Here’s the good news.
The Vancouver Canucks just put in two solid efforts over the weekend against two of the best teams in hockey, despite icing a roster that was depleted by COVID-19.
On the flip side, the Canucks have now slipped back into seventh in the Pacific Division after losing to the St. Louis Blues on Sunday night.
Although they’re only four points out of the final Wild Card spot in the West, the four teams in front of them all have at least three games in hand.
That’s the long-term issue but hey, the Canucks still have 41 games left to be played after last night’s contest.
In the meantime, here are 7 thoughts after the Canucks suffered a frustrating loss at the hands of the St. Louis Blues.
1. St. Louis’s success highlights Canucks lack of depth
The additions of Conor Garland and Vasily Podkolzin up front have given the Canucks improved forward depth this season. It’s just not enough to put them in the same ballpark as the best teams in the NHL.
Playing teams like St. Louis and Florida showcase just how far the Canucks have to go to reach Cup contender status.
So far this season, the Canucks have five forwards scoring at a half-point per-game rate or better.
Two of those players, Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson, barely hit that threshold.
St. Louis, on the other hand, has nine players scoring above a half-point per-game rate. Six of their forwards have more than 25 points. The Canucks have just one (JT Miller).
2. No offence from the D
With seven goals from their defence, the Canucks have the fewest goals from blueliners in the NHL.
Looking at a team like the Blues also highlights this issue. Three of their defenders (Justin Faulk, Torey Krug and Colton Parayko) have at least 18 points.
After Quinn Hughes, the Canucks defender with the second-most points is Tyler Myers, with 10.
3. The Ekman-Larsson & Myers dilemma
There’s no question that defensively, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Tyler Myers have been better than expected this season.
Does that mean they’ve both had good seasons?
In a salary cap world, it’s hard to ignore a player’s AAV when you’re trying to evaluate their performance.
For Ekman-Larsson and Myers, that means their combined cap hit of $13.26 million partially overshadows their defensive success.
Part of the reason why those two players signed such massive contracts was because they’d previously been counted on to provide offence from the blueline.
The two players currently have a combined two goals and 17 points in 79 games this season. Neither has scored a goal at even-strength either.
As Jim Rutherford assesses this team, he must be pondering creative ways to offload at least one of these contracts in the offseason.
4. Pettersson still searching for consistency
After scoring three goals in two games, some were declaring that Elias Pettersson had returned.
Not so fast.
Vancouver outplayed St. Louis on Sunday night despite their depth being tested enormously. Still, there was a barrage of depth players who had a better night than Pettersson.
The 23-year-old was bobbling the puck all night long, looking like he has on too many nights this season.
Vancouver’s only line that had a negative expected goal differential on Sunday night was the Pettersson line with Brock Boeser and Nils Hoglander. They were also on the ice for the Blues’ first goal of the game.
5. Is JT Miller the wrong trade rumour candidate?
One Canucks player that gets overshadowed because of this discussion is Brock Boeser.
There’s validity to the Miller argument. He’ll be 30 by the time his contract expires. The chances of him being in his prime when the Canucks are competing for a Stanley Cup are low.
Still, he is the team’s best forward. And, he’ll likely be an effective player in this league for a long time to come.
Boeser, on the other hand, hasn’t been as electric as Miller. With the 24-year-old entering a contract year, is he perhaps the player the Canucks should shop as opposed to Miller?
In an ideal world, the Canucks would keep both players. However, something has to give if this team is going to make moves to put them at a Cup contender level.
6. The Dickinson dunk
Dickinson do something man— Josh Huttinga (@JoshHuttinga) January 24, 2022
Remember that part about St. Louis boasting half-point per-game guys on their third line?
Jason Dickinson was supposed to help shore up the Canucks forward depth, While his defensive impact at even-strength has been fine, the lack of offensive production has been disappointing.
Dickinson has three goals and five points in 38 games this season. He had two breakaway chances against the Blues last night, failing to score on both of them.
Good teams have strong two-way depth players who can score. Dickinson’s lack of success in that role is one of the reasons why the Canucks are nothing more than a Wild Card competitor.
7. Enjoy the moment
Here’s a shoutout to three goalies who were living the dream this week.
Despite getting COVID, Spencer Martin looked rock solid in his first start since 2017 for the Canucks on Friday night.
Hey, maybe if the Canucks trade Halak to escape his bonus overage, perhaps there’s a short-term backup role available for Martin.
With Michael DiPietro starting on Sunday night, 25-year-old Rylan Toth drove down from UBC to play backup for the Canucks. Unlike some EBUG’s, Toth is looking for a contract in the ECHL or Europe when his University season ends.
Finally, 23-year-old Joe Murcada won his first two AHL starts after being signed by the Abbotsford Canucks a few days ago. The youngster only had six career ECHL starts prior to joining the Canucks.