As everybody surely knows by now, the 2019-20 National Hockey League season is on indefinite pause, with the regular season season all but cancelled and the playoffs on thin ice at best. Unfortunately, it means that many of the storylines that built up throughout the year for the Canucks won’t see an ending, affecting some more than others. Here are five Canucks who, with the premature end to the season, won’t see their overall storylines fully fleshed out.
The 2019-20 — or what we knew of it — came to be defined by Quinn Hughes. The fifth overall pick in 2018, Hughes was something Canucks fans had never truly seen before: a dynamic, game breaking force from the blueline. In many senses, we didn’t need to see anymore of the season to know just how good or important Hughes was for the Canucks. What we missed out on, ultimately, was the full degree to which his season was historic. Would he have broken the single-season defence points record for the franchise? Where would he end up placing on the league-wide rookie defenceman scoring leaderboard? And, of course, how would the Hughes versus Cale Makar Calder Trophy race have ended up? There’s a lot that, unfortunately, we won’t get to know about just how good Quinn Hughes’ rookie season was and where it fits within the scope of hockey history, and that’s a shame.
As the season came to an unfortunate close, it was amidst Zack MacEwen finally carving out a full-time role for himself with the club. After a couple seasons spent as a core piece of the Utica Comets, MacEwen proved himself to be an effective fourth liner for the Canucks. In his final three games prior to the pause, MacEwen scored three goals and in his 17 total games in 2019-20, he scored five goals and six points (a respectable 29 point pace). MacEwen also showed to be a respectable enforcer and played a physical game the team sometimes lacked. His possession numbers, while far from great (41.67% CorsiFor% and 42.39% FenwickFor%), nonetheless exceeded those of fourth line staples like Jay Beagle and Tyler Motte. The final stretch and possible playoff run may have allowed MacEwen to establish himself as a fan favorite and regular presence in the lineup. It was certanly trending in the right direction and management and coaching would be smart to ensure he makes the next opening night roster, whenever that may be.
The majority of the 2019-20 campaign was defined by the sterling performance of Jacob Markstrom, but the final stretch had the chance to be Thatcher Demko’s coming out party. While his tenure as the de facto starter did not start out great, with a handful of starts below with a save percentage below .900. However, prior to the pause, he was just hitting his stride. His final four starts boasted save percentages of .918, .909, .906, and .923, all above his overall season save percenateg of .905. Vancouver, of course, is known to love a good goalie controversy, and with Markstrom a pending UFA, another one could have been on the way. We’ll never know what would have come to pass if Demko were to have held up his strong performance, but it could have held major ramifications for the future of the Canucks in goal.
Brock Boeser has fallen out of favour with Canucks fans for some fair reasons and some that are absurd. He managed 45 points in 57 games, a 65 point pace over a full season. That 0.78 points per game pace puts him in the same realm as forwards like Taylor Hall and Jaden Schwartz, and ahead of the likes of Filip Forsberg and Claude Giroux. Boeser’s CorsiFor% also ranks fourth on the club at 52.43%, trailing just Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller, and Josh Leivo. Despite these superb numbers, Boeser has been a fairly regular target of fans, largely due to his decreased goal totals (23-goal pace this season). This criticism is what would have made Boeser such an intriguing player to watch down the stretch. While fans never got to see Boeser in the new look top-six featuring Tyler Toffoli, it’s possible that when healthy, Boeser would have thrived as a goal scorer alongside either the Lotto Line or the Bo Horvat line (with whom he succeeded in his rookie year). The end of the season, and even the playoffs, would have shown Boeser’s true impact within an improved top-six and prove to improve his somewhat fallen status with the fanbase.
The Tyler Toffoli trade had the the opportunity to be a defining move of the 2019-20 season and the Benning Regime. The early results were superb, with four goals and ten points in his ten games with the club and a CorsiFor% of 51.78%. Toffoli changed the dynamic of the top-six, altering the the makeup of the whole team and allowing more flexibility in their depth. Toffoli was seen by many as the piece that could get them to the postseason and maybe make an underdog run. Toffoli’s impact through to the post-season would have also held major ramifications for contract negotiations this summer, with Toffoli being a pending UFA. The pause of the season means there remain major questions around Toffoli’s future with the club and the broader cap decisions that will be made in the offseason.