Not all is lost for the Canucks just yet

Vancouver Canucks continue to hit new lows this season, but they can still rebound

Art by Kristen Frier

Art by Kristen Frier

What the Canucks have done this season is something not even Hollywood could come up with and is worthy of a future documentary.

Francesco Aquilini, owner of the Canucks, was accused of child abuse right before the season started. 

In October, the team lost four games in a row, breaking the record for most consecutive games lost after having a multi-goal lead at the start of the season. This isn’t a first for the Canucks as they’ve blown multi-goal leads a total of eight times, getting closer to the NHL record of 13.

Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau was fired by upper management last month. How the situation played out has been heavily criticized, with Boudreau being visibly emotional in his final game with the team. 

It’s tough to blame Boudreau for the team’s struggles since, up until this season, he’s always had a winning record on the other teams he’s coached. 

J.T. Miller, the Canucks’ previous leading point scorer with an impressive 99 points, has been criticized for his aggressive behaviour and relatively lackluster season so far. After signing a seven year, $56 million contract extension before the season started, many called out his lack of defensive effort and attitude with teammates. 

It’s a mistake to keep Miller. While his performance last season was impressive, his attitude towards teammates and questions about his effort are hard to overlook. Having a cap hit of $8 million per season until 2030 starting next season when he’s already 30 could impede the team for years to come. 

Bo Horvat, the captain who is on pace to score over 50 goals this season, was recently traded to the New York Islanders. Shortly after arriving to Long Island, he signed an eight-year contract extension worth $68 million. 

Asset mismanagement seems to be the reason why the Canucks have been struggling for years. 

One major misstep took place during the 2020 offseason. Right before the free agency period, a time when unrestricted free agent players can sign with another team, the Canucks let players Tyler Toffoli, Chris Tanev, Jacob Markstrom, and Troy Stecher walk away for nothing. 

While I knew keeping all four was borderline impossible considering how little space they had for contracts, I didn’t think all players would leave. 

Although the team did sign and trade for replacements, the Canucks would’ve been better off keeping someone like Toffoli or Tanev around. 

The second screw up occurred when former Canucks manager Jim Benning traded for players Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland from the Arizona Coyotes in July 2021. To acquire them, the Canucks gave up Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, and three draft picks, including a 2021 first-round pick.

The contracts of Eriksson, Beagle, and Roussel were set to expire after the 2021-2022 season, saving the Canucks $12 million in salary cap space. That cap space could’ve been used to keep someone such as Horvat. However, this move now hindered the team with a combined $13.2 million cap hit until 2026 and fewer chances to land quality prospects.

While there’s still a lot more work for the Canucks to do to become Stanley Cup contenders again, the 2023 NHL entry draft is a good place to start. This year’s draft is reported to be one of the strongest in years, with Connor Bedard, a promising young player from North Vancouver, projected to be the first overall pick. Even if Bedard isn’t drafted by the Canucks, other notable prospects such as Adam Fantilli and Matvei Michkov are great hockey stars available in the early first round.

No one wants to watch their favourite sports team perform horribly. The chance to land a young up-and-coming star is enticing and the possibility of acquiring a hometown up-and-coming player can lead to even more excitement about the team’s future.