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Paterson’s Point: Canucks have so much skill. So why no skills competition?

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Photo credit:© Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
6 months ago
It could be argued the Vancouver Canucks have never boasted more pure skill in their line-up than they do this season. So it feels like the organization is missing a golden opportunity by not holding a skills competition the way it used to. 
Who wouldn’t want to see Brock Boeser pick off targets in a shooting accuracy competition or Elias Pettersson test the limits of a radar gun to measure his hardest shot? What about Quinn Hughes putting on a dazzling display in some sort of puck handling event? And for a day it would be terrific to see whether Ilya Mikheyev or Sam Lafferty was the fastest skater on the team – or perhaps a dark horse candidate would emerge.
You might even see JT Miller crack a smile in a relaxed setting like this.
The Canucks are in the business of winning hockey games and they’ve done a lot of that through their first 32 outings this season. However, they’re also in the entertainment business and the annual skills competition always provided a portion of the fan base that can’t afford tickets to games the chance to see its hockey heroes and at a reduced price point. It was a great event for kids, families and minor hockey teams from the region.
It was always a fun afternoon and an opportunity for these remarkably talented athletes to put their many skills on display and to show off some of their personality while doing so.
There has been some suggestion that a Jacob Markstrom knee injury suffered during the team’s 2017 skills competition is the reason the event was shelved. But that was a wholly preventable and avoidable mishap that was more about bad luck and poor decision-making than it was about the day itself. And one misadventure shouldn’t have been enough to put the skills competition on the scrap heap entirely.
The Winnipeg Jets are holding their annual skills competition on December 28th. They’re marketing tickets starting at $10 and they’re promoting the fact that rink side glass will be removed from portions of the arena to increase fan access to the players. So it can be done.
The Jets are even taking necessary precautions when it comes to their goaltenders and letting top local AAA netminders shoulder the load in the team’s breakaway challenge. 
Some may say fans will get their chance to see their favourite Canucks participate in some of these events at the NHL’s All Star weekend in February. But it’s not that simple. In fact, given recent changes to the All Star selection process and who’ll take part in the skills event in Toronto on February 2nd, it’s entirely conceivable that no Canucks will be involved at all. 
The league will select one representative from all 32 teams and will then fill out 12 more spots in the All Star festivities via a fan vote. From there a dozen players will be handpicked to take part in the league’s skills showcase. You could make strong arguments that Brock Boeser (tied for the league lead in goals), JT Miller (third in league scoring), Elias Pettersson (tied for ninth in league scoring), Quinn Hughes (leading all defencemen in scoring) and Thatcher Demko (leading the league in wins) have all earned the opportunity to go to this year’s All Star weekend. Based on his first half statistics, a case could be made that Filip Hronek (tied for fifth in scoring for all NHL blueliners) deserves some consideration, too.
Of course, not all of them will make the grade. In fact, Canucks fans should probably brace themselves for a couple of sizable  snubs this season.
Which brings this back to the argument that the Canucks should resurrect their own skills competition and let their stars shine at Rogers Arena.
With a team shooting percentage of 13.4%, the Canucks haven’t missed the mark often this season. But the lack of a skills competition – with so much skill to showcase – feels like a missed opportunity.
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