The seven-game schedule is over. It ended on a high, blowing out the lowly Arizona Coyotes by a score of 4-0 after beating the Edmonton Oilers 5-4. But those were the only wins of the pre-season as they finish 2-3-2. There is a built-in excuse for any team having a weak pre-season, and that’s knowing there are no points given out. It’s all about building the team and trying new systems, etc. For the Vancouver Canucks pre-season, some questions arise as they head into the 82-game schedule.
Vancouver Canucks Pre-Season Leaves Questions
The above excuses are fine, but it doesn’t stop players from wanting to win. Fans likewise are watching for any positives to take with them into the new year. “Yeah, but Joe Jack Talcum looks like he can be great in five or six years!” Player try-out deals come and, mostly, go. Prospects turn into reliable AHL veterans as they leave their fourth training camp. Coaches hope a new guy can break through as general managers pray for the same. Then they prepare for the new season to start where the points do matter.
For the Vancouver Canucks, this is also where they look over the list of injuries and break out their calculators. Their latest mid-game deal tells you what answer they got.
The Positives, The Negatives, And The Expected Unexpected
There were needs going into the Vancouver Canucks pre-season. There are things to clarify still, especially how incoming players could fit in with the current Canucks. Bruce Boudreau‘s record with the team is a mere 57 games, but a very good 32-15-10. How much of that is illusory will only be determined by the regular season, but at least now he can pick and choose his players from Day One. He is, unquestionably, the person who is under the most pressure of anyone who works for the team, white or blue collar.
At the risk of sounding too obvious, it’s the injuries. Brock Boeser and Ilya Mikheyev are both coming with the team on their road trip, so the hope is they’re close to returning. Fortunately for the Canucks, their depth is at forward and they can fill those spots. Other injuries stacked up with Phillip Di Giuseppe – who might have come in as a sub for the shortened bench – and Conor Garland going down. Garland should be back soon, but his injury is still “undisclosed” so we can’t tell just yet.
More alarm bells are ringing over the loss of Tyler Myers and Travis Dermott. Dermott’s concussion-like issues left him unable to get to the dressing room without help two weeks ago, and he hasn’t returned. The versatile Dermott is supposed to help Vancouver’s blueline mobility issues, but he needs to be on the ice to do that. The bigger issue is Myers to a “lower-body injury” for the remainder of the month. For all the criticism he has received, Myers was a second-pair fixture last season. For a team that needs a fast start, his absence won’t help.
Moving out Jason Dickinson was mildly surprising, but not much more than that. Someone had to go, and this was a bad deal on a player that didn’t live up to it. With his increasing pay schedule and high cap, the Canucks needed to add a pick to move him. Another deal can come before the season starts, and if it does odds are good it will look like this.
While it’s not exactly a surprise when a PTO doesn’t work out, Danny DeKeyser had a chance to join a weak defence than needed him. Unfortunately, he couldn’t keep the pace the Canucks need on their defence and was released. Even worse is Tucker Poolman‘s failure to impress on his return from a concussion. He still has the inside track on a spot, but the team would very much like a better option. Or at the very least a cheaper one. The three years remaining at $2.5 million is a hard reach for him to live up to.
Staying with the defence, Jack Rathbone looks, just okay. He has a chance to take a regular spot on the defence, but his style isn’t one that’s gradually added. Rathbone’s a puck carrier and attacker, a role that is entirely taken by Quinn Hughes. He’s been given plenty of ice time but has managed just six shots and no points. At 23, he needs to prove he can bring his AHL production to the NHL.
The good news, indeed, the best news is that there’s plenty of good news from the Vancouver Canucks Pre-Season. Free agent win Andrei Kuzmenko is not only a threat on the ice, but he’s also a treat off of it. Following in Vasili Podkolzin’s footsteps, Kuzmenko is banishing memories of shy or distant Russians in Vancouver. He can make the accountants sweat bullets by the trade deadline, and that’s a good thing.
Nils Höglander is under pressure to show play that earns Boudreau’s trust, and he’s very much doing that. Elias Pettersson looks possessed out there, and if he keeps that pace up through the season? He won’t just hit a point-per-game, he’ll blow through it like tissues in Spring. Another Nils – Nils Åman – is a roll of the dice in the off-season that’s paid off. If he isn’t starting in Vancouver then he’ll be an early call-up. A two-year deal on him is looking awfully good.
The goaltending is the goaltending. It’s not quite all about Thatcher Demko, but it’s close. The players lined up behind Demko look fine, even if the team in front of them collapsed on occasion. Spencer Martin didn’t face a ton of shots from the Oilers, but they are the Oilers. His job is to stop enough to give his team a chance to win, and that will do nicely.
And what the heck, we’ll wrap it up with a positive note on the defence. While the team still needs to find a top-pair match if possible, they have options at the lower end. Not just new arrival Riley Stillman, but Kyle Burroughs is ready to expand on last year’s 42 NHL games. That Burroughs can play on either side is simply icing on the cake.
While there was some stumbling during the Vancouver Canucks pre-season, the red flags aren’t huge ones. What was suspected before the off-season began continues now, it’s gonna be close. Given the past six years, fans in Vancouver will take it.
Rituals have returned 🤜🤛 pic.twitter.com/7tBa5VO5Tm
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) October 8, 2022