How Bo Horvat will handle 20 ‘meaningless’ games to go

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Photo Credit: Winslow Townson / USA TODAY Sports

For months, as the world around them recognized that this
year’s edition of the Vancouver Canucks was not going to qualify for the
playoffs, Canucks players refused to accept that fate. Regardless of the
results or the mounting deficit they faced in the push to the Stanley Cup playoffs, Vancouver’s players refused to take the bait when the line of questioning started down that path.

Home ice losses to San Jose and the New York Islanders have changed that. Now there is nowhere
to hide. Even the players can’t ignore the writing on the wall – the big block
letters – that spell things out very clearly: when the Stanley Cup playoffs
begin this spring, the Canucks will not be a part of them. All that’s left now
is the uncomfortable task of playing out the string with 20 games still
remaining on the schedule.

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This is all new to Bo Horvat and not just at this level.

This is a guy who competed in
three straight Memorial Cups before making the jump straight to the NHL. In his rookie season in ‘the show’, he was part of a 101-point team and a playoff qualifier as a
rookie. In Horvat’s world, hockey seasons continue well into April and often
into May. They don’t end on April 9th like this one will. The idea that there is really nothing to play for now is a tough
concept to grasp.

“I’ve always been on winning
teams, I’ve always been in the playoffs, I’ve been to Memorial Cups so it’s
obviously a big change for me,” he said, a hint of disbelief  in his voice, as he met the media moments
after the Canucks latest loss on Tuesday night. “It’s tough especially in my
second year and getting the role that I’ve had and at the same time, I’m going to
try to embrace it, try to keep getting better.”

Horvat remains a central figure
in the Canucks transition to a younger core and in that regard these final 20
games are not utterly meaningless on an individual basis. He has plenty still
to learn and work on as he pushes to the finish line in his sophomore season. The
plan appears to be to use Horvat and other key pieces of the youth movement –
Sven Baertschi, Markus Granlund, Emerson Etem along with rookies Jake Virtanen,
Jared McCann, Ben Hutton and even Brendan Gaunce – in increased roles and
in every situation. That’s exactly as it should it be.

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The truth of the matter is it’s
no longer about results for the Canucks. It’s now about figuring out exactly
what they’ve got to work with moving forward and there are certainly some
intriguing pieces already in place to help the rebuild. 

While the younger players
may get opportunities in prime situations, that does little to ease the sting
of a season that has slipped away from Horvat and the Canucks. With the predicament
they’ve put themselves in, Horvat knows there will be long days and nights
ahead, but being ready to play and perform is all part of learning to be a
professional.

“I think you just have to put it
in the back of your mind,” he says of being out of the race so early. “If you
dwell on it, that’s when it hurts the most. It’s tough when you think you’re
out of it and you just want to go and play and get the year over with. You can’t
think like that. You have to think like you have a chance of making the playoffs
– that’s our end goal – and you have to keep that mindset no matter what.”

So the focus will be to play like
the Canucks remain in the race, but Horvat and his teammates are no longer
fooling themselves. Their poor home ice record, their struggle to score goals
all season and their inability to protect leads are but three of the reasons
they find themselves heading for a long summer.

Horvat’s season has had its share
of challenges, too. In part because of two serious injuries to Brandon Sutter,
Horvat has been overmatched on too many nights. There were early season
chemistry issues, a ridiculously long scoring slump and simply too much time
spent in his own zone for a guy who wants to be known as an effective two-way
centre. 

After a red-hot January, Horvat has cooled again offensively of late (nine
without a goal and just one point in his past seven games). His challenge now
is to find whatever motivation is necessary to have a strong finish which can
hopefully set him up for next season and beyond. For that, he’ll be taking his
cues from the leaders on the hockey club because one day in the not too distant
future, there’s a good chance Horvat will be the one being looked to for
guidance.

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“You look up to the older guys,”
he says. “The Sedins are obviously huge role models for all of us, and Sutsy (Sutter)
has been helping me out shooting me texts when he’s not on the road with us and
his support has been huge all season.”

It’s
been a season of taking lumps and learning hard lessons for the Canucks and the
toughest part likely still lies ahead with 20 insignificant games still to go. The hope for
Horvat and his young teammates – and it may be difficult to see right now — is
that they make the most of the opportunities they’re about to get and come out
of it better for the experience.



