When the Vancouver Canucks left the 2020 playoff bubble, they expected to return at the start of next season and compete. But after three seasons of perpetual disappointment, the Canucks appear further off their trajectory than ever.
Inspired by a coaching change, the Canucks showed life at the end of last season. Vancouver went 20-12-4 under Rick Tocchet, a vast improvement compared to the results shown by his predecessors. Extrapolated over an 82-game season, Tocchet would have led the Nucks to a 100-point season and playoff berth.
Building a future on ‘what-ifs’ and ‘could-have-beens’ is the faulty premise that got the Canucks into this mess in the first place. Now is the time to deliver for the floundering franchise as they look to live up to their once-promising potential.
These three moves immediately improve the Canucks and help them compete for next year’s Stanley Cup.
Re-Sign Elias Pettersson
Franchise cornerstone and former Calder Trophy winner Elias Pettersson is the focal point of the Canucks offense. Last season, Petey led all Canucks skaters in goals, points, and expected goals-for rating, cracking the 100-point plateau for the first time in his career. But Petterson heads into the 2023-24 campaign with only one year remaining on his contract, making him eligible for an extension. Canucks GM Patrik Allvin has yet to re-up with Pettersson, but re-signing his fellow countryman should be at the top of his priority list.
The last thing the Canucks can afford to do is let Pettersson go unsigned. Not signing him to the contract he deserves risks souring the relationship. Moreover, teams could sign Petey to an offer sheet next year. That means the Nucks would be looking at draft pick compensation and effectively re-starting their rebuild.
We’ve seen everything Pettersson has to offer, and Vancouver needs to pay up for their team MVP.
Add a Bargain Defenseman
Granted, their structure improved under Tocchet, but there’s still much left to be desired for the Canucks defensive play. Vancouver ranked in the league’s bottom half in scoring and high-danger chances allowed, highlighting a need to bolster the backend. They’ve taken steps toward improving this offseason; however, adding a bargain defenseman via free agency could tilt the ice further in Vancouver’s direction.
Several quality defensemen remain available. Matt Dumba highlights the list, but the Canucks would be hard-pressed to fit him under the cap unless they shed salary or Dumba signs at a discount. Alternatively, Vancouver could look in Patrik Nemeth’s direction. Nemeth has a prototypical defensive profile and has been effective at shutting down the opposition.
Having either available on the bottom pairing helps tidy things up in their own end, elevating the Canucks play.
Bring in a Veteran Locker Room Presence
Part of the Canucks struggles could be attributed to a lack of a locker room presence. Every forward on the roster is 30 or younger, and only a few defensemen exceed that threshold. Worse, Vancouver has gone through three head coaches over the past few seasons, losing several top contributors via trade. The end result is a rudderless ship in need of a veteran to catalyze a young roster.
Jonathan Toews jumps off the free agent list as a leadership candidate that could keep the Canucks afloat. Toews has a history of winning and solidifies the bottom six up front. Similarly, Josh Bailey remains available and has relationships with several other bodies in the room.
The Canucks are up against the salary cap, but adding a calming voice in the dressing room could be the difference between competing and another disappointing season.
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