If hockey is a game of chaos, then the Vancouver Canucks Team Chaos season is hockey at its purest.
Canucks Are Team Chaos This Season
Start with a fanbase two million strong with just as many opinions, all of them online. Add an owner desperate for that cherry high of a Stanley Cup series early in his tenure. Mix in a first-time general manager desperate to appease said owner and keep his job. Bake at the temperature of a Marie Callender pumpkin pie for a decade, and you have… whatever this is.
For all the changes the Vancouver Canucks have gone through over the past calendar year, there has been a constant. That “constant” is wildly unpredictable from one game to the next. Starting Bruce Boudreau‘s tenure with a seven-game win streak is easily matched by 2022-23’s seven-loss opening. Last season’s difficulty with giving up the first goal? Gone, in return for repeatedly going up 2-0 ten times in their first 25 games. Then, of course, they lose seven of those games as the monkey’s paw does its work.
The tricky maneuvering around Brock Boeser‘s contract was a skilled bit of negotiating but adding J.T. Miller long-term? Neither one is a sign of any sort of rebuild/retool but a repeat-ad-nauseam.
Slow and Steady Is Eh, Whatever
Still, a team that’s dug itself into the trenches of perpetual not-quite-playoffs won’t be a quick fix. We have, after all, explicitly discussed the impossibility of repairs. Then immediately gave a counter-opinion because, hey, this is the Canucks we’re talking about. There’s a lot of ground to cover – we’re talking about guessing the state of all nine lives of Schrodinger’s Cat at once.
Meanwhile, on the ice, one of the pillars of the New Team that are supposed to emerge from this mess has been having a miserable year. Thatcher Demko, the Canucks Team Chaos last line of defence, has been more of a scribble. The 2022-23 season is easily his worst as a professional hockey player, but it won’t last forever. Heck, it’s already done until late January, at least.
In Demko’s place is Spencer Martin, the Miracle Baby of a couple in their 50s. Martin’s ridiculous numbers from last season as a 26-year-old backup justifiably earned him a two-year deal. It’s a bargain basement price at just $762.5K per year, but the stability is worth it. His numbers haven’t been as good this year, but that’s hardly surprising. The rest of the team has given up on exploring their own end of the ice, and goalie numbers have suffered. Because this year is all about the goals, baby!
Yes, We ARE Entertained
In 2021-22, the Canucks finished eighth overall in goals against at 2.28 per game, or 236 total goals. Their goals-for ended up 22nd overall at an even 3.00, or 246 total goals. Those are the sort of numbers that can drag a team into the playoffs if things break just right. The wins come against the right teams, a weak division, that sort of thing. That wasn’t the case last year, but watching them claw their way back to the possibility was fun.
This year’s numbers are… different. Vancouver’s goals against has collapsed to 30th in a 32-team league, a miserable 3.85 per game with 100 goals against in just 26 games. They’ve held opponents to fewer than three goals just four times this season. Three of those times were against top-half scoring teams the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Los Angeles Kings, and the Vegas Golden Knights. So, we know it’s possible for the Canucks to defend against good teams. They just don’t always feel like it.
Their offence, on the other hand? A bright, shiny seventh overall at 3.50 goals for, or 91 total, in those same 26 games. They haven’t been shut out yet, but their three one-goal games? Against the indifferent defences of the Washington Capitals, the Florida Panthers, and the Buffalo Sabres.
It ends up that the wild, 13-goal game against the Montreal Canadiens was more typical for the Canucks Team Chaos than exceptional. If you’re a fan who’s new to hockey and likes that whole “scoring” thing, few teams that will make you happier!
Brick Walls and Quick-Dry Paint
One thing Canucks fans have learned over the years is that sometimes they need to find their own fun. The debate over whether players should have been signed, traded for, or traded away is fun on its own. But that’s not part of the game each day, at least not for the three hours during and around play. So what are some examples of what to watch while the team figures out if they are the road runner or the coyote?
How Brock Gets His Groove Back
It looks like Brock Boeser will be traded at some point this season. But that’s more likely to happen closer to the deadline, so why not enjoy seeing the one-time Calder nominee regain his scoring touch while he increases his trade value? It’s fun to remember just how good he is at this game!
The Emerging Superstar
This Vancouver Canucks season has an icon, and it’s the guy who will wait four years to make you look like a fool. Elias Pettersson has put serious scoring numbers on his game this season, already at almost half of last season’s production total. With 12 goals and 32 points to go along with his much-improved defensive play, he’s become one of the best all-around players in the league at 24. It’s easy to love what you see when he’s playing.
Totally Opposite Twinsies!
One’s a forward with a square jaw and bold demeanour. The other’s a crafty defenceman who looks like a fourth-year med student in finals week. Somehow, these two teammates need to work together to solve mysteries! Who wouldn’t watch a one-hour with Bo Horvat and Quinn Hughes? But the real fun is seeing if Horvat (20-9-29) will reach ten assists before Hughes gets his first goal (0-24-24).
Can They or Can’t They?
If drama is more your thing, there’s always the goaltending to keep an eye on. Martin has never been the starter in the NHL, and those pressures are VERY different from backing up. Behind him is fellow veteran Collin Delia, the first goalie to get a win for the Vancouver and Abbotsford Canucks in the same season. Whether they can keep the Cancuks Team Chaos afloat – or if the skaters can outscore their issues – is one heck of a storyline.
The Fourth Be With You
Dakota Joshua on a hat trick watch – two goals scored, two waved off – against the San Jose Sharks Wednesday was unexpected. Joshua averaged the least time of any Canucks player before then. Rookie Nils Aman has played every game so far. Veteran Sheldon Dries has been providing points and faceoff wins. Dirt cheap and still effective is an unusual combination in Vancouver and one worth watching. Folk heroes always come from a team’s bottom six, right? Pick one and enjoy!
It Gets Better
Looking over the schedule before the seasons started, December was going to be the “easy” month. October was going to be hard to start, especially the first seven games. With that in mind, guess what this Canucks Team Chaos mob is doing? They had seven losses to start and eight wins in their last eleven games. Last season, a terrible start led to wholesale changes, and the year was salvaged by a strong December. If it worked for them last year, why not do it again? Just don’t mention how it worked for them last year.
There comes a point where fans in Vancouver have to relax and see where the year takes them. The Vancouver Canucks season will undergo changes, but they need to hope none of those changes will be hasty. Unfortunately, even more patience is required as the year spins out of control.
Get some Dramamine, grab your crash helmet, and hope it lands somewhere fun.
*”of late” = over the past 50-ish years.
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