  • JuiceBox

    My biggest concern for Bo Horvat is Brock Boeser. If Boeser’s development continues on it’s current trajectory it’s only a matter of time before Horvat becomes expendable.

    Horvat desperately needs to find some consistency at the NHL level. I would say he has one more season to get things straightened out before the Canucks need to seriously consider moving him while he still has value.

    If Horvat does not have a strong finish to the season it wouldn’t surprise me to see him traded at the draft. Possibly to move the Canucks up the draft board or traded for Druin.

      • JuiceBox

        Most people who comment on this site are concerned about JB’s “poor asset management” correct?

        If Boeser continues to develop at his current pace and if Horvat continues to struggle to find consistency it’s only a matter of time before Boeser catches and passes Horvat on the depth chart.

        At that point is it not prudent to at least explore moving him while the value on his potential is still high?

        This is no laughing matter and I’m not saying it for the sake of stirring the pot. This is a reality that the Canucks could be facing as early as next season.

          • Cageyvet

            That’s how he projects, you can’t kick around other names like they are established if you can’t acknowledge Bo’s potential.

            I hope Boeser is fantastic and is a top line winger, no matter who his centre is, and I would roll the dice on Drouin for the right price, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

            Boeser has 0 NHL games, and Drouin has 89 games with 6 goals and 40 points to show for that. This does not scream elite talent, it screams potential, but for some reason there is a faction who drools over other team’s prospects who are developing no faster than our own.

            Virtanen has 5 goals in 37 games, crunches people, plays with speed and has a heavy shot, but there are still those who chastise the Canucks for this excellent pick. He’s also a guy whose game looks built for the playoffs, not something you should overlook.

            Different roles for all these players, and they all have a ways to go before establishing themselves as consistent producers in the NHL. Patience, people, patience.

          • Mantastic

            Ah, yes. Jake “hits very hard” Virtanen. Playoff type of player. He did so well in Utica last year. Threw a lot of hits! Sure, 1 point in 10 games, but who cares? Those bone crushing hits, though! That’s something Ehlers can’t do!

          • Cageyvet

            Any number of top talents in this league didn’t hit their stride right out of the gate. If it’s all about immediate results being at the highest level, we should have bailed on the Sedins and Kesler early.

            I’m on board with the love of the physical play, just saying don’t throw him under the bus for Utica, World Juniors, or anything else. I want 10 good years out of our top prospects, so I’m in no rush to judge based on stats, when it comes to young hockey players I think the eye test trumps all other metrics.

          • Mantastic

            Shut who down, exactly? +/- doesn’t count for much, but when you’re -30 and the WORST on the team, that says something. He is not a “shutdown” guy. Two-way, yes. But that’s because he’s deployed that way. He’s not a “shutdown” player.

        • Cageyvet

          What’s not a laughing matter is your observation skills; Horvat is a two-way centre, Boeser is a scoring winger. It would be prudent to pay attention to that, this is a reality. You can’t talk about concerns of asset management when you say things like that.

          I hope you are right and Boeser DOES pass Horvat on the depth chart, there’s nothing but positives there. That means he’d be playing next to him on the wing, not replacing him as a centre.

          Horvat is a heart and soul guy, definite captain potential there and they traded an awfully elite goalie to get him. Trading him for a whiny junior star whom can’t even pretend to play defense and has made a horrible career decision with his walkout makes no sense at all. None.

          Put the cap back on the glue and open a window.

        • sh1t4brains

          Yeah – in a world where teams only need one center.

          Wait. what’s that? Boeser plays wing or center?
          Teams have room for more than one player at a position?

          Juicebox – just what is in that juicebox?

        • Mantastic

          dude I have been a fan of your posts recently and these last 2 make zero sense to me?

          did you put down the juice box for a wine box this morning?

          Horvat is a center.
          Boeser is a winger.

          each team can have 4 centers and 8 wingers playing the 60 minutes in takes to play an NHL game.

          you must be messing with me right? lol

          I like you JuiceBox. I think your f_cking crazy but I like you man.

        • GM Joe

          how long did it take the twins to develope?? only after 2 seasons and u think the canucks will trade BO. what are have you being eatting? lol

          FYI, it takes at least 5 years for a player to develope. a players prime should be 26-30. so u do the math.

          also there is only 1 crosby every 10 yrs in the drafts. so dont even bring crosby up.

