By Cole Parkinson
Westwind Weekly News
It’s been an odd season for the Vancouver Canucks up to this point. They started the year with seven straight losses (two in overtime) and that included plenty of blown leads. Now, they have started to collect some wins, but it certainly feels like coach Bruce Boudreau is still skating on mighty thin ice.
Last season, Boudreau almost steered the Canucks into the playoffs and fans were chanting “Bruce there it is” constantly. But now, things have changed and GM Jim Rutherford has already publicly called out his coach. So what are they waiting for?
Maybe it’s the fact they’ve started winning games, or maybe the owners don’t want to pay Boudreau and not have him coach. And that’s fair on both accounts because there’s still tons of season left and it’s not like the Canucks have two wins on the season and dead last in the Western Conference. They certainly are one of the more unpredictable teams in the NHL and that’s a tough place to be.
But the Canucks brass still has plenty of time to make decisions on what to do. Maybe they get hot, or maybe they completely fall off a cliff — both of which are a more favourable result than a middling team with no direction, in my opinion. Either way, the Canucks will have some big decisions to make in the coming weeks. The Pacific Division is still fairly wide open as both Edmonton and Calgary have struggled at points this season. I would be shocked if Seattle continues to keep pace for the playoffs, and really only the Golden Knights seem like a solid bet to be near the top of the division come the end of the season.
With the trade deadline in early spring, I bet they’re shipping some players off, but I doubt it’s a complete teardown and rebuild. They already have great players in place with Thatcher Demko in net, Quinn Hughes on defence, and Elias Pettersson at forward — none of those players will be traded unless the front office gets a deal that’s very lopsided for Vancouver. Captain Bo Horvat is on an expiring deal and he could be traded, but I bet the Canucks re-sign him. They already resigned J.T. Miller and I think that’s a telling sign. I would have looked at trading Miller and trading Horvat if there’s a great deal to be had. It’s probably hard to trade Miller now with that added cap, but if they do trade Horvat, they will get a boatload in return — that of course doesn’t mean any prospects and picks they get back turn into anything.
The biggest negative for the Canucks has to be Oliver Ekman-Larsson and his contract. At 31 years old, the defenceman has a cap hit of $7.26 million and year and his contract runs until the 2026-27 season…ouch. While the trade also brought Conor Garland to the Canucks, the remaining length of that contract is rough. His advance stats of Corsi for is well below 50 per cent and his on-ice goals for is currently 3.2 while his on-ice goals against is 4.0. As of right now, that contract is unmovable so the Canucks will have to hold on for a little while yet.
It’s sure to be an interesting time for the Canucks and if I was a fan, I’d be wanting them to make some moves that sets them up for the future. They’ve been a middling team ever since their cup run in 2011, so why not bring in some young talent and let them grow with Hughes, Pettersson, and Demko? There are going to be growing pains, but being in the thick of things for Connor Bedard is worth it.