3 Vancouver Canucks who could take a step back in 2022-23
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
By Noah Strang1 year ago
While the Vancouver Canucks had a disappointing 2021-22 NHL season, there were a few things to celebrate. They did a good job at preventing goals at 5-on-5, had a very strong record once Bruce Boudreau took over behind the bench, and had a few players enjoy career years.
With many of their core pieces still quite young, the Canucks are hoping that they see lots of improvement from players already inside the organization. However, there are also sure to be players on the other side of the equation that don’t manage to match last year’s production.
While it’s impossible to determine who those players will be ahead of time, there are a few skaters on the Canucks that may struggle to live up to the expectations set this past season.
We already examined six players we think could take a step forward next season, and would be doing our readers a disservice if we didn’t examine the other end of the scale.
So without further ado, here are the three biggest potential regression candidates for the Canucks in the 2022-23 NHL season.
Luke Schenn was a revelation for the Canucks last season. He was acquired (for the second time in his career) last offseason when he signed a contract worth under $1 million annually for two years. Despite there not being many expectations for Schenn, he quickly managed to turn into a fan-favourite with his tough, physical play and willingness to step up for teammates.
In an unlikely turn of events, Schenn proved to be the most suitable partner for star defenceman Quinn Hughes. Ever since Chris Tanev left during the 2020 offseason, the Canucks have been looking for a partner to play with Hughes. Schenn filled that role extremely well this past season, his stay-at-home defensive style serving as the perfect compliment to Hughes’ creative and free-flowing game.
Schenn also had one of his best offensive seasons across his NHL career, scoring 17 points in 66 games. This was his best offensive output in terms of points in over a decade and he didn’t come close to playing in all 82 games.
At 32 years old, Schenn is getting closer to the final days of his career. As he ages, he’ll continue to lose foot speed and thus become tougher for coaches to deploy. It seems unlikely that Schenn has as good a season as last year and instead will take a step back, performing closer to the value of his $850k cap hit.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson was the key piece of the trade between the Vancouver Canucks and Arizona Coyotes last offseason. While he was at one time a star in the NHL, Ekman-Larsson’s play fell off during his last few years in the desert. The Canucks were taking a risk that he would bounce back in a new environment.
While Ekman-Larsson didn’t quite live up to his salary cap hit, he wasn’t as far off as many expected. He finished with 29 points in 79 games, mostly playing on the second power play unit though he did get some time with the top group. He showed an ability to get the puck through traffic, make crisp passes, and play a sound offensive game.
Perhaps more impressive than what Ekman-Larsson brought offensively was what he did defensively. The pairing of him and Tyler Myers actually managed to trouble opponents and operated as the “shutdown” duo or the Canucks, a role that they performed well in considering how miscast they were.
However, Ekman-Larsson is not getting any younger and his foot speed is already a concern. While an extreme crash in performance is unlikely because of how smart he is, a regression is very possible, especially if Myers regresses defensively as well. Another factor to consider is the potential emergence of Jack Rathbone, another puck-moving left-handed defenceman who will be fighting for some power play time.
Last but not least, we get to J.T. Miller, the breakout superstar for the Canucks that the team will likely need to trade within the next year. He broke his previous career high in points by 27 last season, although part of that has to do with the fact that he only missed two games.
Miller finished 14th in Hart Trophy voting, gaining national recognition as one of the best players in the league. He was crucial for the Canucks, doing a multitude of things for them from being the driving offensive force to one of the team’s most important centres.
However, it seems unlikely that Miller manages to challenge the 100 point mark again this season. This past season he had his highest rate of secondary assists ever, averaging 1.1 per sixty minutes. Secondary assists are famously a fickle metric, Miller averaged just 0.6 per sixty minutes the year before, and a drop in that area would be reflected in his point totals.
If he does play for the Canucks, Miller will likely be relied upon to a lesser degree. The Canucks have bolstered their forward group and will be able to deploy their bottom six with more confidence, reducing the amount of time that Miller needs to play, especially near the start of the season.
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