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7 Canucks Thoughts: Vancouver’s lack of depth will prevent them from success

Teams like St. Louis highlight just how far the Canucks have to go.

St. Louis Blues v Vancouver Canucks
Tucker Poolman #5 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on dejected as Brayden Schenn #10 of the St. Louis Blues is congratulated by teammates after scoring during their NHL game at Rogers Arena January 23, 2022 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

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.

NHL: JAN 21 Panthers at Canucks
Vancouver Canucks defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23) reacts after the play during their NHL game against the Florida Panthers at Rogers Arena on January 21, 2022 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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.

NHL: JAN 23 Blues at Canucks
Vancouver Canucks Left Wing Elias Pettersson (40) falls to the ice while playing the St. Louis Blues during their NHL game at Rogers Arena on January 23, 2022 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Devin Manky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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?

After Frank Seravalli’s report that the New York Rangers are heavily interested in JT Miller, the airwaves in this town were filled with the “Trade Miller” debates once again.

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

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.

NHL: Florida Panthers at Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver Canucks goalie Spencer Martin (30) in action against the Florida Panthers in the second period at Rogers Arena.
Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

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.