By: Brayden Fengler / March 29, 2021
Where is Elias Pettersson? The Vancouver Canucks have now played 11 games since their star forward Elias Patterson last suited up for the team on March 2nd. In his absence, there was no doubt an initial thrill that came from seeing the Canucks earn a three-game winning streak, beating the Toronto Maple Leafs twice and the Montreal Canadiens once. These events brought a thought to Canucks fans, however fleeting and ungrounded in reality it may have been, that “maybe, just maybe this team is better than we think?”.
However, in the weeks since the team’s first string of Petey-less games, It’s become clear that the version of this team that has been winning, is the anomaly, and the true Canucks team has been more accurately shown in contests like the recent losses to the Winnipeg Jets.
Injuries aside, the Canucks lack depth, and although they recently made two waiver pick-ups in hopes to address that, those new additions are unlikely to manifest into real change this season, with or without Pettersson back on the ice. Yet that still begs the questions, when, if at all, will Pettersson be back with the team this season?
Why is Pettersson Out?
At the moment all we know is that Pettersson is suffering from an upper-body injury that has been reported to be related to his wrist. It’s concerning because he’s been thought to have been returning multiple times over his absence this past month, yet his appearances continues to be pushed. The star forward currently sits on long-term IR, with his first chance to return to play being today’s Wednesday, March 31st game against the Calgary Flames. However, it appears as though Petey will be absent from that game as well.
Pettersson had an uncharacteristically slow start to the season this year, although, in recent games before his injury, he was seemingly back to his normal self. In three of Pettersson’s last five games played he earned multiple points, and over his last ten games, he averaged a point per game pace. This all while he was tasked with a slightly higher TOI than he had been playing in earlier games this season. These stats make it all the more unfortunate for the Canucks that Pettersson left when he did. 20/20 hindsight suggests that Petterson could’ve been a difference-maker for the Canucks in recent weeks. A few key games with Petterson on the ice may have changed the Canucks playoff conversation from “a long shot” to “a fighting chance”.
How The Canucks Have Been Handling Pettersson’s Absence
It seems like ages ago that we speculated what would happen to J.T. Miller’s centre role when Pettersson comes back. At the time of writing that article, it seemed like it wouldn’t be too much longer before we would see that situation play out, with the likelihood being that Miller would return to the wing. However, weeks have gone by, and Miller has been playing centre for a large part of the season now and hockey players, like humans in general, are creatures of habit. Once a new habit is formed, it’s a lot easier to keep that going, than it is to put the breaks on it, and move onto something new. Considering the facts that Petey’s timeline is still very much up in the air and that Miller has shown a liking to the centre role, it’s safe to assume that with or without Petey in the lineup, Miller will likely stay up the middle for most if not all of what’s left of the season.
The Canucks have also added two new depth pieces to their roster since the last time EP40 played a game for the team. Those players being the two former Maple Leafs, Jimmy Vesey and Travis Boyd. Although it’s unlikely that these new pieces will help the team make a significant playoff push this year, their cheap price tag will hopefully make for smart signings in the offseason.
Factors Around Pettersson’s Recovery
With how drawn out a vague the news around Pettersson’s injury has been, there is the fear that it’s more serious than we are being led to believe. With the PR pounding that the organization has been getting this year, why would they then want to invite further hysteria by announcing a major career pausing injury concerning their star player, when they could simply, just not? This is of course just speculation, and the more likely reality is that the Canucks simply don’t want to rush their meal ticket back into play, for a season that doesn’t matter anymore. Why not have the team lose for a better pick and give your star player as much recovery time as possible?
Now with this being Pettersson’s contract year, will his absence affect the price tag of his next deal? I doubt it. If Pettersson stayed cold in every one of his games this year, then maybe the Canucks would have some ability to lower the price a touch. However, Petey was able to bounce back before he left, and with this year being so different due to COVID, it’s likely that the season will have a net-zero impact on his contract negotiations. The Canuck’s aren’t going to be able to get out of paying Petterson what he’s owed. Canuck’s fans would probably just like another chance to see what they will be paying for before this season is over.