The Vancouver Canucks are undeniably better than they were last offseason.
What happened in 2021?
Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong for the Canucks last season.
To start their season, the group of top six forwards was stagnant and the bottom six just weren’t well-built enough to provide a secondary score. In addition, Thatcher Demko had still not proven himself and alternated starts with Braden Holtby, who was not playing as before.
As soon as Elias Pettersson and the rest of the top six started to warm up and recover from a brutal first month of the season, Pettersson injured his wrist.
It was the beginning of the end for the Canucks. JT Miller was moved to center and had to play with a carousel of winger, many of whom were picked up on the waiver.
Then, just as it looked like the Canucks were on the verge of being able to return to the North Division standings without their center superstar, the team was hit with the worst COVID-19 outbreak of any team in the NHL.
More than 25 players and staff have been infected with the Brazil P1 variant and have been sidelined for two weeks.
Then, once back, they were given a schedule that saw them complete the entire 56-game regular season. JT Miller has expressed his displeasure at being « rushed » and the league has further delayed the return of the Canucks. This, in turn, made the Canucks’ schedule even more compact and took away any hope among players and fans that they would be able to fight in the playoff conversation.
Last year was a loss for the club, and from top to bottom everyone is eager to bounce back this season.
What did they do during the offseason?
The club released a deadweight – and God knows it was a heavyweight – in the form of the contracts of Loui Eriksson, Antoine Roussel and Jay Beagle. In return, the club received Conor Garland as well as the long-term weight of Oliver Ekman-Larsson, with Arizona retaining 12% of OEL’s salary.
Garland is one of the top nine wingers the Canucks signed on to a five-year, $ 4.95 million per year contract shortly after acquiring him.
Ekman-Larsson, meanwhile, is a former Norris-caliber defenseman who has had tough seasons. The Canucks are hoping he can bounce back with a change of scenery, but many are skeptical if that is possible for the 30-year-old defenseman who has struggled with injury issues in the past.
Tucker Poolman has signed a four-year contract, and the first indications from Vancouver are that he and Ekman-Larsson will form the Canucks’ new stoppage pair.
The Canucks overhauled their depth dramatically and found it much easier to attract free AHL agents thanks to their decision to move their AHL team from Utica to Abbotsford, which is a short distance away. drive from Vancouver.
Phil Di Giuseppe, Brady Keeper, Justin Dowling, Nic Petan and Luke Schenn – the list goes on – the Canucks were able to add significantly to their depth this offseason, which should help them avoid having to claim so many skaters on waivers as they did. last season.
The club also signed a one-year contract with Jaroslav Halak to replace Thatcher Demko while they wait for prospect Michael DiPietro to become an NHL-ready goaltender.
What to expect in 2021-2022?
Expect the Canucks to score a ton of goals. The forward squad is perhaps the best they’ve had since the 2011 Cup racing squad, and the club now have enormous depth.
They have a lot of unproven defenders and are going to need Demko to be as good as he was last season if they are to stay in the playoff race throughout the season.
The Canucks believe Demko is the guy who can lead them to the Promised Land and put their money where they say they are when they signed him for a five-year, $ 25 million contract extension last season.
The Canucks believe they are a playoff team, and there is an understanding at all levels of the organization that anything less than a playoff berth is a failure.
If they can stay healthy, expect the Canucks to be a force to be reckoned with this season.
A bold prediction …
Head coach Travis Green is a poker player who excels in the playoffs. He played a big part in the Canucks’ ability to advance to Game 7 of the 2020 Playoff Round 2 against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Combine that with a significantly better advanced group than in 2020, and it becomes more and more clear.
If the Canucks do make the playoffs, they could shock a lot of people.
Make sure to subscribe to ESPN + at the link below where for just $ 69.99 USD per year you can watch all of the action.
ESPN + has become a staple for hockey fans. Stream over 1,000 NHL non-market games, 75 exclusive national games and more. Plus, get access to live events from the world’s top leagues and tournaments, exclusive originals from the biggest names in the sport, the comprehensive 30 for 30 library, premium items and fantastic tools, and daily sports talks from biggest names in the game.