Everything the average Vancouver Canucks fan fears comes from a perfectly normal place – for them, anyway. Joy is an uncomfortable experience for someone who’s accustomed to misery, after all. Still, some things are worth the worry while others can move to the back burner. Because we’re so civically minded, we will sort out which ones are what for you.
What A Canucks Fan Fears
Before last season ended, much of the concern around the team was the sporting death knell that is apathy. There’s only so long fans can be expected to support a team that looks like it’s going exactly nowhere. But restructuring everything on the “white-collar” side of the company to go with the revamped coaching squad revitalized interest.
An incredibly successful first half of the season has done more than earn the President of Hockey Operations a new, multi-year deal. It’s also given fans a whole new luxury: worrying about success. Because what’s Canucks fandom without some drama? Let’s take a closer look at what fans are talking about as Great Big Scary Things and see how justified they are on a 1-10 scale.
Early in the season, Canucks fans were having a blast watching the team go. Right from the start, smashing the Edmonton Oilers by an aggregate score of 12-4 in a home-and-home series. What’s not to love? A couple losses brought them back to Earth, but then straight up from there. But for the folks who look under the hood, that early success looked like smoke and mirrors.
That isn’t an invalid way to see how the team was going. Whether your team wins or loses, you want to know why. The underlying numbers combined a sky-high shooting percentage and brilliant goaltending. When the record includes some statistic-distorting blowouts, it’s fair to be suspicious.
And the regression happened. Over a dozen games, the Canucks red-hot top scorers and starting goaltender Thatcher Demko cooled down. The regression to the mean hit and… the third line caught fire, taking over the scoring workload. Vancouver’s regression wasn’t a drop to the bottom of the league, dragging them down to the middle of the pack. It was playing .500 hockey for a dozen games.
They can live with that.
Elias Pettersson Not Signing (7/10)
Elias Pettersson doesn’t want to be asked about any kind of contract extension. And he hasn’t been. But that doesn’t mean fans aren’t going to talk about it – and for good reason. He is clearly the best forward the team has, well on his way to a second 100+ point season and just 25 years old. Every team in the league will open the vault for him given the chance.
Management has made it very clear to both Pettersson’s agent and to fans that they are happy to talk. There is, no doubt, a variety of contracts in front of him right now. But they aren’t going to press him just yet, because history exists.
However, Pettersson not wanting to discuss any aspect of a future deal is hampering plans now. The Canucks have to consider what they can offer any player they trade for in an effort to boost the team’s playoff chances. If they end up taking a salary back, how does that affect next season and beyond?
So, sure. Being concerned that Pettersson hasn’t signed is completely valid. Canucks fan fears that he doesn’t sign at all? Less so. It’s not a bad thing that what Pettersson said at the start of the season is the same message he has now.
Hockey is a game that incorporates luck more than any other. The ice gets ruts in it as you play. Collected snow around the crease can slow the puck. One of the most famous goals in Canucks history was assisted by a wild deflection off a stanchion.
And the Canucks have been very, very lucky in one specific field: injuries. As of January 19th, seven of their top nine scorers – including all of their top five – have played in every game. Long-time followers of the team know how rare it is that multi-day injuries have been limited to the bottom-six forwards and just one of the defencemen.
Part of those expectations is that Vancouver always has an odd travel schedule, simply by virtue of their location. But this year, with the increased preventative care paid for by the team and the focus of the coach is helping alleviate those stresses.
That’ll cut down the endurance and travel injuries, if not the on-ice injuries. The depth of the team at forward and defence has improved – but ideally, they’ll never test it.
Every Other Team in the League, Apparently (1/10)
A common refrain from fans and critics about now is the level of competition. “They haven’t played these guys yet!” Hm. As a statement, that’s true. There are plenty of games left against some very good teams.
They have yet to play the Boston Bruins, the Los Angeles Kings, or the Winnipeg Jets. Counterpoint: Playing good teams is something to look forward to. Why on Earth would this be one of any Canucks fan fears? Go get them.
Canucks fan fears of getting burned, overpaying for medium results, overpaying for bad results, trading away prospects? Fair, but these guys have earned their trust.
While Rutherford’s trade history is hardly perfect, the pro scout team he’s assembled has been stellar so far. Officially, it’s Patrik Allvin making the deals, of course. But Rutherford is working phones hard in the background, and no general manager works alone.
Early moves were fairly low-risk, low-reward – turning Travis Hamonic for Travis Dermott, for instance. Or they were forced by cap crunches, like paying the Chicago Blackhawks to take Jason Dickinson‘s contract. And, later, Anthony Beauvillier‘s for a reduced rate.
After those, the moves have been at the very least solid. Casey DeSmith? Smash hit. Filip Hronek? Expensive, but now worth it. Sam Lafferty, Nikita Zadorov, and even Mark Friedman have been important parts of the team.
The team is looking for a big deal, adding a scoring forward and maybe an additional defenceman. That will change the composition of the team, obviously. But enough to make fans scared of them acting? They probably shouldn’t.
Losing Free Agents (10/10)
Of all the Canucks fan fears, this is the most justified. It’s going to depend on who gets brought in and what their contracts look like, but money is tight. The one certainty is that Oliver Ekman-Larsson‘s contract buyout penalty is going up.
It’s a known quantity, and over $2 million higher than its current amount. Then it doubles to just over $4.75 million for the two seasons after that. Holding that in mind, Pettersson’s contract still needs negotiating, as do two-thirds of Vancouver’s suddenly potent third line. The defence is set for another revamp.
If Dakota Joshua is offered a three-year, $3 million deal from another team, why shouldn’t he take it? If Zadorov gets $6 million to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs or whoever the Canucks aren’t going to match.
Canucks Fan Fears in Perspective: Nah
There’s still plenty to talk about, even if it’s not really a concern. It’s fun to discuss possible trades and what their future ramifications might be. But there’s a difference between talking about what might happen and screaming at call-in show hosts. Understand that maybe is just maybe.
Then again, if that’s not your thing as a sports fan, hey, that’s fine, too! A bit surprising, because some of us LIKE feeding our Math Nerd selves with salary cap debates. But if you want to leave the spreadsheets to us, we just have one thing to say:
*Hat tip, as ever, to CapFriendly
Main Photo Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports