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Canucks’ biggest offseason need is getting Elias Pettersson’s star power back: Year in Review

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Photo credit:Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
22 days ago
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No matter what the Vancouver Canucks do to alter their roster over the off-season, nothing will impact the club’s fortune moving forward more than Elias Pettersson regaining his star-level form. At his final media availability before heading home for the summer, Pettersson said he was looking forward to taking some time to clear his mind after a season of extreme highs and lows. 
Whatever happens in the months ahead, the Canucks need their 25-year-old centre to figure out how to rise above the noise and dictate the outcome of hockey games again. He’s done it throughout his six years in the National Hockey League and he needs to find a way to use his vast array of skills to get back to being the player that put up 102-points a season ago and was rewarded for his efforts with the largest contract in franchise history in early March (8 years/$92.8M).
 
However, as Canucks fans saw, Pettersson faded down the stretch and, as he played through tendonitis in his knee, was a non-factor on far too many nights over the final months of the regular season and through 13 playoff games.
This is a guy who has made his mark as a difference-maker. However, he looked anything but after the NHL All Star weekend.
“It’s definitely made me hungry to get back into playoffs,” Pettersson said as he met the media at Canucks locker cleanout day. “I believe we have something good building here. On a personal level, I feel I can be better and (will) try to become an even better player for next year, learn from what I did good and learn from what I can do better. I know what I need to work on. It will be nice to get a break from everything.”
The final numbers don’t lie. Pettersson had a massively disappointing one goal and five assists in 13 post-season appearances. His goal came on the power play to open the scoring in Game 2 against Edmonton. At 5-on-5 in the playoffs, he had just 3 points with only one primary assist on a Nils Höglander goal in Game 6 against the Oilers.
Those numbers seem shocking, but in reality they were a continuation of a months-long struggle that saw Pettersson produce 7+18=25 over his final 33 games of the regular season. 
And while many will remember the sub-par second half, it’s important to step back and recognize two remarkable stretches of Pettersson’s season in which he was one of the best players in the NHL.
He bolted from the starting blocks with 5+14=19 in his first 10 games and on November 12th was the first player in the league to reach the 25-point mark.
And in January, Pettersson went on an incredible goal-scoring rampage matching Florida’s Sam Reinhart for the league lead for the first month of 2024. With 14+7=21 including five game winners, Pettersson was named NHL third star of the month.
That player is still in there somewhere. And the Canucks desperately need him to return. They certainly owe it to Pettersson to find him better wingers to play with, but he also needs to find a way to be more effective regardless of who he plays with. Frankly, there were too many nights down the stretch and into the playoffs when Pettersson appeared disengaged. That can’t happen – especially now that he’s one of the highest-paid players in hockey.
“Obviously it has been a very noisy season in terms of the contract and how shit I’ve been the last three months,” he said. “It will be nice to get a break from that and I’m excited to get a little break here and then get back on the horse again, train hard and come in the best shape possible for next season.”
Overall, Pettersson finished with 34+55=89 in 82 regular season games. That included 13 power play goals, a team-high 10 game winners and he also led the club with 207 shots on goal. The team outscored opponents by 20 (67-47) at 5-on-5 with Pettersson on the ice in the regular season. But it’s interesting to see the trend that saw the Canucks hold a 14-goal edge in the first half of the season and just a six-goal bump in the second half. They then got outscored 6-5 at evens in the playoffs.
Through his many struggles this season, Pettersson remains better than a point-per-game player, with 412 points in 407 career NHL games. That’s a more accurate snapshot of the player he is than a 40-game slide in which he was playing through a nagging knee issue.
Still, with a massive raise comes even greater expectations. Pettersson has to know that. And so it is vital that he use the off-season to rest up, heal up and train harder than he ever has. 
He’s seen what it takes to succeed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and it’s important that he uses that as motivation and fuel so that the next time the Canucks get back to the post-season, Pettersson plays a front-line role.
Big pressure? Perhaps. But that’s what high-paid superstars do for their teams.
And there’s a franchise – and a market – depending on him to make it happen.
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