The Canucks’ season wasn’t supposed to end like this.
It was supposed to end with Brock Boeser beating Pavel Bure’s rookie scoring title. With him walking onstage at the NHL Awards in June to accept the Calder Trophy as the league’s best first-year. With commissioner Gary Bettman announcing that because of Boeser’s amazing season he was retroactively awarding the Stanley Cup to the Canucks instead of the eventual champion. Likely the Penguins.
But that’s all out the window now. Instead, it ended with the Canucks’ hopes and dreams being lifted off the ice by his teammates and into a waiting ambulance.
We all knew Brock Boeser was Vancouver’s leader, but I don’t even think the biggest Boeser fanatics realized just how much he was until this week. Without their superstar rookie, the Canucks turned in three straight lackluster performances, including two losses to the Arizona Coyotes and a 5-2 dismantling at the hands of the Minnesota Wild.
That’s not to say there hasn’t been some silver linings in this playbook. Brendan Leipsic has had one hell of a start to his Canucks career, having already picked up six points in six games. Jacob Markstrom has played some pretty solid hockey this week and kept Vancouver in three games they had little business being in.
With Boeser’s injury being one of many the Canucks have been handed recently, the last month of the season has lot at stake for both management and the club’s less developed players like Reid Boucher and Tyler Motte. Travis Green has proven he isn’t a coach who’ll hand players ice time based on pedigree alone. If some of these players can prove they deserve to stay in the Canucks lineup, it’ll give Jim Benning reason to resign them and/or move out older veterans to free up roster space for them.
The franchise might have something to lose down the stretch – the best chance to draft Rasmus Dahlin – but the players especially do. With Elias Pettersson, Adam Gaudette and Jonathan Dahlen on the way, that Canucks depth chart is about to get a whole lot more crowded.
The time is now for the young players, and if they can give us a good glimpse of the future in these last few games, maybe this season won’t have ended in vain.
Brendan Leipsic has only been a Canuck for a couple weeks, but he’s already made a big impression on the fans with his ability to take over games. He’s got a bit to learn, like not taking so many penalties, but it’s that drive to win every battle that has people feeling that he belongs in Vancouver’s long term plans.
— CanucksArmy (@CanucksArmy) March 6, 2018
On Monday against the Islanders, Leipsic was able to strip Anthony Beauvillier of the puck and outwait Jaroslav Halak for a beautiful OT winner. To even get the shot on Halak meant Leipsic had to outmuscle Beauvillier, proving there’s no lack of work ethic in his game. I love the idea of Leipsic being a second or third line winger not just for his skill, but because of what he can teach the younger prospects about upping their compete level. Not a lot of kids come with that skill already built in, and having players to showcase it will push them to learn.
Around the Rinks
– New Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon decided to make some big changes in the front office, “promoting” Ron Francis to President of Hockey Operations, leaving Carolina’s general manager position open. Dundon has been described as a very “hands-on” businessman, and with the press release sent out this week mentioning that the Canes’ new GM will report directly to him, that description seems accurate. HNIC’s Saturday Headlines segment last night mentioned a few names of potential candidates, including former Canucks assistant GM Laurence Gilman. But who knows, it might even be you.
— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) March 9, 2018
– One of the hottest teams in the NHL of late has been the Florida Panthers, whose 8-1-1 record in their last 10 games has them just a couple points out of the playoff picture. But they’ve also got an ace up their sleeve, in the form of games in hand on the teams in front of them, not to mention Roberto Luongo. I’d love it if the Panthers made the playoffs not just to see Lu get another crack at the Cup, but also for the Battle of Florida matchup we’d likely get as a result in the first round. Get it done Cats, I believe in you.
– The NHL announced their first foray into eSports this week with the 2018 NHL Gaming World Championships, which will pit the best NHL 18 players in the world (and also myself) against each other for the chance to compete in Las Vegas for a $100,000 grand prize. Getting involved in the secretly lucrative eSports market is a good move for the league, and hopefully it leads them down a similar path that the NBA and MLS took by setting up official leagues for their respective games. If the NHL finds a way to make that happen, it could mean a lot more exposure for the both the video game series and hockey as a whole. If you think you’re good enough to beat the world’s best, or just want to crush me in a game, you can find out more about the tournament here.
A New Hope
The Swedish Hockey League season is over, and sitting at the top of the scoring list is a name we know all too well.
Here’s the final SHL season statistics. Elias Pettersson 1st in points and points per game and sets a new U20 record by passing Kent Nilsson today. This makes me feel better after that Boeser injury the other day. pic.twitter.com/COWjNb8J7B
— Sean Avery (@NHLSeanAvery) March 8, 2018
If there’s one thing that should make the last few weeks of the Canucks season bearable, it’s knowing that Elias Pettersson is on his way. Pettersson may not walk into Vancouver and immediately score 56 points like he did for Vakjo, but just knowing what he’s capable gives me hope that the future is almost here. That all this losing for the last three seasons won’t be for nothing.
He’s broken every SHL record for an under-20 player. He’s scored highlight reel goals and set up gorgeous passing plays. He brings the entire skill level of his team up and can lead men into battle at the age of 19.
And come October, he might doing it all in the green and blue.
Do you see Brendan Leipsic as a long term piece of the Canucks’ future? Leave a comment below!