Moves Setting Up the Vancouver Canucks Future

CALGARY, AB - DECEMBER 31: Vancouver Canucks Center Sheldon Dries (15) celebrates a goal with Vancouver Canucks Left Wing Conor Garland (8), Vancouver Canucks Defenceman Ethan Bear (74) and Vancouver Canucks Right Wing Brock Boeser (6) during the second period of an NHL game between the Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks on December 31, 2022, at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, AB. (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Very soon, the Vancouver Canucks‘ future is going to be decided when the team plots out their new direction. Whether fans like that direction or not will be – SHOULD be – irrelevant.

Of Proper Plans and Paper Trails

The calendar has turned over and the team hasn’t. Yet. But looking at the moves made late in December, there is definitely something of a plan emerging. The most important part that we on the outside can see is when they expect to emerge. Obviously, that will show up more seriously when we have some trade results to look over. For now, there are some things to consider.

Dead Coach Walking

Bruce Boudreau is out at the end of the year, and everyone knows it. The team looks like it’s going to give him the rest of the season to do what he will, but no more. If he can make the playoffs with whatever configuration remains post-trade deadline, that’s a bonus. But it’s not going to keep him employed.

Having your boss tell the media how surprised he was to discover you were still there is never a great sign. Having him then say that training camp sucked and so does your coaching is probably worse. Jim Rutherford‘s done both. But they probably aren’t going to fire him, and they shouldn’t. For one thing, the team is still paying Travis Green until the season’s end. For another – hopefully – they aren’t making moves in a bid to reach the playoffs.

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Vancouver Canucks Future Prospects Down!

If that’s not convincing, consider the player decisions made. Boudreau is well known for getting the most out of his veterans, but often at the cost of his youth. He is a coach who tries to win every game with little thought for development. That’s led him to 600+ NHL wins, so it obviously works for him.

Management, on the other hand, takes a longer view – as suits their job description. And they have taken Vasili Podkolzin and Nils Höglander off Vancouver’s roster and put them onto Abbotsford’s. Podkolzin was a regular in 2021-22, dressing in 79 games as a fourth-line rookie, but had a difficult time producing this year. Höglander has a longer track record, being in his third season, but a role harder to define. Both players getting work in the developmental league won’t hurt. Mistakes can be seen and corrected with less at stake.

When the opportunity to bring up “Goalie of the Future” Arturs Silovs arrived, they instead went with veteran Collin Delia. Rookie Nils Åman was sent to the AHL and 2016 draft pick William Lockwood has been brought up. Lockwood has his only NHL point from his one game up this season, which is disappointing. There is definitely a feeling that the team wants to be shown what he can do, and not necessarily because he’s part of the Vancouver Canucks future. If he does it well, that’s another in their surplus of wingers who can be trade chips.

Well, Well, Well!

The original plan – after he was re-signed – was to play J.T. Miller in the middle of the ice. That would give the Canucks serious depth through the middle, taking full advantage of all their scoring wingers. It didn’t really work out, alas, and he moved back to wing. His production is still fine – 13 goals and 30 points in 35 games – but it’s not what the team wanted.

Miller’s new contract is big, no denying that. The seven-year length is as substantial as the $56 million total value. Still, it isn’t that bad a deal for a team ready to challenge for the Stanley Cup and looking for a fiery, veteran presence who can also be a major contributor on the scoreboard for the next 3-4 years.

You noticed the problem with that specific plan, right? The contract isn’t bad for the addition of a major piece on a competitive team. And competing for the Stanley Cup is well into the Vancouver Canucks future. So why the ongoing experiment at centre ice? Because centres are more valuable than wingers, and maybe a team that is ready to compete will be watching. And if it’s Bo Horvat who gets moved, then they will need someone to take his draws. Though that might not be Miller, either.

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About Those Prospects

By a fine coincidence, there are going to be plenty of team representatives in town on the week of January 25th. As many rumours as there are out here right now, the smart money is on any major deals waiting. The Vancouver Canucks future – for the next few years, anyway – is likely to be formed after that date. Rutherford has never been particularly beholden to the trade deadline and it’s unlikely Patrik Allvin with be either.

And should those teams happen to send some pro scouts along with their amateur ones, they’ll have three games to look over the team’s potential trade chips. Their opponents couldn’t be better if they were hand-picked, either. The Chicago Blackhawks, the Seattle Kraken, and the Columbus Blue Jackets – two very weak teams and one the Canucks have never lost to. That’s immediately followed by ten days off as they go into the All-Star Game. It’s an excellent opportunity to hand out fliers and start taking bids.

This season the trade deadline is on March 5th, but the Canucks aren’t going to wait that long. The opportunities to make deals and negotiate trades are readily available soon, which is music to the ears of Canucks fans. Ownership just has to hope they like what they hear.

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