What Does Pettersson’s Brief Absence Suggest

By: Brayden Fengler / March 17, 2022  

Elias Pettersson was absent during this past weekend’s battle with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Tuesday’s contest with the New Jersey Devils. Pettersson’s absence was stated to be nothing serious by coach Bruce Boudreau in the Canucks media availability Tuesday morning.

What became slightly concerning about Petey’s second game off of the roster though was that the culprit looked to be his wrist, as he was seen nursing it to some degree in his last contest against the Washington Capitals on Friday. Being that Pettersson’s last serious injury was in that wrist, it’s reasonable to assume that his recent absences are related.

An injury, big or small, to any area previously injured on an athlete is always a concern. But the how, why, and when major players are removed from NHL lineups in the back half of the season, can sometimes give us a glimpse into what short and long-term plans management might have in store.

He Was Missed

Pettersson does look to be drawing in for Thursday’s contest against the Red Wings, and his teammates will no doubt be relieved to hear this news. As the Canucks only walked away with one out of two possible wins in Pettersson’s time away.

His absence was immediately felt in the Canucks 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay. A respectable score when considering the standing of both teams involved, the Canucks, fringe playoff hopefuls the Lightning, a team going for a third Stanley Cup in a row. The Canucks had one goal from J.T. Miller in that contest but ultimately lacked the offensive firepower that is required to outperform a team like the Tampa Bay Lightning. An issue that Petey no doubt could’ve had a hand in addressing. 

In Tuesday’s game, the team ultimately fared much better, as Petey was not needed to help Quinn Hughes take down his brother’s New Jersey Devils. The Canucks dominated that game, earning two goals in every period and walking away with a 6-3 victory.

While runaway victories like those are nice to see, what the Canucks really need is to turn themselves into a team that wins both of those games, and they just aren’t close without Pettersson in the roster.

Cautious of Injury

It’s still unclear if his wrist was the official cause of Petey’s absence during these last few games. It’s a fair assumption based on observations made during the Canucks’ game against the Capitals, but it has yet to be confirmed.

I doubt that Petey or coach Bruce would want him to miss any games if it wasn’t absolutely the call to make. Pettersson to this point in his career is a player that lives and dies by the continued momentum of his performances, for good or for ill. Right now Petey is playing extremely well, so taking him away from the game is not something the young Swede would likely be keen on unless it was 100% necessary.

If they’re in the playoffs, you can bet that Pettersson is likely not missing those two games, and although the Canucks are still in the hunt, it’s great to see the team making the call to allow Petersson to rest for a few games. Even if his absence is mostly cautionary, which again we do not know either way. 

At the end of the day, having Pettersson take a few nights off to avoid any potential for further injury should put Canucks fans at ease. That says that this team is not going to risk any illusion of short-term success, over the long-term health of their franchise player.

What Does This Say About The Playoffs

With Pettersson re-entering the fold sooner than later, does this in any way show the hand of the Canucks management group in terms of how they feel about this team’s potential for a playoff run?

There have been trade rumours about J.T. Miller, Conor Garland, the usual suspect Brock Boeser of course, and the latest being that of Tyler Motte in a potential deal with the Leafs. However, nothing has happened yet and we sit just four days away from the trade deadline.

It’s very possible that we could see a flurry of moves on deadline day, but the fact that not one major piece has gone out the door for the Canucks since their management turnover in December, still makes it a guessing game as to how this management group views the current performance of this current team.

It’s obvious that the new regime is looking at every possible avenue for change, yet the fact that no change has come hastily suggests the possibility that Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin may yet have some degree of faith in this current group.

Perhaps one reason Pettersson is slated to come back so soon, and not have his day-to-day status stretched out, is that management believes that this team actually has a shot at a playoff appearance. Vegas’ recent tanking spree is surely an external factor helping that case as well. 

It’s not far out of NHL precedent for a star player like Pettersson to take a little extra time off during an injury, maybe a week, maybe two, when their team is a long shot from the playoffs. A move like that can help handicap a team’s chances for a higher finish in the standings, and allow them to gain a better draft position in the process.

However, with only 21 games left for the Canucks this year, Pettersson does not seem to be fading into the background just yet. Maybe whatever EP40 is dealing with only needed less than a week to sort itself out, and he’s coming back because he’s 100% healthy, and that’s it, there’s nothing else to read into. But maybe, just maybe he’s back in the lineup so soon, because not only can he help this team right now, but this ownership group actually wants him to help this team right now.

When Petey Draws In

In Pettersson’s last 10 games he has produced 15 points, totaling five goals and 10 assists. These are impressive numbers compared to his low-value contributions earlier in the season. 

Petey is hot right now, and when Petey is hot the Canucks are hot and perhaps that is something both the fans and management are happy to see right now. Change is still likely coming for this organization, but it can be argued that even though some people, including myself, believe that blowing things up a bit is the right call, perhaps this team has earned a little bit more time together.

Even if moves like trading J.T. Miller, flipping RFA’s /UFA’s like Lammikko and Motte are the right ones to make, it’s hard to deny that this Canucks team has at least earned the right for a second thought on those moves before the trigger is pulled. Even if that trigger ends up being pulled immediately after this season wraps.