What do Canucks need for next season?

It’s wins and positions that will determine if your team makes it to the NHL Playoffs. For the Vancouver Canucks this season, it’s not likely.

With their current position as 12th in the Western Conference and overall 27th in the NHL, they won’t be on the hunt for the Stanley Cup.

Why is that?

Canucks have had their worst start to a season of their NHL tenure. They opened 2022/23 with seven straight losses, their worst in over a decade.

The team’s also been wracked with internal issues.

Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau, was replaced mid-season. Not an unusual act, but his departure has divided the fanbase. Then there’s the dissatisfaction from players within the team and those who wanted to be traded out.

‘We’re not going to make the playoffs this year, which is extremely disappointing…

‘And that’s on me. It’s on me, and it’s on me to make this team better,’ Canucks’ GM Patrik Allvin told the press at Rogers Arena on Saturday.

This is not good enough

Allvin wanted to stress that there was work to do while also detailing that progress was being made.

‘Where we’re sitting right now, I believe there is more to do here. We’re not happy where we are. I’m happy to see the response from the players since Rick Tocchet took over here.

‘What we emphasize on day-to-day stuff, how we’re changing the standard and the culture of what it means to become a Vancouver Canuck.’

It’s been almost two months since Rick Tocchet took over as Canucks coach (January 22nd) and while his record in the first 15 games sat at 6 – 7 – 2, he believed that he was doing a good job.

‘I do see a lot of improvements from a lot of players. There’s going to be more demanding. This is not good enough.

‘If you’re going to play on the Vancouver Canucks, there is a certain standard that needs to be held here. That’s every day. It’s not only on game days.

‘It’s every day… The players need to take ownership of that as well, and be prepared for next year.’

Tweaks or Restructuring

Allvin believes this season has its lessons to learn but are the talks of improvement and the culture of the team enough?

Are tweaks to the system enough or do the Canucks need a total overhaul?

Allvin believes retooling is the best route for Canucks and the first steps toward that come with the addition of Filip Hronek, among others.

Horvat Out

Vancouver Canucks’ Bo Horvat celebrates his goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Tuesday, December 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Defining moment… that’s one way to describe the trading out of Forward Bo Horvat.

Horvat had played for the Canucks between 2014 and the mid-point of the 2022/23 season. A row was brewing over renewing his contract and whether Canucks were prepared to pay more than they initially offered.

Canucks offered him an average of just over $5M a year within a fresh eight-year contract extension.

Horvat’s team rejected it given that players like J.T. Miller had been handed a $56M seven-year deal and there were plenty of suitors interested in his skills.

And just like that, Canucks traded him out to New York Islanders and Horvat signed on for an eight-year contract worth $68M ($8.5M annually).

Canucks got the Forward Anthony Beauvillier, Center Aatu Raty as well as a 2023 1st Round Draft pick from the New York Islanders.

Hronek In

2J8295H Tampere, Finland. 12th May, 2022. Czech ice hockey player Filip Hronek attends the training session of the Czech national team prior to the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Tampere, Finland, on May 12, 2022. Credit: Michal Kamaryt/CTK Photo/Alamy Live News

Allvin made six deals during the deadline week. That includes these two Islanders players, some Draft Picks and the Detroit Red Wings Defenceman Filip Hronek.

Allvin’s acquisition follows his preference for getting in younger players in and building them up. Hronek was not cheap to acquire ($4.5M) for his 1-year contract. He’ll certainly set the team back in his prime years too.

The thing is, his acquisition also feels more like the team is pushing for ‘tweaks’ rather than focus on rebuilding.  You might also say, it looks like a short-term effort to get them into the Playoffs.

Perhaps this preference for tweaks over rebuilding is why we’ve not seen much more about Brock Boeser being traded out. Maybe he’s still waiting for a good deal or the foundations (which include him) are built too much on his ilk and Canucks can’t afford to trade him out too soon?

Canucks Culture

Arizona Coyotes’ head coach Rick Tocchet, centre, gives instruction to players during first period NHL pre-season hockey action against the Calgary Flames in Calgary, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Then there’s another way of seeing it. There’s opportunity with Tocchet.

Tocchet’s arrival wasn’t exactly welcomed but after almost two months of his tenure, the players appear to be responding well to the new culture he’s promoting.

In other words, play better, work harder, get rewarded.

Press interviews with players reveal that they feel that the harder they perform in a game is rewarded with more time on the ice and that’s not just scoring goals, it’s about fighting for the puck to make chances to score.

Everyone feels like they play a part

2M7T7HR Vancouver Canucks center J.T. Miller (9) during the third period of the Penguins 5-4 win at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, January 10, 2023. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI

J.T. Miller is among the proponents of Tocchet’s approach and he agreed with greater accountability and getting more time on the ice.

‘It has to because what we were doing before clearly wasn’t working.

‘So, there’s a process for us to take to get to where we want to be, and I think for the most part, so far since Rick’s been here, it has been going the right direction.’

While the Canucks don’t have the wins to get into the Playoffs this season, could this change of culture and direction inside the team, help them for next season?

Yes probably.

While there will be those who don’t like the change of direction, it appears that the younger players approve of it.

We have good players

‘My expectation is to make the playoffs with the players we have here, and especially [when] you have an elite goalie in Thatcher Demko.

‘Filip Hronek, Quinn Hughes, Pettersson, Miller, Kuzmenko. I mean, we have good players here. No doubt about it.

‘But we need to learn how to play as a team. We have a lot of work to do in order to be a playoff team here. But I’m very confident in the coaching staff I got in here now, and what we’re going to do in order to come ready next year.’

Posted on: 08 Mar 2023