After twelve games played, the Vancouver Canucks are currently second in the pacific division, with 9 wins and 6 losses. They are currently coming off of the off-season, where the Canucks most notably selected two promising defencemen prospects, Quinn Hughes and Jett Woo, with their first two draft picks. In addition to the picks, the Canucks added depth to their offensive lineup, signing free agents Antoine Roussel, and the Stanley Cup winning Jay Beagle to matching 3-year, $6,000,000 contracts.
If the mere 15 games played by the Canucks are any indicator of how their season will fare, it will certainly be an interesting one. If they can maintain their position in the Pacific division standings, the Canucks might possibly make it to the playoffs, ending the 3-year drought since their 2014-15 season.
So, how has the team been refined to achieve improvement? Most notably, the Canucks were still grasping onto the pieces integral to the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoff finals appearance such as the Sedins, Alex Burrows, Kevin Bieksa, and Dan Hamhuis. As you may assume, the team was aging rapidly, so this was the final season Vancouver could have had a credible run with who they retained from the past decade. In recent years, the team made a turn for the worst, coming last and second in the seasons after their finals appearance. However, the team’s lackluster play prompted high positions in the NHL entry draft–a privilege they’ve employed to the best ability, drafting Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen, Brock Boeser, and most importantly, Elias Pettersson, who is currently the highest scoring 2018 rookie, as well as the 35th highest points leader in the league, despite missing half of the games due to a concussion.
Assisting in the development of the team, it appears that the revolving door of Canucks goaltenders has finally landed on the 6’6” Swedish duo of Anders Nilsson and Jacob Markstrom, who have save percentages of 0.914 and 0.903, respectively. Coming off of the 2017-18 season as Markstrom’s backup, Anders Nilsson has been especially impressive this season, on average saving over 90% of shots, only losing to the elite Stanley Cup contending teams so far.
Unfortunately, the season has started out rockier than it should have, the most prominent issue being injuries that have plagued the roster, with almost half of the team being physically unable to play at least one game so far. Early in the season, Canucks’ new acquisition Jay Beagle had his forearm broken from a blocked shot, and the elite prospect Elias Pettersson suffered a concussion resulting from an illegal hit. Through the course of the season, they’ve suffered injuries from major to minor, from first-liners to fourth liners. While some of the players with minor injuries have recovered, many have not. The injured roster is comprised of second-line left winger, Sven Baertschi, out with a concussion, goalie Anders Nilsson, with a fractured finger, the aforementioned Jay Beagle, as well as the Canucks’ core defence, in Alex Edler and Chris Tanev. Obviously having such an abundance of players integral to the franchise on the injured reserve is not ideal–if the trend continues, it could seriously affect their performance this season.
The blend of young, talented rookies, along with older veterans, and new acquisitions from trades or free agency have made Vancouver quite the formidable team within the league. Since the beginning of the season, the Canucks’ odds of making the playoffs increased by almost two thirds, starting at a probability of 45.8%, growing to their current 60.2%. With undeniably stacked teams like Winnipeg and Calgary in the Western Conference, the odds of the Canucks winning the Stanley Cup are slim, at merely 4.6%, as reported by Moneypuck.com. Coming off of a 3 -year rebuild, that’s okay. If the team can manage to regain their health throughout the season, it might be the best for Vancouver in half a decade. But, as the first-ever for the rookie Pettersson, this season will indicate if he will be the franchise player Vancouver needs, or just another first or second liner. Over time, Vancouver’s prospects will gradually mature. After half a decade of rebuilding, the Canucks have an undeniably bright future ahead of them.