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Nucks Misconduct Roundtable: Start of The Season Edition

A new year, a new pile of issues to complain about.

Vancouver Canucks v Seattle Kraken Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

It’s time for another edition of the Nucks Misconduct Roundtable. Each week we get our writers together and ask them a number of questions about the state of this team we’ve been cursed to follow. Sometimes they play it straight, sometimes it’s Westy and Jimmi, but you’ll always get the unvarnished opinions on the Canucks here.

A new season, a number of new players, even some new coaches added to the mix. One thing that hasn’t changed is the Canucks still finding ways to lose games that they probably shouldn’t. Still, coming out of a six-game road trip to start the season with 7 of a possible 12 points is good news, and the team appears to be getting things together chemistry-wise, but there are still a few things to discuss. Let’s have at ‘er...

Minnesota Wild v Vancouver Canucks
Goalie Cam Talbot #33 of the Minnesota Wild reaches up with his glove to make a save while Alex Chiasson #39 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on during the second period of NHL action on October, 26, 2021 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images

1- After Tuesday’s loss to Minnesota, the Canucks are 3-3-1. How does this jive with your expectations thus far?

Westy — Yep, that’s about right. I don’t mind the loss to a team like Minnesota. They don’t have the same skill as the Canucks, they are a better team from top to bottom that has bought into the coach’s system. You hear me, Travis? The games that show this team real trouble are Detroit/Buffalo. They lack in almost all areas during these games against teams that they need to be to stay competitive in the division.

jimmi — Was better than we I expected road trip. In my wildest dreams getting to 500 seemed a win too far. Beating the newbies at their inaugural home opener was the best surprise of all.

The Nucks own season home opener gave me flashbacks of recent seasons - not the good kind. Sure, the Wild are particularly good at exploiting any team’s defensive breakdowns, but why help them with fresh ROG-baked turnovers? Also... why can’t the Nucks be better at team D? (maybe Westy can answer that) And the F-game? When we needed the 1st line to score 5v5 early and often, it didn’t.

Beggsy — Overall I think the team has met expectations. The defence has been better than expected (about league-average in shot attempts against), but the offence has been far worse than expected (last in the NHL in expected goals-for at even-strength).

Pettersson and Boeser still have some rust to shake off, but this team is lucky to be sniffing around .500 without their top players showing up.

Kent — Well, OEL has been a pleasant surprise, as has his pairing with Tyler Myers. They seem to work well together. Defensively they still need to be better, but baby steps I suppose. Conor Garland is fantastic, but offensively this team is not performing at the level we should expect from them. Once they can get that going, things might get fun.

Minnesota Wild v Vancouver Canucks
Elias Pettersson #40 of the Vancouver Canucks skates onto the ice before their NHL game against the Minnesota Wild at Rogers Arena October 26, 2021 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

2- Is all the Elias Pettersson panic warranted or just a by-product of the increased media scrutiny?

Westy — In my mind, Elias has not healed properly from his injury last year and it’s in his head...or worse, he stills feels something wrong in his wrist. His skating has been suspect, but that is probably a conditioning issue. His lack of shooting, average passing and poor faceoff performance all point to something physical being off still. Unfortunately, we will never get a straight answer from the organization. I hope he works his shit out soon.

jimmi — Sneaky Pete has morphed into indecisive Pete. He mentioned in a recent interview that on-ice there is no time to think - playmaking must be instinctual. That was a thoughtful comment. But his play has been tentative at best and something else at worst. I don’t want to believe it’s lingering wrist issues. Sure seems more like conditioning issues. Especially mental conditioning. Maybe needs to have a few sessions with the Nucks mental guru, Demmer. Just change up the mantra a bit from “Stop every shot” to “Make every play”.

Beggsy — It’s probably a bit early for panic, but the scrutiny isn’t unwarranted. Pettersson is the team’s highest-paid forward, and the Canucks need him going to be successful.

If Pettersson is still playing like “Indecisive Pete” by the end of the homestand, then we can let panic take over.

Kent — Breathe. He’ll be fine, and just watch him light up Philly Thursday night and put everyone’s fears to rest. He just needs to get his groove back, and that will happen, he’s far too talented to go this long in this kind of funk.

