Welcome back to our Pacific Preview series. Today, we’re looking west to get the lowdown on Canada’s third-oldest NHL team.
Despite having now been around for more than 50 years, the Vancouver Canucks are still looking for their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Will 2021–22 be their year?
Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong for the Canucks in 2020–21:
- The Canucks endured through the NHL’s worst COVID-19 outbreak, with more than 20 players testing positive for the virus. After going on hiatus for nearly a month during the outbreak, the Canucks were forced to play 19 games in 32 days down the stretch to complete their season. Forward J.T. Miller openly criticized how the NHL handled the situation, saying he felt the league rushed the Canucks back to playing games after the majority of the team fell ill.
- Star forward Elias Pettersson missed the majority of the season with a wrist injury, being held to just 26 games as a result.
- Prized off-season acquisitions Nate Schmidt and Braden Holtby both struggled to fit in with the Canucks. Holtby was bought out of his contract after just one year in Vancouver; Schmidt was traded to Winnipeg for a third-round pick in July after scoring just 15 points in his 54 games with the Canucks.
- Content warning: sexual misconduct. The Canucks placed forward Jake Virtanen on leave in May amid allegations of sexual assault against the winger; the team ultimately bought out Virtanen’s contract in July.
The Canucks finished the 2020–21 season last in the North Division with a 23-29-4 record and 50 points in 56 games. Suffice to say, they did not make the playoffs.
The Canucks have had a pretty busy off-season. They made one of the biggest trades at the 2021 NHL Draft, acquiring defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and forward Conor Garland from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Antoine Roussel, Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle, a 2021 first-round pick (Dylan Guenther), a 2022 second-round pick, and a 2023 seventh-round pick.
Vancouver also signed goaltender Jaroslav Halak to a one-year contract to replace Holtby, brought in defenceman Tucker Poolman on a four-year deal worth a total of $10 million, traded 2016 fifth-overall pick Olli Juolevi to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Juho Lammikko and Noah Juulsen, and brought back Luke Schenn on a cheap two-year deal.
Also brought back: Travis Hamonic, who re-signed with Vancouver in the off-season to a two-year deal carrying an AAV of $3 million. Hamonic was expected to start the season in the Canucks’ top four but is currently on leave from the team while dealing with an undisclosed personal issue. The Canucks waived him on Sunday; he cleared the following day and his contract has been assigned to the Abbotsford Canucks of the American Hockey League to give the NHL club some salary cap relief.
The Canucks are likely not going to be a very good team in 2021–22 unless their defence comes to play.
Neither Oliver Ekman-Larsson nor Tucker Poolman were particularly effective in their recent seasons before coming to Vancouver. Tyler Myers has been on the downswing for quite some time. Even Quinn Hughes had a tough year in 2020–21 where he struggled to drive play at either end of the ice.
As things currently stand, the Canucks will likely start the season with this loadout on the back-end:
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Tyler Myers
Quinn Hughes – Tucker Poolman
Jack Rathbone – Luke Schenn
Rathbone is a promising young lefty who has looked awfully impressive in training camp. The rest all carry big question marks.
Up front, the Canucks have a lot of potential with Pettersson, Miller, Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, Garland, Vasily Podkolzin, and Nils Höglander. Thatcher Demko and Halak will likely form a solid goaltending tandem. If the defence falls apart, though … all bets are off.
Folks to follow
Here are some of the best people to follow on Twitter for Canucks content:
- David Quadrelli of CanucksArmy — @Quadrelli
- Chris Faber of CanucksArmy — @ChrisFaber39
- Clarissa Sabile of CanucksArmy — @quinnsedgework
- Thomas Drance of The Athletic — @ThomasDrance
- Patrick Johnston of The Province — @risingaction
- Rick Dhaliwal of CHEK TV — @DhaliwalSports
- Jeff Paterson of Rink Wide — @patersonjeff
- The Broadscast Podcast — @BroadscastPod
Calgary will face Vancouver on the following occasions:
- Jan. 1 in Calgary
- Feb. 24 in Vancouver
- Mar. 19 in Vancouver
- Apr. 23 in Calgary
Odds and outlook
Based on the odds from our pals at PointsBet, here’s how the Canucks stack up within the NHL:
- To win the Pacific Division: 18:1 odds (fifth of eight teams; Vegas, Edmonton, Seattle, and Calgary have better odds)
- To win the Stanley Cup: 60:1 odds (22nd of 32 teams)
- Their points over/under: 88.5
The odds-makers have the Canucks likely missing the playoffs — but not by much.
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