It’s hard to put a finger on what the Vancouver Canucks are doing. They’ve missed the playoffs three of the last four seasons and have seemingly been in the midst of a so-called “rebuild on the fly” for the past several years. There have been some exciting developments, but the club has also piled up a few veterans in the process and its vision for the future seems as uncertain as ever.
The Canucks tossed a fair bit of money around this off-season. Loui Eriksson was signed to a six-year contract worth $36 million. Sam Gagner, Thomas Vanek, Alexander Burmistrov, Michael Del Zotto, Patrick Wiercioch, and Anders Nilsson were also signed.
Vancouver also re-upped their future, signing Bo Horvat to a new deal and giving new coach Travis Green as many tools as possible to work with. The goal for the short-term is to improve a floundering power play and to generate some scoring.
Last season, Horvat became the first non-Sedin twin to lead the Canucks in scoring since Markus Naslund did it in 2005-2006. The 22-year-old scored 20 goals and came up with a total of 52 points in 81 games. He had 10 points on the power play, including three goals, and he’s the future of the franchise for the time being.
Daniel Sedin is in a contract year (along with Henrik) and posted his lowest point total in a full season since 2002-2003. He only scored 15 goals, a step down from the 28 he managed the season prior. The 36-year-old also finished with a minus-16 rating, the first time since his rookie season that he’s been a minus player.
Henrik Sedin posted 50 points last season, including 15 goals. He’s been in this territory before, having popped in 50 in 2013-2014. But he’s also been a point-per-game player at times and it’s impossible to say the Ornskoldsvik isn’t missing a step in his game right now. Things are winding down for the Sedin twins in Vancouver, but they could bounce back in a contract year.
Eriksson saw his numbers fall off in his first season as a Canuck, putting up his lowest numbers since his rookie season in Dallas. He posted just 24 points in 65 games, a drop-off from his 2015-2016 total of 63 points in 82 games. Can the Swede bounce back? Will he form part of the Swedish vortex in Vancouver or will he score some goals once more? Only time will tell, but Eriksson could be nudged out by Vanek on the power play. Draft accordingly.
Alexander Edler is the best of an underachieving bunch on the Canucks’ blueline. The 31-year-old had six goals and 21 points last season, with a meagre four points on the power play – his lowest man-advantage totals since his debut season. Edler averaged 24:18 of ice time a game and managed 138 shots on goal and he’s among the most fundamentally sound defencemen in the league.
Luckily, the future is bright with Ben Hutton in the squad. The 24-year-old posted 19 points in 71 games last season and slipped a touch, but he’s still an extremely mobile piece of the puzzle. The Brockville native averaged 20:29 of ice time a game in 2016-2017 and should see even more in 2017-2018 with Philip Larsen and Nikita Tryamkin elsewhere.
Troy Stecher led the way with 24 points last season and came up big in his rookie year, so much will be expected in 2017-2018. The 23-year-old has all the tools to do it, too. He averaged nearly 20 minutes a game and is a terrific puck-mover. The Canucks will look to him to join the rush, plus he should see some power play time.
With Ryan Miller off to Anaheim, the net goes to Jacob Markstrom. Probably. He’ll compete with Nilsson for starts in 2017-2018 and that’ll suit him just fine. Markstrom won 10 of 23 starts last season, posting a 2.63 goals against average and a .910 save percentage. Those digits are better than his career average and the 27-year-old is right in the pocket, which could make next season a make or break year.
Nilsson also won 10 of 23 starts last season, except with the Sabres. He’s also 27-years-old. He’s also Swedish. He’s also 6’6. While Nilsson and Markstrom may not be twins, there’s not a lot separating the two netminders and Vancouver is hoping to turn that into healthy competition. Here’s hoping.