  • JuiceBox

    I wish NHL players would be more creative with nicknames. “Sutsy” Bah! The other day I heard Reimer referred to as “Reimsy” by Brandon Dillon. Why not just say Reimer if you’re going to be that lazy with a nickname?! Grrr.

    Also, Boeser and Drouin are wingers. Not sure how they would make Horvat expendable?

  • JuiceBox

    Beauty of having ultimate professionals like the Twins around is that they will teach ALL the young players how to treat every game.

    Like a profession! In College or Junior, players may coast, but coasting in the NHL means you won’t play in the NHL.

    CA bloggers and all media types, may think these are meaningless games, but they shouldn’t be to BO, Mac/Hutton/Sven/Vey/Ettum/Ferland/Guance.. That’s a lot of young players that have something to play for

  • sh1t4brains

    Any good player playing in a competitive league will play regardless of the noise (standings). If they get owned; so be it…it is a learning process. Bo (and any kids worth keeping) will show their stripes regardless of what is at stake.

  • Mantastic

    my biggest concern with horvat is he has the 3rd worst plus/minus in the league.

    shut down/2 way centre? ok.

    and the premise for this blog entry is thinner than manute bol. it’s the hockey equivalent of an article in teen beat about what justin bieber’s next haircut will be.

    it is ok not to post a blog if nothing happens.

  • GM Joe

    Bo is the least of my concerns right now, I am more interested to see if McCann will finally get some consistent lineman especially that have talent. Eventually we need a #1 Centre & McCann may be the guy. Give him some wingers & let us see how he makes out in a more offensive role.

  • Marvin101

    How can people call Horvat a shut down two way center when he has about the worst plus/minus in the league? He seems to skate a lot harder when he’s heading into the offensive zone than when he’s back checking to the defensive zone.

    Bo can look good at times but I can’t see giving him a big contract at this stage of his career. If someone offered up a big stud defenceman in trade, I’d jump on it.

    • Cageyvet

      This is the wrong site for this comment, lol, plus minus is “archaic” and “useless” according to CA. At least that’s what I was told when I had the audacity to note a +3 performance by Sbisa.

      It’s a stat that needs context, like all others. I think Bo’s outrageous plus minus is a result of truly being snakebitten early, as well as being noticeably outmatched by the opposition on some nights, which is no shame for a young player.

      His history at lower levels, faceoff ability and style of play projects him as a 2 way player. I think everyone is reacting as though the claim is that he is fully developed in this role.

      Note to alarmists – Bo is not yet a true shut down center, but Shinkaruk is not yet a sniper, either. Let’s keep some perspective, people are awfully quick on this board to jump down someone’s throat for the most minor points. Everybody here is sharing their opinion on the future, and it’s still very uncertain, surely there’s room for civilized debate.

  • JuiceBox

    It appears that I owe everyone here an apology. I clearly remembered reading scouting reports before the draft that stated Boeser was listed as a RW but could play center as well. And I also remember reading after the draft that one of the reasons the Canucks drafted him was that he could play both wing and center.

    I pride myself in getting this kind of info right before I post anything but today I was in a hurry and didn’t double check my facts before I posted. After reading all ypur comments above, I did some digging and found out that I am indeed very wrong and for that I apologise.

  • GM Joe

    20 meaningless games?? These are the most important games since that turncoat Hamhuis threw the franchise under the bus. They must lose every game.stop pretending

  • GM Joe

    Thanks to hammer,and benning. the canucks are screwed until 2017 draft if we are lucky. Let’s say we get a few good pickks in 17. Then a few in 18. Then 5-6 yearsto fully develop. That puts us at 2023 until the nucks are competitive.

    • allsportsfan

      So one move that Benning didn’t make will impact the team that much? Many say that even if we received a 2nd round pick, it would’ve been seen as a victory. How could one second round pick positively mean a completely different team trajectory? I think most of us are disapointed of this outcome, but let’s not overreact.

      • Joseph Smith

        The reason a 2nd round pick would be a win is because Dan is a UFA and said he would gladly resign here next season. So yes a 2nd round pick for renting out hamhuis for a few months is a net win. Not hard to understand

  • GM Joe

    Reality sucks. And keeping hammer and the sedins around to sell tickets only slows the rebuild. (See Toronto)
    Send em all packing. Go with some cheap vets and keep the kids going. Lose every game for the next 2 years. That’s the best case scenario