It wasn’t long ago that Brock Boeser was considered the future of the Vancouver Canucks franchise. He was undoubtedly the greatest rookie the city had seen since Pavel Bure. He was destined to be a superstar alongside the likes of Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine. Three injury-riddled seasons later, however, his name is now frequenting trade talks among the fanbase.
The Canucks defence is not set in stone, that is certain. There is no shortage of moving pieces with Chris Tanev and Troy Stecher set to sign new NHL contracts. It is understandable why supporters of the team want to see the team acquire another defenceman. That being said however, trading Brock Boeser is not the way to go about doing that.
Brock Boeser is Not Expendable
The Raw Numbers
Brock Boeser’s incredible rookie season certainly set lofty expectations, the likes of which would have been difficult for anyone to meet. While the 2018 Calder finalist hasn’t been able to reach those standards thus far, there is no denying the value he offers is significant.
At the time of writing, the status of the paused NHL season remains unclear. As it stands, however, Boeser has 16 goals and 45 points in 57 games. This comes in the first year of his very team-friendly three year, $17.625 million contract. While those point totals are unremarkable by his standards, it certainly isn’t anything to scoff at. A 64 point pace over 82 games are impressive numbers, even more so when you consider that Boeser was relegated to being the Canucks third or fourth scoring option all season. This, with a career-low shooting percentage of 9.5 percent. His shooting percentage this season pales in comparison to his career average, which hovers at right about 13 percent.
Let’s take a look at what Boeser’s offensive output may have looked like if he had shot his career average. A 13 percent shooting percentage this season would have resulted in a 22 goal campaign, ceteris paribus. 22 goals in 52 points in 57 games equates to a 34 goal, 74 point pace over a full season. Those are numbers you want playing for you, not against.
Of course, the above scenario is purely hypothetical. There’s no way for us to know how the season would have played out had Boeser shot at that clip. Along the same vein, the team and its fans don’t yet know what he could be capable of doing in a fully healthy year.
Brock Boeser’s Injury Problems and His Unclear Potential
His glorious rookie season was limited to 62 games by multiple injuries. Most notably, a fractured spine that brought his season to a screeching halt. Another injury he suffered in that season was to his wrist, suffered in a collision with Dan Girardi. That took away his greatest weapon, his wrist shot, and it’s often noted by fans and media alike that his shot has never been the same since. To this day he tapes his wrist, causing worry of it being a nagging injury. It has also been documented that he’s shooting discernibly fewer wrist shots, only adding on to the concern. However, this has not been confirmed by any party if this has any merit. His second season was similarly limited by injuries, to 69 games that year.
The first half of Boeser’s rookie season very well could have been the last time we saw him 100% healthy. It is no mystery what a healthy Boeser looks like on the ice. His tremendous success during that time has obviously been well chronicled. For the first time since he turned pro, his offseason could be wholly dedicated to improving his game. His first offseason, he was stuck having to rehab his spinal injury. This past summer, his family matters were priority number one for Boeser.
With an offseason dedicated to improvement, there is no telling what strides he could make in his development. Put simply, it would be unwise to move on from a young player with such promise, without first seeing what he is truly capable of achieving.
The Canucks Right Wing Depth
Injury problems aside, Boeser was by far the best right-winger on the Canucks depth chart ever since he entered the league. This held unequivocally true, until the Canucks acquisition of Tyler Toffoli at the trade deadline.
This does not suddenly make Brock Boeser a tradeable player, however.
Right-wing depth has been a great area of concern for the Vancouver Canucks in recent years. With the acquisition of Josh Leivo and the emergence of Jake Virtanen, those problems have been alleviated somewhat. However, none of Eriksson, Leivo, or Virtanen are bona fide second-line forwards (as of yet, for the latter two).
A one-two punch of Boeser-Toffoli in any order finally gives Travis Green and his centers a reliable right-wing corps to work with. While the Canucks have been lucky enough to draft a great right-wing prospect in Podkolzin, the amount of uncertainty surrounding prospects should reasonably prevent the team from banking on him becoming a suitable top-6 replacement.
It goes without saying that to move on from one of Boeser or Toffoli would immediately revert the position back to its original state. Of course, we cannot know for certain if Tyler Toffoli will re-sign with the team in the Summer. With either potential outcome however, the Canucks are far better off with Brock Boeser as a member of their team. By creating an area of weakness (RW) to address another area of weakness (Defence), the team would be running in place at best. Not to mention, the team would be running a significant risk by placing the future of the position into the hands of completely unproven prospects.
What’s Next For Brock Boeser?
Unfortunately, there is no crystal ball through which we can see what a player will become. No matter which way you dissect it however, Brock Boeser is a valuable player on a young Vancouver team. With any trade, Canucks would only be selling when Boeser’s value is at its lowest. Not to mention, they would be creating a significant gap in their forward core. If another player emerges as a legitimate right-wing option down the line, this could be a conversation worth revisiting. For now though, the Canucks would be best off letting him develop as they would any other 23-year-old. Let Boeser grow alongside the rest of their young core, and see if he can realize the tantalizing potential that he showed in his rookie year.