NHL: OCT 26 Wild at Canucks
Vancouver Canucks right wing Conor Garland (8) skates with the puck ahead of Minnesota Wild defenseman Alex Goligoski (47) during their NHL game at Rogers Arena on October 26, 2021 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

3- Your thoughts on Conor Garland and Oliver Ekman-Larsson so far?

Westy — Conor Garland is the newer version of AMFB....but with more skill. He has great vision and the ability to get to open spots on the ice. He has the 200-foot game Travis loves (getting back to help out after someone else fucks up). And he loves to shoot...especially at the head of a goalie, which I have been asking players to do for years.

OEL....well....I’m not sure. I like his long reach and smooth passes. I don’t like his speed or how he gets knocked off the puck by smaller forwards. I like that Edler is gone.

jimmi — Agree (almost) with Westy, so it doesn’t hurt that much. Garland has been the most consistent (in a good way) player on the Nucks. Points in every game - but the opener at the ROG which was a game for advertising purposes only. Tied in the team points lead with Miller - but is better defensively.

OEL has been a huge upgrade over Eddie. Cool and calm on the ice or in the presser. Has the ability to get the puck on net from the B-line despite blockages. He’s reliable, Swedish and has a ginormous contract. What’s not to like?

Beggsy — Conor Garland is the dude. Tenacious as hell and full of skill. I said it in our preseason points predictions but I think he finishes second behind Petey in points by the end of the season.

Ekman-Larsson has exceeded expectations in the early going. He’s playing low-event hockey despite going up against top players from the opposing teams. I’m curious to see how he handles competition against better teams, but it’s honestly surprising how effective OEL and Myers have been early on.

Kent — Garland has been a frickin’ revelation. Could the Canucks have found their Brad Marchand-type in him (only far more respectful of personal space and hygiene?). OEL seems to really be happy be out of Arizona, and is playing like he’s years younger. No complaints about his performance so far at all, and he’s even elevating Tyler Myers’ game, which is a definite plus.

Vancouver Canucks v Seattle Kraken
Oliver Ekman-Larsson #23 of the Vancouver Canucks skates against the Seattle Kraken in the third period during the Seattle Kraken’s inaugural regular-season home opener at Climate Pledge Arena on October 23, 2021 in Seattle, Washington.
Photo by Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images

4- Best player out of the gate for the Canucks? Biggest disappointment so far? Most surprising?

Westy — Best player. That’s easy...Thatcher “Brick Wall” Demko —-> TBWD to you. I will fight you if you disagree. There a few honorable mentions...but no one has done more to keep the Canucks in games than him. Biggest disappointment...I’m trying to say Petey in case he reads this, but since he said he is off social media.....Petey. Most surprising so far...Burroughs. I didn’t know he existed before this year.

jimmi — Agree (almost again) with Westy. Demmmer! The Clark/Demmer combo is working as planned. We’re so lucky to have a NHL star goalie with a psychology degree who has the skills to deal with defensive zone betrayals from alleged teammates.

It feels alien to say besvikelse about him. But when it turns to glädje in 5 10 20 games or so, he’ll be checking the tweetleverse again. And Garland will need to up his point per game pace. BTW, what is Garland’s official NM nickname? I selected Popeye from his pumped-up heroic EN goal. But could be copyright implications. Garly? Gnarly? Gnarland?

Surprising? Paging Mr. Myers. Has upped his game this season - using his altitude to great advantage - been the most consistent N-D-man all season - but for getting Boofooloo’d. Honorable mention to the Poolman. May his stay at the Faery Farm be short and pleasant.

Beggsy — Is this the year Demko finally gets some Vezina love? Holy hell has he put forth some magical performances so far. If the Canucks are in the playoffs, it’s easy to see Demko end up with a Vezina nod.

The entire even-strength offence has been the biggest disappointment, and that starts with Petey.

Echoing what Jimmi said, the OEL/Myers pairing has been the biggest surprise for me. It was easy to envision the $13.25 million duo being the next “Sutter, Beagle, Eriksson” overpaid whipping post, but it hasn’t transpired yet. Despite facing tough competition, OEL and Myers are #1 and #2 on the team in terms of scoring chances against at even-strength.

