The month of January will tell us a lot about the Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Noah Strang
1 year ago
The Vancouver Canucks enter 2023 on a two-game losing streak that has pushed their points percentage below .500. After an eventful offseason that saw a new management group begin to execute their new vision for the organization, the results haven’t changed much.
There’s still more than half of the season left for the Canucks to make a run at the playoffs. They’re lucky in the sense that the Western Conference has had a tough go and the playoff bar this year could be a few points lower than last season.
Nonetheless, the team is in a state of limbo. They haven’t committed to a rebuild, but also are looking to get younger and trade significant contributors. They’re not in a playoff spot, but also aren’t yet completely out of it. This leaves a lot of questions surrounding the organization at the moment.
Everything is set up for January to be the defining month of the season. A lot of dominoes could begin to fall and significant decisions could start to be made. Here are some of the top storylines from the upcoming month that will have repercussions that are felt for weeks, months, and even years to come.
The Canucks’ difficult January schedule 
There are not many easy games for the Canucks in January. The team jets off for an East Coast road trip during the middle part of the month. They’ll play against the Winnipeg Jets, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, and Carolina Hurricanes. The Canucks have recorded fewer points than all of those teams so far this season, although they are ahead of the Panthers on points percentage.
Playing all of those teams on the road is a tall order for the Canucks. This will likely be a crucial stretch in determining how the rest of the season plays out. If they do manage to record only a few measly points of the ten up for grabs, it’ll result in a slide down the standings.
Sandwiching that five-game road trip, the Canucks also have some tough Western Conference matchups in January. They play the Colorado Avalanche twice, and that team still presents a difficult challenge despite significant injuries to their lineup.
This feels like the month that decides the Canucks‘ playoff chances. Their early-season struggles mean that they cannot afford another losing streak and will need to reach a level we haven’t seen this year to remain in the hunt.
A long losing streak might not be the worst thing for the Canucks. Perhaps this upcoming month will kill the team’s fleeting playoff chances — currently listed at 3.8% by MoneyPuck —once and for all. This would help the team advance their position in the draft lottery as well as allow them to start selling off assets faster.
A good test for the Canucks’ goaltenders
If there was one Canucks position group that you felt good about coming into this season, it was goaltenders. Thatcher Demko had established himself as one of the league’s best and Spencer Martin had emerged as a top-tier backup. However, the team’s goaltending was very shaky to start the season.
When Demko went down with an injury in early December, the original recovery timeline was suggested at around six weeks, meaning a return date in the middle of January. That now seems to be a best-case scenario as head coach Bruce Boudreau said he was hopeful that the goaltender would return in February during a recent press appearance.
This has presented a great opportunity — and test — for the rest of the goalies in the Canucks’ organization. Martin has had the opportunity to cosplay as a regular NHL starter, something that he’s done a solid job of so far. He’s not the only one with an expanded role either, as Collin Delia’s promotion to NHL backup has meant more starts for Arturs Silovs in Abbotsford.
January will give the Canucks a good chance to examine what Martin and Silovs do in these big roles over an extended sample size. This is a great chance for both to further their development and prove to the organization that they have a significant role to play in the team’s future.
Bo Horvat’s final days as a Canuck? 
As the losses continue to pile up, it seems inevitable that the Canucks make a change soon. The team’s best trade asset is Bo Horvat, who will not stop scoring and is in the last year of a contract worth $5.5 million per season. All signs point to Horvat being traded this season and January could be the month when it finally happens.
With 26 goals and 40 points in 34 games this year, Horvat has blossomed into an offensive dynamo. He’s a great power play producer and an elite faceoff wizard. He’d be a great addition to any contender and has a very reasonable cap hit that can be lowered further if the Canucks retain money.
Getting a good package in return for Horvat is crucial to navigating this upcoming retool/rebuild the Canucks are embarking on. The rumoured demand from the Canucks involves multiple young NHL-caliber players. Adding two talented players between the ages of 21-24 would be great, although the organization shouldn’t shy away from acquiring 18-21 year old prospects even if it requires more patience to see the payoff.
This January could be the last time that Horvat wears a Canucks jersey. If he is traded, it will mark the end of an era for the Canucks, who will then be left without a captain.

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