By: Brayden Fengler / October 19, 2022
It’s only five games into this 82 game season and if games were years and the Canucks were a person, they would barely be old enough to form memories yet.
This lens makes it seem irrational to worry and crazy to panic, so can someone please explain why that still feels like the logical emotion to have, even this early in the 2022-23 campaign? It’s hard to believe that considering the terrible start to the season that this club had last year, the Canucks are somehow already on track to have a worse start.
In my last article here at StadiumChinatown.ca, I wrote of the hopes and dreams that I had for the start of the season. One thing I noted was that even if the Canucks were losing, I hoped that morale stayed high, and losses remained moral victories.
Unfortunately, the Canucks haven’t even been able to earn that kind of victory. Vancouver has been walking away with straight up losses, plain and simple. These losses are already hard on the fanbase, so we can only imagine how they’re impacting the club itself.
Disappointing Player Performance
Another highlight of my recent hopes and dreams for this team was in my optimism that this pre-season may be the last time this market would need to bring up or discuss Quinn Hughes’ under performing defensive season from 2020-21.
Quinn improved his defensive numbers last year and in the pre-season this year he showed little signs for concern that his defensive game would do anything but improve. However, in only five regular season games, Quinn has begun to cast doubt on his defensive abilities already.
Hughes has been missing his man on key defesilves plays and making questionable decisions all together when not in direct control of the puck. Suffice to say, the thought that Quinn’s days of improved defensive performance were here to stay has been thrown into question quicker than anyone would’ve liked to see.
It’s early in the year of course, but in the few Canucks games so far Quinn has had enough defensive blunders to pull this storyline back out of the history books. It hasn’t been all bad for Hughes – he’s earned himself five points in as many games – but at the end of the day, he is a defenceman, and needs that defensive side of his game to be there as well.
Recent history has shown us how Quinn can drag his team’s performance down, when a player with as high of an average TOI as him is not playing a well rounded game.
J.T. Miller seems to be taking a page out of Quinns book as well, as his defensive play has been atrocious. Miller is not known for backchecking and he’s at least already earned 3 points in his first five games. However, he also leads the team with the worst plus-minus at -5.
In terms of straight up giveaways, Miller also sits near the top of the team. He’s provided his opponents with nearly one giveaway in each of the games that he’s played so far this season, which no doubt has helped to impact his less than ideal plus-minus record.
It’s always hard for a market to see a player like Miller struggle, especially when Miller has just cashed in with a new $56M contract this off-season. It’s always nice for teams to be able to brag about what they’re paying for, and have their stars justify their own price tags, but at least right now, Miller is not making that easy for Patrik Allvin.
The Team as a Whole
In a sentence that will shock no one, not only are a few key players not performing to the level that they should, but the team as a whole is dropping the ball in a million little ways. Whether you’ve been in the arenas, on your couch, or screaming at your radio on your commute home from work, it’s been easy to conclude that these losses have been the result of a “disorganized” team effort all around.
Defensive struggles across the board have led the Canucks to share the 4th worst goals per games record in the league, at 4.4/GAPG. That’s nearly four and a half goals against for every single game this team steps on the ice.
The Canucks’ special teams are quite frankly the most embarrassing of all. The Canucks have the second worst penalty kill percentage in the league at 58.8%. That stat is made only slightly less embarrassing due to their immediate company, as they are only second worst next to the Stanley Cup winning Colorado Avalanche who sit at the bottom of the league.
Vancouver has also only capitalized on 10.5% of the power play opportunities that they’ve gotten, which again puts them at the lower end of teams in the league regarding that stat. A league may I remind you who’s teams have only seen 6 games at most. This makes it not very hard to be at the top, but embarrassing to be near the bottom.
Why Does This Hurt So Bad
We all remember the Canucks’ brutal start to the year last year. The season started out poor on and off the ice, and was only made worse by the optics of what many considered to be a last ditch job saving attempt by former GM Jim Benning. This referring to the extremely questionable and expensive acquisition of OEL. So when things went south last year it almost felt inevitable.
Essentially, the team had no way to pay rent, so they bought a $2 lottery ticket and just crossed their fingers that everything would pan out. Obviously it didn’t and thus it was unsurprising when it didn’t.
Fans may remember feeling that slow realization, that the season was heading in an irreversibly poor direction, around late November last year. This year, fans are already getting deja vu after only five games. What is that all about? Well since Dec 6th, 2021 this organization has been doing nothing but selling hope, and rightfully so. A new coach, new management, and a new young sought after player.
It seemed like it was all coming together exactly as it should. Yet five games into the season, fans aren’t getting the feeling that any progress has been made at all and that’s a scary feeling to have for fans who’ve been wanting to believe in this team’s journey over the last 12 months.
Still, at times like this, it’s important to remember how few games the Canucks have played and how long the season really is. In just over a week’s time their record could be 5-5 and the question may be raised as to why anyone ever worried so much at all.
However, the scary thing is not the individual losses, but the potential that they welcome. The potential of sliding into a hole that is hard to get out of. The Canucks spent the better half of last season with Bruce Boudreau trying to claw and dig themselves out of the hole that they made for themselves early in the 2021-22 campaign.
So it’s no wonder why Canucks fans are getting anxious already about the possibility of watching their team dig themselves back down into that pit again.