Kent — While I could have gone with Garland or Miller, it’s all about Thatcher Demko so far this year. The team is gonna live or die on how he plays, and he seems to really be in a good groove to start the season. If they can get some wins out of Jaroslav Halak to help out, things might be okay.

Vancouver Canucks v Philadelphia Flyers
Juho Lammikko #91 of the Vancouver Canucks battles for position on a scoring opportunity against Nick Seeler #24 and Carter Hart #79 of the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on October 15, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

5- With an opportunity to get out of October with a winning record if they can somehow beat Philly again and then knock off the Oilers, will the Canucks still be in a playoff spot by the time we get to American Thanksgiving?

Westy — Without looking at other teams' schedules, it is hard to know how to predict. But if they continue with this style of play, I will say no.....hard no to be in a playoff spot

jimmi — Beat Philodendrons and dEdmonton, then win 12 of their November games, while making a planet-saving presentation at COP26 and resolving the national sorghum flour shortage, sure they make the playoffs. And win the Cup, but decline it - instead donate the fake silver repli-Cup to NM’s fav charity: NucksNation International Disappointment And Rum Care Centre.

Beggsy — Have you seen the Pacific Division? I still don’t trust any of the teams ahead of the Canucks in Edmonton, Calgary and San Jose. Then again...I don’t trust the Canucks.

Vancouver plays nine of 13 games at home before American Thanksgiving. That should give them a boost, but this is a hard team to trust based on their surprisingly good defence and surprisingly bad offence. I’ll say they remain in a Wild Card spot in a month from now, which is where they’re currently slotted.

Kent — What Beggsy said. If they can get the offensive issues sorted, and continue to improve on the back end (and yes, this is better than what we got last season), they might be able to pull this off, but they will need to start rattling off regulation wins, especially against Western Conference opponents.

Vancouver Canucks v Buffalo Sabres
Fans cheer as Zemgus Girgensons #28 of the Buffalo Sabres celebrates his goal with Jacob Bryson #78, Colin Miller #33 and Dylan Cozens #24 during an NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks on October 19, 2021 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York.
Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

6- **BONUS QUESTION** Which NHL team is the biggest surprise this season so far?

Westy — For me, the biggest surprise is Pittsburgh. No Crosby and no Malkin and yet they have only lost one game in regulation. That is a well-coached team. (Shot across the bow)

jimmi — In case you missed it, Westy chose Pitts - a well-coached team that has a history of winning when the stars are down, because... uh... maybe coaching...

For me, a big surprise was the Vegas start, which sadly they weren’t able to maintain and have left the basement. Dammit.

Until the win over the [redacted] hawks, the CoTU were pathetic - despite being built for the regular season - are behind the biggest surprises (for me) Deetrot and Boofooloo. Also... T-Bay gets special mention for their $92M Cup hangover. May it last for months. Or years.

Beggsy — Hard not to go with Buffalo, who haven’t been just lucky — they’ve been genuinely outskating and outplaying teams. Wild stuff.

For the sake of providing different answers, I’ll go to the Pacific Division and single out the stinkin’ Calgary Flames.

Every time I think they’ll be good (like last year), they’re bad. When I think they’ll be bad or mediocre, they look good.

Calgary’s been playing solid hockey since losing their opener to Edmonton. That includes four straight wins on the road. Literally, two-thirds of their goals have come from Elias Lindholm and Andrew Mangiapane (who have seen each), which has helped mask the fact that Sean Monahan is now a fourth-line centre for this team.

I hope that’s just an early-season mirage...this league doesn’t need Darryl Sutter hockey for one second longer.

Kent -- Buffalo and Detroit will probably fall back to earth, with the Wings more likely to do it sooner. I think I am not entirely sold on the Flames just yet, but they are looking good out on the road at the moment. Vegas struggling out of the gate isn’t as surprising as some think it is, but I think San Jose so far has been a bit of a shocker. We’ll see how it pans out, but they’re definitely better out of the gate than many figured. Also, the Metropolitan is a mess, wait til Thanksgiving for a bit of separation for those teams.