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HSH’s Canucks Scouting Report (Pro-Con-Clusion #2): What happened to the offense?

Harsunder breaks down the best and worst of the last 2 Canucks games in his weekly scouting report.

Vancouver Canucks v Buffalo Sabres
Jeff Skinner #53 celebrates his goal with Dylan Cozens #24 of the Buffalo Sabres against Thatcher Demko #35 of the Vancouver Canucks during an NHL game on October 19, 2021 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York.
Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

Numerous issues have prevented the Canucks from making the playoffs in 6 of the last 8 seasons. Some of these issues are reading their ugly heads once again.

Since 2015, the Canucks haven’t been able to ice a defense that would be considered above average. As such, in each of the last seven years, the Canucks have consequently placed in the bottom half of the league in goals-against per season.

That said, while the offense has been slightly better than the defense, it too has not met up to the standards of a playoff contender in six of the last seven seasons. With the exception of the 2019-20 season (where the Canucks were amongst the top 10 teams in terms of goals for), they have always found themselves in the bottom 8 teams as far as goals scored per season are concerned.

Hence, Jim Benning and his management group prioritized adding more offensive weapons and scoring ability to the team’s roster this past offseason. His biggest move was a trade with the Arizona Coyotes on July 23, in which the Canucks acquired a top 4 offensive defenseman in Oliver Ekman-Larsson, as well as a young and tenacious top 6 winger in Conor Garland.

This particular transaction allowed the Canucks to have two offensive dynamos on their blueline in Quinn Hughes and OEL, while also significantly improving the team’s transitional play. Ekman-Larsson can easily be relied on to score 30-40 points each season and can significantly improve the power play as well. On top of that, he can also help the Canucks with their defensive coverage, and to a certain degree, help keep pucks out of the net.

In addition to OEL, perhaps the biggest addition by Jim Benning to boost the offense was the second player acquired in the aforementioned trade, Conor Garland. At 25 years of age, the former 5th round pick has already played in parts of 3 seasons on the dessert, all in which he scored at or over a 20 goal pace. Expected to play most of this season patrolling the right-wing with Bo Horvat on the 2nd line, Garland is seen as a significant factor to help address the team’s offensive woes, and fill the void left by Tyler Toffoli’s departure back in 2020.

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Edmonton Oilers
Conor Garland was brought in to help replace Tyler Toffoli, who was never truly replaced in 2020-21.
Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

However, in rather disappointing fashion, the Canucks have only managed to ripple the mesh 9 times in the first 4 games of the season, with only 6 of those goals coming at even strength. It is clear that the offense has not quite been performing as advertised through the first week of the season. Regardless though, there is still a lot of time for the offensive players to develop chemistry and start getting the results as the season continues.

In the second HSH Canucks Scouting Report of the season, we’ll look at 1 pro and 1 con from the last couple of games, as well as 1 concluding thought before the Canucks take on the Chicago Blackhawks for their next game on Thursday night.

Pro: Thatcher Demko

While 2 goals within a few seconds in the 3rd period last game really hurt Thatcher Demko’s stats, it is important to recognize that his play was primarily the factor that gave the Canucks a fighting chance at all. Despite the two defensive mishaps that led to the Sabres quickly jumping out to a 4-2 lead last night, Demko managed to turn away 39 of the 41 other shots he was peppered with.

In addition to that, Halak also had a decent showing against the Red Wings on Saturday, turning away 18 of 20 shots in a 3-1 loss in the Motor City. In fact, many of these shots were high octane scoring chances, which could have easily put the game out of reach at basically any point.

Regardless, the Canucks weren’t really able to support these performances between the pipes. This ultimately leads us to the most distinctive con from the last couple of games the team has played, the offensive troubles.

Con: Lack of scoring

Ever since the puck dropped on the 2020-2021 season, the Canucks have failed to show much of an improvement on offence.

Specifically in the last two games, the Canucks have only scored 3 goals, that too despite playing against a couple of teams with the most mediocre defense cores in the league. The simple fact of the matter is that you can’t win games in the NHL if you’re not scoring goals, and of course this is something the Canucks have had extreme struggles doing as of late.

As such, the Canucks should waste absolutely no time getting their act together and finding their offensive game. Without a shadow of a doubt, this losing streak would continue if the team continues to struggle offensively. Hence, it is imperative that they figure out the cause of this particular issue and address it as soon as they possibly can.

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Buffalo Sabres
Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat (53) celebrates his goal during the first period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Concluding Thought: Chemistry Building Takes Time

Even though the Canucks play as of late has been a reflector of their subpar play over the last few seasons, it is still too early to write off this team’s abilities. Especially with changes to over half the roster, what the Canucks are currently dealing with is nothing to panic about...yet.

In fact, the 2011 Canucks team also only won one of their first four games. Similar to this season, the 2011 Canucks also came into the year with numerous changes to their lineup. Furthermore, the 2019 St Louis Blues also went through a similar roster turnover in the offseason, and it even took them a while to get their act together and eventually make a run for the Stanley Cup.

There is no denying the fact that it takes time for chemistry to develop after so many changes to the roster. Hence, it is important that the fans, as well as the players, stay patient and continue to have faith in the process. With more practice as well as more time competing with other teams on the ice, the players would begin to read off of each other. As a result, the lineup would establish a system, which would allow them to increase their offense and subsequently begin racking up the wins as the season progresses.

What do you think Canucks fans? Do you think the team would quickly snap out of this skid and make a legitimate run for the playoffs this year? What other pros or cons did you notice from the last two games? Let me know in the comments down below!