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Canucks vs Kings: A rivalry in the making?

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Photo credit:© Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
1 month ago
It’s difficult to nail down the identity of the chief rival of the Vancouver Canucks right now.
The Edmonton Oilers are always a fine candidate, but it’s been more than 30 years since the teams last met in the playoffs, and the Oilers are a little bit low on personality right now.
The Vegas Golden Knights, conversely, are big on personality and dislikability, but everybody in the league has a bone to pick with them, so they’re hardly an exclusive rival of the Canucks.
A playoff series this year would go a long way toward cementing either of the above as a true franchise enemy, but until that happens, it’s hard to call either of them rivals.
Who else could it be?
The Calgary Flames are floundering too much for anyone to care all that much about them.
The Seattle Kraken have potential, both on a regional basis and due to a few spicy games in a row, but they’re also struggling in the standings, so any rivalry will still need to wait a few years before it really gets going.
In the meantime, we’d like to suggest that a heated rivalry might be in the making as we speak in the midst of the 2023/24 campaign, and that’s a rivalry between the Canucks and the Los Angeles Kings.
As of this writing, the Canucks sit at the top of the league, the Western Conference, and the Pacific Division. Were the playoffs to start right now, the Canucks would face one of the two teams currently tied for the Western wildcard spots: the Nashville Predators, or the Kings.
And over the next couple of months, the Canucks and Kings are going to be able to play a very direct role in where each other finishes in the standings.
For the second season in a row, the Canucks will end the season with an oddly King-heavy schedule. Starting with Thursday night’s matchup, the Canucks will play all four of their games against Los Angeles in the span of about four weeks.
In fact, of the team’s 21 remaining games, almost a full fifth of them come against the Kings.
That amount of head-to-head action in that amount of time, situated right at the most intense section of the season and potentially followed up by a playoff series, is a recipe for rivalry in and of itself.
But there’s more to this budding conflict than just scheduling.
In many ways, the Vancouver Canucks and the Los Angeles Kings are two teams at a very similar moment in their developmental and competitive cycles, right at the precipice of what they hope to be long-term contender status following several years of building up a young core.
On average, the Canucks have the slightly older core at this point, whereas the Kings have a younger core that is balanced by some key longstanding veterans like Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty.
But in terms of average age, the Canucks and Kings are basically the same. The Canucks average an age of about 28.5 this year, and the Kings are at 28.1. That allows for both to perhaps enjoy an extended window of competitiveness, meaning this rivalry has the potential to be sparked over the next several weeks and then continue building over the next several years.
But it takes more than just competing in the standings to result in a true rivalry. There needs to be some more direct conflict on the ice, but the Canucks and Kings are built for that, too.
Since the Patrik Allvin Regime took over, and especially since Rick Tocchet and Co. were brought on to coach, the Canucks have really upped their physicality. Folks like Nikita Zadorov, Dakota Joshua, and JT Miller are leading the charge there, but it’s a teamwide effort that has frustrated and infuriated opponents all season long.
The Kings, meanwhile, might not hit as frequently, but they do hit hard as one of the league’s largest team with an average weight of 201.9lb, a bit ahead of the Canucks at 199.6.
Neither team fights an exceptional amount, with the Canucks having 16 majors on the 2023/24 season and the Kings having 11. But each side has an abundance of the kinds of physical, frustrating, and agitating personalities that really make a rivalry possible.
The Canucks’ side of the equation is well-known enough to our readers. But the Kings have old enemies like Doughty, troublemakers like Alex Laferriere, bruisers like Andres Englund, young power forwards like Quinton Byfield, and some overtly physical stars like Adrian Kempe and Kevin Fiala. They’ve also got Pierre-Luc Dubois, who even his own teammates seem to dislike.
In other words, there are plenty of individual firestarters and hateable figures strewn throughout the Kings’ organization, and that goes right up to the front office in former figure of on-ice ire Rob Blake, the team’s GM.
When the Canucks and Kings meet four times over the span of the next few weeks, each game will be a “four-point” game. Each will have direct implications on the teams’ playoff rankings. Each will be an opportunity to make an impression – perhaps literally – on a likely postseason opponent.
Expect every check to be finished. Expect plenty of post-whistle scrums. Expect heat. Expect anger. Definitely expect a few good scraps.
And when all is said and done, the Canucks might just find themselves with a new primary rival.
At least for the time being.

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