The Vancouver Canucks mid-point has come and gone (barely) so it’s a good time for looking back.
Vancouver Canucks Mid-Point Makes Fools
Every year we start the season with our Puck Drop Previews. Generally, we try to put a slightly optimistic spin on the facts as we see them. In Vancouver’s case, we had no idea where the team would be after 41 games. To be fair to ourselves, neither did anyone else. It’s just gotten silly.
The two players lost since the beginning of the season – Tucker Poolman and Guillaume Brisebois – have been joined on the long-term injured reserve list by… Almost no one. With apologies to Phil Di Guiseppe, the injuries have been very limited, and well outside the top-six.
None of this is normal, is what we’re saying here. Especially on the injury front. Carson Soucy went down and Noah Juulsen stepped up admirably. Pius Suter was out and lost his spot to Teddy Blueger. Adequate depth is an odd feeling; not needing it, more so.
Bring On the Predictions!
Again, the Canucks mid-point mark is a time for looking back rather than looking forward. But it is hard to resist when they’re fighting for top spot in the league. That once-bitten, twice-shy caveat of who the team has beaten so far and who they haven’t yet faced looms large.
We’re not going to linger on that, though! We’re here to see just how wrong we were over the course of three months.
Introducing the Cast
A few changes, here. That first line of Ilya Mikheyev, Kuzmenko, and Pettersson hasn’t been around much. And Di Guissepe lost his spot in the top-six before the injury, enough to possibly be headed to Abbotsford. That’s a bit rubbed in when we mentioned him as a possible sleeper pick in a deep fantasy draft. Oops.
Dakota Joshua has moved from the press box where we expected him to a vital part of the third(?) line. As an added bonus, the Canucks have finally found a player who works well with Garland! Mutt and Jeff fans always knew.
Back to Basics
More surprising is who is still here on the blue line. Tyler Myers – long rumoured to be moved once his bonus was paid – has thrived. With a move back to the third pair, he’s on pace for his best offensive season since he was a rookie. In narrowing his focus, he’s playing a much more reliable game. He just needed a partner who could (almost) look him in the eye.
Noah Juulsen has moved up from seventh man to penalty-kill staple, pushing Christian Wolanin back to Abbotsford. New arrival Mark Friedman is now The Man Who Can, bumped into a black jersey by Nikita Zadorov. Zadorov cost the Canucks a third- and a fifth-round pick, though his looming unrestricted free-agent status stops that deal from being a home run.
And, of course, the big deal up front was how well Quinn Hughes and Filip Hronek work together. It ends up putting one of your smartest players with other smart players works! The team would like Hronek to lead his own pairing, but those two are a hard habit to break.
Didn’t get much wrong here – and that’s no surprise. As good as Casey DeSmith has been as the backup, we still expected him to be a step up from Spencer Martin. Not to deride Martin: his numbers would have improved behind the revamped Canucks defence. But DeSmith is working out just fine.
And as for Thatcher Demko, he has more shutouts this season than in the rest of his NHL career. He’s at 22 wins in 31 games played with a career-high goals-against average and save percentage. This is just the Canucks mid-point mark, so those numbers can still decline. But he’s looking pretty good.
The Big Ones
For our “Players to Watch” we went with the obvious – though for good reason. Quinn Hughes was a brand new captain, and Pettersson is in the last year of his contract.
We said Hughes would be pushing himself to score more – nailed that one – and Pettersson might score less. The justification there is Pettersson would turn his focus to being a “more complete player” and add defence to his game.
Ends up that if you always have the puck, you don’t actually NEED to add defence to your game. He’s on pace to casually stroll past last year’s 102 points. How are those accountants feeling?
Wrap it Up
Our guess was laced with cautious optimism. Looking over how the change of coaches fired up the team and the change in personnel fired up fans, it would be a better year for the Canucks. They were in a very tough division with four 100+ point teams, but a wild card spot could be stolen from the Central.
Yeah, so how did that prediction go?
All told, being optimistic about the Canucks wasn’t wrong. But the order of magnitude was WAY off. The Canucks mid-point including a handful of shutouts, four point-per-game skaters, and challenging for first overall was, shall we say, unexpected.
And given the past decade, we’re more than happy for them to continue this much better way of embarrassing us.
Main Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
The post What We Got Right and Wrong at Vancouver Canucks Mid-Point appeared first on Last Word On Hockey.