5 concerns for the remainder of the Canucks' season

It is simply concerning the midway level within the Canucks’ season. What’s to return?

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The Vancouver Canucks are about to hit the midway mark.

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On Tuesday, they’ll face the New York Islanders, their third sport in 4 nights, the fourth sport on a seven-game street journey across the japanese United States.

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And it is going to be their forty first sport of the yr.

The Canucks have emerged as one of many NHL’s finest groups. They’re taking part in good, two-way hockey. They’ve diminished their errors in comparison with previous years.

They usually have a coach in Rick Tocchet who has them taking part in a system that fits their ability units.

They usually have been getting some bounces on offence, too.

With half the common season left to play, listed below are some issues to remember as followers re-acquaint themselves with profitable hockey forward of what they hope is an extended and fruitful playoff run.

Securing a playoff spot

In response to HockeyViz.com, the Canucks now have a 90-per-cent likelihood of creating the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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That’s seemingly a low chance too, given the large quantities of unhealthy luck and in any other case unhealthy issues that must occur between now and April.

The Canucks arrived in St. Louis on Thursday with 51 factors, effectively over midway to the usual playoff qualification bar of 95 factors. (HockeyViz is projecting the playoff bar within the Pacific Division shall be simply 90 factors this season.)

Successful half their remaining video games will get the Canucks to the mid-90s in factors, and most projection fashions at this level anticipate they’ll get to about 100 factors on the season.

But it surely gained’t be anytime quickly that the Canucks lock of their playoff spot, even when qualification from right here is all however sure.

The Vegas Golden Knights, who gained the Stanley Cup in 2023, didn’t clinch their playoff spot till March 30, 2023. They usually completed with 111 factors.

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What we do know is that the Edmonton Oilers have slowly pulled themselves again into the playoff combine after an terrible begin to the season. They’re battling the Calgary Flames and Seattle Kraken for fourth spot within the West, however given the Oilers have the perfect participant on this planet in Connor McDavid, it’s important to like their probabilities in comparison with the Flames and Kraken who’re wanting increasingly more like also-rans.

Each Calgary and Seattle gained’t be completely eradicated for a while but, however it is going to be fairly apparent in brief order that they don’t have an opportunity of overhauling the Oilers, not to mention the Canucks or Kings or Golden Knights.

The Canucks will focus from right here not simply on securing the playoffs, however getting the strongest place they’ll. Even an excellent end this season gained’t make for a lot benefit in opponent. Who would you somewhat face, the defending Stanley Cup champions in Vegas, a younger, deep group in Los Angeles, or the group that has Connor McDavid?

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None of these are going to be nice opponents within the playoffs.

Making a commerce

Anthony Beauvillier didn’t work out within the top-six combine. The Canucks have checked out Phil Di Giuseppe and Nils Höglander on J.T. Miller’s wing. Andrei Kuzmenko has struggled to seek out any of the magic that drove his first season within the NHL.

It’s very evident that the Canucks really want one other top-six winger. They want a participant who has potential to be a game-changer. Consider when the Vegas Golden Knights traded for Mark Stone, for example. When Vegas picked him up on the 2019 deadline, he was the league’s finest two-way winger on the time, and added to the Knights’ high six. Now he’s the group’s captain.

That’s pretty much as good a pickup as you may make.

Due to how onerous in opposition to the cap they’re, the Canucks virtually definitely aren’t able to select up a participant fairly of Stone’s ilk, however they need to be aiming excessive nonetheless.

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When you squint, they’ll make about $3 million in cap area — assuming they embody Höglander within the commerce the opposite approach and demote a spare ahead from the present roster.

Some have urged the Canucks curiosity in Jake Guentzel from Pittsburgh, a participant the Canucks brass is aware of very effectively from their days in Pittsburgh — Canucks president Jim Rutherford was the Penguins’ GM when Guentzel broke into the NHL in 2016-17, and Patrik Allvin was one of many Penguins’ high scouts. Rick Tocchet was a very talked-about assistant coach with the Penguins then, too.

To amass Guentzel, who’s main Pittsburgh in scoring, the Canucks would wish the Penguins to retain as a lot as half of his $6-million wage to start with. They might then have so as to add a participant — say, Höglander — and one other choose, or maybe a prospect.

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The Canucks will seemingly be prepared to half with their first-round choose on this summer season’s draft, since it’s prone to be within the high-20s. Gamers drafted late within the first spherical do often grow to be strong NHLers, however hardly ever are they main gamers.

