The Canucks head into year 49 with a crop of prospects the likes this franchise has never seen, which is a pretty damning statement when you think about it. While there’s not a ton of sure things, the potential for a team that can give us something to cheer for again is indeed exciting. There’s just one problem: it’s not going to happen soon.
With a log jam at most positions, and free agent signings over the past few days, the Canucks, desperate to try and get fans to come back after 3 truly horrid seasons want you to get excited about players like Elias Pettersson, Jonathan Dahlen, Thatcher Demko, Olli Juolevi and Quinn Hughes, but will likely have all of them starting the year in Utica unless they’re able to move some players out in trades. Now in some of these cases, AHL seasoning isn’t a bad thing at all. Getting adjusted to pro game, especially for the players coming over from Europe is going to be beneficial in the long run. But with Elias Pettersson being the hands-down best player in the Swedish Elite League last season (as a teenager, no less) and Quinn Hughes impressing at the World Championships this past spring, it’s fair to want to see what these two can do for the Canucks sooner rather than later.
Remember the uproar over Brock Boeser getting healthy scratched in the first two games of the season? That’s nothing to what we’ll see when Pettersson starts the year in the AHL. If they can even fit Adam Gaudette in at the start of the year that will be no small feat. One spot could be up for grabs on the right side if the Canucks manage to not get Jake Virtanen re-signed, but I can’t see how after the time and effort put into his development that they’d walk away now. I think they get a deal done, but it’s gonna be a bridge deal that hinges on him taking a big step forward. Consistency has been one of the biggest deficiencies of Virtanen’s game, and if he can bring it every night, he should be fine.
So while Travis Green’s team will be tougher to play against, the same problems that plagued the Canucks through these dismal years will still exist. Nowhere near enough goal scoring, a defence core that can’t defend to save their lives and two goaltenders that get overwhelmed on the best of nights and can’t put together any kind of a streak that can keep the Canucks in contention. Sure, another season of near-unwatchable hockey is going to suck, but if it results in them nabbing Jack Hughes at the end of it all, it might be worth it.
In the meantime, we can look forward to a Comets team that could be ready to make some noise in the AHL this upcoming season. One other potential problem is losing players like Nikolay Goldobin, Darren Archibald or even Virtanen if and when the Canucks try to send them down to Utica. For a team that’s starting to amass assets, but isn’t exactly overflowing with them, they can hardly afford to start giving guys away for free. It makes the urgency of making deals for guys like Del Zotto, Brandon Sutter, Goldobin or Sam Gagner even greater.
In the end, maybe being patient is what we need, but this management’s failures in pro scouting and contract negotiations are testing us all.
Troy Stecher and the Canucks look to be headed to arbitration. You have to think that Stecher, who had a pretty decent year on the back end for the Canucks, can get a deal done, but re-signing him just makes the chances of Quinn Hughes returning to Michigan this season that much more likely.
Here’s a look at some of the stories coming out of Dev Camp in case you missed them:
Jett Woo could be a fan favorite, and not just for having the best name in the NHL
JPat and Botch with their PatCast season wrap, looking at 4 year deals and more...
Training Camp might not be all that thrilling without creating spots for competition
Jonah Gadjovich on overcoming injuries and what he’ll need to do to make it to the NHL
Quinn Hughes still needs to decide: Back to school or turn pro? We should know soon...
So let’s say the Canucks decide to make some spots for the kidz: Botch has ideas... (I like trading Del Zotto and retaining salary. Weaponize that cap space, yo!)