There are times in life when you just have to push all the chips in. After all, you only live once, YOLO! For the Vancouver Canucks, that time is now. Their incredible season filled with historically high PDO is continuing and it looks like the wheels on the wagon just won’t fall off. At the time of this writing, Vancouver is 29-11-4 with 62 points and is in first place in the NHL. They have won seven out of their last 10 games including five of six on their ongoing seven-game road trip. This begs the question: Should the Canucks go all in?
The Vancouver Canucks Run the Pacific Division Standings
They should push their poker chips to the middle of the table. Nobody expected the Canucks to be this good but most things have been clicking for them. For instance, the Canucks have five All-Star representatives this season. Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, J.T. Miller (The entire Lotto Line!) and Thatcher Demko. (The first four were added in due to the fan vote). That is the most Canucks players that will ever send to the All-Star game and they are the first team since the 2000-01 Colorado Avalanche to have five All-Star representatives.
Head coach Rick Tocchet is also heading to Toronto for All-Star weekend. Tocchet was also a four-time All-Star as a player. The reasons why the Canucks have five All-Star representatives (six if you count Tocchet) are clear. It goes to show how good a team they have been this season. At this point in the season and given where the Canucks are in the standings, they should go all in.
A year ago, Canucks fans were crying for a rebuild and that General Manager Patrik Allvin should trade for more draft picks and young players. The Canucks were poorly built by Allvin’s predecessor Jim Benning. But with the playoffs pretty much going to happen and Allvin adding some quality players, there probably isn’t a better opportunity than right now.
Quinn Hughes is signed until 2027 and Demko is signed until 2026 (a five million dollar AAV for him looks like a bargain) while Boeser is signed until 2025. Miller will be 31 years old on March 14 and how much does he have left in the tank? He is on pace for a 110-point season which would be a career high.
As for Pettersson, he is still unsigned. Pettersson’s agent JP Barry has come on record and has said he doesn’t want his contract to be a distraction, which is fair. If the Canucks were to go all in and go on a deep run, Pettersson would be convinced of staying in Vancouver.
The Pipeline is Strong Too
Looking ahead to the future, the Canucks best prospects are Jonathan Lekkerimäki and Tom Willander. They both won silver for Sweden at this year’s World Juniors. As good as they are, they are at least a couple of years away from making the NHL on a full-time basis. This is no disrespect to other Canucks prospects such as Aatu Räty and Elias Pettersson (the defenceman, by the way) but other than Lekkerimäki and Willander, there isn’t much to be extremely excited about in terms of the prospect pipeline.
In the Pacific Division standings, the Vancouver Canucks have built themselves a seven-point lead over the Vegas Golden Knights. They have a game in hand on the Canucks and are 3-7-0 in their last 10. The Los Angeles Kings have three games in hand but have also struggled recently had lost eight straight games before Monday’s victory. As a result, the Seattle Kraken, (who have won nine straight) Edmonton Oilers (who have won 10 straight), and Calgary Flames have entered the rodeo for Pacific Division seeding. The Pacific is the Canucks division to lose and they should aim to finish high as possible.
What Does All in Mean?
Despite where the Vancouver Canucks are in the regular season standings thus far, they aren’t a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, as good as they are. They are a couple of pieces away from being one. Right now, they established themselves as a dark horse contender.
Allvin has not been shy to make moves. The Canucks have made five trades since September and it feels like they aren’t done. “We are always looking to improve our team,” said Allvin in an interview with Canucks senior writer Chris Faber. “The players will dictate what direction we’re going here and if the players are buying in and playing the right way, I’m definitely open to support them and provide them with an opportunity to make a push. We’re still only at the halfway point here and we have a lot of things to learn and improve on. We’re not satisfied or anything like that.”
The Vancouver Canucks Position in the Standings, Places Them as Buyers
Going all in doesn’t necessarily mean trading Lekkerimäki, Willander or the entire farm system. Though the Canucks could trade one of their top prospects if they receive an offer they can’t refuse. They need to make one or two bold moves that could involve trading this year’s first-round pick and at least one prospect.
A scoring winger or better yet, a shutdown top-six centre would be enough to make the Canucks a contender. They have been linked to Jake Guentzel of the Pittsburgh Penguins who has been a consistent goal scorer throughout his career and a player Allvin and Tocchet are familiar with. Other wingers the Canucks could consider are Frank Vatrano of the Anaheim Ducks or Pavel Buchnevich of the St. Louis Blues.
A centre would probably cost more to acquire. Elias Lindholm of the Calgary Flames is a good option. While he seems to have slowed down offensively, he is still a decent shutdown centre. Another name they could consider is Sean Monahan of the Montreal Canadiens. He only comes with a cap hit of $1.98 million.
If the Canucks really want to swing for the fences, they should inquire about the Minnesota Wild Joel Eriksson-Ek. He is 26 and is signed until 2029 and his no-trade clause takes into effect next season. But there is very little chance the Wild trade him but he is the kind of player the Canucks should acquire if they want to elevate their status to a contender. They should at least give the Wild a call.
Why Not the Canucks?
With the season at the halfway point, the Vancouver Canucks rank in the standings is putting the league on notice.
But of course, there will be doubters. Right now, the teams that could beat the Canucks in the playoffs are the Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars. With the right move(s) the Canucks can silence the doubters and move into the upper echelon of the NHL. It’s been way too long without playoff hockey in Vancouver. It has also been nearly 54 years of the Canucks as a franchise and no Stanley Cup.
It’s been a fun ride so far but it hasn’t even reached the peak yet. The players, fans and city of Vancouver deserve a deep playoff run because there has been too much suffering. The bar has been raised. It’s time to aim for the stars, or specifically the Stanley Cup. After all, you can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket. The Canucks need to go all in and make that move that can get the fans to fully believe. After all, at this point, why not them?
Main photo: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sport
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