Would Pittsburgh somewhat get a prospect like Jonathan Lekkerimaki as a substitute? Would the Canucks be prepared to half with the younger Swede, who they imagine shall be able to contribute to the lineup a yr from now? (With the Oliver Ekman-Larsson cap penalty going up in 2024-25, the Canucks actually do want Lekkerimaki and his low cost entry-level deal to be able to contribute by then.)

And this all assumes the Penguins’ playoff hopes, that are resurgent of late, fall away.

So if Guentzel can’t be had, would possibly the Senators’ Vladimir Tarasenko be an alternate goal? He stays a robust presence on the wing, and his arms are nonetheless there too. The Ottawa Solar urged Thursday he might quickly be on the commerce block as Senators president Steve Staios prepares to re-shape his struggling squad.

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Canucks assistant coach Mike Yeo is aware of Tarasenko effectively from his days teaching the Blues, whereas Tocchet would have the ability to draw loads of insights into Tarasenko from his good good friend Craig Berube, the previous Blues coach who Tocchet acknowledged on Thursday he’s talking with usually, searching for outdoors perspective on his personal group in addition to the remainder of the league.

Checking out the Pettersson contract

Elias Pettersson stands to be a restricted free agent subsequent summer season. If he actually needed to, he might merely settle for a qualifying provide, then be an unrestricted free agent in the summertime of 2025, free to decide on to go the place he likes.

That’s the large hammer he holds over negotiations with the Vancouver Canucks.

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Canucks centre Elias Pettersson is congratulated for locating the online in a 6-3 win over the Senators. Picture by ETHAN CAIRNS /THE CANADIAN PRESS

Pettersson and his brokers, Pat Brisson and J.P. Barry, have taken a really calm method to the scenario. Brisson instructed Postmedia this week that talks between them and the Canucks round a brand new contract stay “quiet”.

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The Canucks, clearly, need their famous person centre to remain. The centre himself has loads of issues he likes about Vancouver.

There are solely so many alternatives in a participant’s profession to gather an enormous payday, so Pettersson is taking a look at his scenario rigorously.

Given how unusual issues have been in Vancouver since Pettersson arrived in 2018, you may perceive why the centre would possibly wish to play it cool. Issues have progressed in a constructive path since Rutherford took over as president simply over two years in the past.

Pettersson starred within the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs and he has starred in loads of different crunch-time conditions too, like when he helped lead Växjö to the Swedish championship in 2018.

He is aware of what profitable seems like and he has laid his commonplace out clearly previously: — he desires to see the Canucks on a profitable course.

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Staying wholesome

One of many greatest challenges to any NHL group as they navigate their approach by way of the second half of the season and into the playoffs is fatigue, and the accidents that may happen on account of fatigue.

Thankfully for the Canucks, they will have one of many simpler schedules within the league from now till the top of the season in April. They performed one of many busiest schedules within the league in the course of the first half, particularly within the seven weeks main as much as Christmas, once they averaged a sport nearly each different day.

They in some way managed to get by way of that stretch with a minimal of accidents, and none to their main gamers. No less than none that knocked any of Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, J.T. Miller, Brock Boeser or Thatcher Demko out of the lineup.

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Starting on Christmas Eve and together with their sport on Jan. 2 versus Ottawa, Tocchet’s Canucks had simply two video games in 10 days. They practised some, however quite a lot of that stretch was time without work. Tocchet needed to provide his gamers an opportunity to re-set themselves bodily and mentally, he stated.

Now on their seven-game street journey, Tocchet’s group will as soon as once more flip to sport science to information them in how they journey, in what they do for off-ice exercises, to maximise their alternatives for relaxation and restoration within the midst of a busy calendar.

“The science additionally says it’s an excellent factor, , whether or not we keep in cities (in a single day after a sport) or go away cities (immediately) coming again out west. We’ve gone to science on that too, and I believe it’s helped this membership over the yr doing these kinds of issues,” Tocchet stated.

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Huge end at residence

When this seven-game street journey concludes Jan. 15 in Columbus, the Canucks then have a five-game homestand, adopted by the All-Star break. They’ll get busy once more, with 13 video games in 23 days in February, however then issues decelerate significantly in March and April. The Canucks will conclude the season with 13 of their final 17 video games at residence.

Much less journey means extra restoration, and that late-season schedule might but assist them keep away from the fatigue accidents that so usually plague groups as they head into the playoffs.

Yearly, the Canucks ask to play the majority of their late-season video games at residence. They’ve lengthy hoped to be in a playoff chase and to have given followers one thing to be jazzed about, able to spend their hard-earned {dollars} on a aggressive group.

Hope ought to by no means be your plan. Thus far, although, this administration group has proven themselves to have a plan.

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