It’s been a long time since the Canucks entered a season with guaranteed playoff expectations. Even the Cinderella roster that finished among the final five teams in the NHL Playoff Bubble in 2019-20 was expected by most to finish just out of the original postseason race.
That’s not the case in 2021-22. After signing Elias Pettersson to a three-year bridge deal, blockbuster offseason trades and another big splash in free agency, anything less than a playoff berth is unacceptable in the eyes of Canucks fans and ownership.
And yet, if the preseason was any indication, the Canucks could just as likely finish in dead last as they could right behind the league’s heavyweights. Against largely AHL rosters Vancouver was able to handle themselves quite well; much less so when they played more NHL ready competition.
But if the team assembled by Travis Green and the Canucks coaching staff plays more like they did in the last five minutes in their final preseason game against the Oilers than the first 55, maybe this season’s Canucks will find a way to surprise.
Final Cut Pros
As the last cuts of training camp filtered through the grapevine over the weekend, some very curious calls came to light.
First was Jonah Gadjovich’s placement on waivers, which ended with San Jose claiming the former 2nd round pick on Friday. Gadjovich hadn’t necessarily been a game breaker during the preseason, but also didn’t get the same extended look that other bottom six hopefuls like Zack MacEwen and Matthew Highmore did.
Then came the surprise cuts of Will Lockwood and Phil Di Giuseppe, two names I certainly had penciled in on my expected lineup. Both players had been standouts during the preseason, with Di Giuseppe making the most out of his roles on the fourth line and penalty kill, and Lockwood throwing thunderous hits and creating solid offensive plays.
And then on Sunday, while everyone was preheating the oven for Thanksgiving turkey, Pierre LeBrun brought the gravy.
The Olli Juolevi deal was the type of acceptance that’s rare for Jim Benning. The team has stuck to its guns about a lot of picks personally attributed to the Canucks general manager, and it usually comes at the cost of selling them at their lowest value. And after the disastrous training camp he had, Juolevi is certainly one of those cases.
We could spend a long time breaking down the Juolevi pick and everything that went wrong for him during his Canucks tenure. The pressure that comes with being picked one spot ahead of Matthew Tkachuk. The back injury that sidelined him before his first year in North America. The multiple surgeries on his knee that made it near impossible for him to pivot when a puck carrier was skating full speed towards him.
But for now, Juolevi will attempt to make a career as at least the 2nd best Olli in Florida Panthers history, while the Canucks pick up a similar situation in former 2015 first rounder Noah Juulsen and a depth forward in Juho Lammikko.
Farewell Olli, we hardly knew ye.
Which brings us to the players left on the opening night roster.
The Canucks electing to go with two extra defensemen and only a 13th forward should come as no surprise. With Travis Hamonic being waived to Abbotsford while a “personal issue” is being sorted out, Vancouver’s right side of the blue line has no clear path.
The forward group is a little more cut and dry. Brock Boeser and Tyler Motte remain out with injuries for the time being, opening the door for Nic Petan and Zack MacEwen on the wing.
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|J.T. Miller||Elias Pettersson||Nils Höglander|
|Conor Garland||Bo Horvat||Vasili Podkolzin|
|Tanner Pearson||Jason Dickinson||Nic Petan|
|Matthew Highmore||Justin Dowling||Zack MacEwen|
The only question now is how quickly the team feels newcomer Juho Lammikko can step in and make an impact. In his Sunday morning press conference, Jim Benning made it clear he sees Lammikko as an immediate NHL addition who “can help us out whether he’s on the third line or fourth line.”
“He’s versatile, he can play centre or the wing, he can kill penalties. We get a player who can step in and help our group now.”
The 25 year-old Finn posted just five points in 44 games with the Panthers last season, but also got a few opportunities on the penalty kill under Joel Quenneville. And if there’s one thing this coaching staff values, it’s role players for special teams units.
|Left Defense||Right Defense|
|Quinn Hughes||Tyler Myers|
|Oliver Ekman-Larsson||Tucker Poolman|
|Jack Rathbone||Kyle Burroughs|
|Brad Hunt||Luke Schenn|
On defense, the current front runner for the final right side spot might be Kyle Burroughs. Burroughs has played quite well with different partners in the preseason, and knowing Travis Green he’ll favour the right shot defensemen over potentially putting Brad Hunt on his opposite side.
Of course, all that could change if Luke Schenn finds the gear he had during his last Canucks stay. Or if Hamonic gets the all clear to return later in the year.
For a second I was worried about having to break out my high school B- in business math and a calculator, but thankfully here comes PuckPedia to the rescue!
With a number of players out long term, the Canucks are able to spend around $5 million over the cap ceiling to make up for the losses of Micheal Ferland, Brandon Sutter and Brady Keeper.
In Hamonic’s case, the Canucks are only able to recoup the cost of a league minimum deal plus $375K according to the CBA rules on CapFriendly. That means Vancouver is still on the hook for $1.875 million in cap space even while he’s loaned to Abbotsford. Hopefully this situation finds a conclusion soon.
You’d certainly hope not. The idea behind adding Spencer Martin in free agency was specifically for depth insurance, so it’s a lot more likely that Silovs stays in Abbotsford to back up Mikey DiPietro while Martin ends up in the ECHL instead.
And since the Canucks don’t currently have an ECHL affiliate agreement after parting ways with the Kalamazoo Wings in the offseason, using another year of Silovs’ development to loan him out to a random farm team seems like a risk not worth taking.
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