The Vancouver Canucks started the 2018-2019 season without Trevor Linden in the front office, as he left his post as president of hockey operations in July of 2018 and was replaced by Jim Benning. More importantly, the team was headed toward life without Daniel and Henrik Sedin. The twins retired in April of 2018.
Did Vancouver’s fortunes improve? In a way, yes.
The Canucks finished 2018-2019 with a 35-36-11 record, good for 81 points – one more than the Anaheim Ducks. That put Vancouver fifth in the Pacific Division and 12th in the Western Conference. But they did finish with five more wins than 2017-2018.
They also finished with more goals, scoring 225 in 2018-2019. Three Canucks had over 25 goals, including Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat and Elias Pettersson. Pettersson led the way with a total of 28 goals and 66 points in 71 games. He won the Calder Trophy as a result.
Horvat had 61 points in 82 games, his best season to date. He finished with seven power play goals and a career-high 227 shots on goal.
Boeser had 26 goals and a total of 56 points in 69 regular season games. That’s a point more than his 2017-2018 totals, although he scored three fewer goals despite posting more shots on goal.
Vancouver allowed 254 goals against in 2018-2019, making them the fifth most porous team in the Western Conference. That said, they allowed fewer goals against than the playoff-bound San Jose Sharks.
The Canucks saw five goalies post NHL starts, but Jacob Markstrom was the clear number one with 60 starts. He posted just 28 wins in that span, with a 2.77 goals against average and a .912 save percentage. That’s actually above average for the 29-year-old, although he posted slightly better stats in 2017-2018 in three fewer starts.
Anders Nilsson, Thatcher Demko, Richard Bachman, and Michael Dipietro accounted for the other 22 starts in 2018-2019. They also accounted for 13 collective losses. Bachman and Dipietro allowed a combined 13 goals against in just two games.
Secondary scoring and defensive consistency are issues for Vancouver and they accounted for an awful lot of what went wrong in 2018-2019. The team boasts some offensive expertise in Horvat, Pettersson and Boeser and they’ll have every chance to produce, as long as they stay healthy.
Vancouver procured defenceman Tyler Myers in July of 2019 and signed him to a five-year deal, but the jury’s out on how effective he’ll be. Michael Ferland was also signed, along with defenceman Jordie Benn.
The Canucks still have Boeser to sign. He’s not making the high-profile headlines of Toronto’s Mitch Marner, but Boeser’s a vital piece for Vancouver and getting him inked is a top priority for Benning and Co.
Markstrom will start in goal, while Demko will push him. That should create an interesting goaltending dynamic.
What went wrong in 2018-2019 was by and large the result of the much-publicized team reconstruction and little has happened to push the needle. Myers is the biggest addition, moneywise and otherwise, but other issues are ever-pressing. The Loui Eriksson contract is still a thing, for instance, particularly if he continues to underachieve.
Overall, Vancouver should prepare for more of the same in 2019-2020. They may continue to inch up the standings and maybe collect a few more wins, but this is not a playoff team yet.
Photo credit: Getty Images