs and even before the summer acquisitions, the answer for myself anyways was hands down that I’d rather be in charge of the Vancouver Canucks. The reason, because, at the time what do you even begin to fix with the Leafs, like so many years before for that team out east, on paper they should’ve at very least gotten past the first round. Figuring out the reason why the Leafs didn’t translate their paper stats to the ice, sounded a lot harder than rebuilding the clearly broken pieces of last year’s Canucks.

Last season the Canucks needed more centre depth, they signed Jason Dickinson, they needed a new backup for Demko they signed proven veteran backup Jaroslav Halak. The Canucks needed a boost on offensive production and some new talent on the blue line, they traded for Conor Garland and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Then, they go on and sign a host of other low-cost players with chances of working out either in Abbotsford or on the fourth line of the big boy team. 

Other than the price of the OEL deal and the Hamonic situation that was left floating in the air, you are kidding yourself if you thought that the moves made in the summer didn’t put this team on a much better track.

The only hang up, and it seemed small at the time, was Petey and Quinn Hughes not being signed until the calculation of training camp and most of the pre-season. They would miss the chance to build chemistry and shake the rust off, and at least for Petey he clearly needed that time, as the rust is long from being gone even now.

The Easiest Fix Is an EP Fix.

The solution starts with Petey, full stop, for lack of a better term he should be the breadwinner on this team, right alongside or outpacing J.T. Miller. Petey should be elevating the game for the rest of his team, and in a perfect would be a huge contributing factor to a higher Power Play percentage for the Canucks as well. But what does this team do besides Petey?

They are mostly healthy, even opting to send Hamonic back down to the minors in exchange for Rathbone, so any concern there about Hamonic’s absence affecting this team early on, at this point is hardly an argument. 

Do the Canucks try to upgrade their backup goalie? Doubtful, as the simplest answer Michael Dipietro isn’t ready yet. With 2 wins 2 losses and a save percentage of .907% so far this season in Abbotsford, that doesn’t exactly scream NHL ready. Also, don’t forget that he missed an entire season last year just sitting on the taxi squad, so it’s more important for his development that he gets starts under his belt in Abbotsford rather than being tasked to do what Halak had to on Friday and suffer through a prescribed loss.

The Canucks have Halak on just a one year deal, it’s possible that the Canucks may look the upgrade him if the team as a whole is trending in the right direction at some point before playoffs, but right now, as poor as Halak has been, he’s played in so few games, that there are clearly bigger issues at hand

We are probably going to see the Canucks try to buy their way out of this problem, because if they don’t, by his own words Benning will have failed. He said that this team needs to return to the playoffs this season and if this team can’t do that, how does he still manage to keep his job.

Perhaps Green gets the boot at some point? He did just get his extension but as ill-informed as it may be, sometimes if the team looks strong on paper and the GM has made smart moves on paper but yet it just isn’t working, sometimes the coach goes just to change things up.

Should they do that? No, they shouldn’t, but if Francesco Aquilini has learned anything which is not to say he has when this market stays in one place for too long, things hit the fan. This year there may or may not be banners flying over the city trying to tell ownership what to do, but in an, even more, in-your-face way there will be fans loud and unafraid to voice those same thoughts in the building for all to hear.

Let Us Reflect

If you made it this far, you must be a true Canucks fan, because the only point to slogging through this pointless rant was to feel the pain along with me. What are Canucks fans if not suckers for being miserable in good company? 

Do not forget that this is a full 82 game season and we are only 14 games in. Best case scenario this article looks like a laughable panic attack in a few months’ time. However, 13 games are not as small of a sample as it sounds when it comes to a team figuring out their identity and their systems. All signs point to this team staying the course if there are no significant changes, so the question becomes, what will change, and what should change. The answers to both those questions are not as easy as they were last spring and summer.