Photo credit:© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Paterson’s Point: It’s clear now that the Vancouver Canucks should go all-in this season
1 month ago
With five All-Stars, on a five-game win streak and perched alone atop the National Hockey League standings in mid-January, it’s becoming abundantly clear by the day that the Vancouver Canucks have played their way into the conversation of legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.
Sure, there are questions about how they stack up against other top teams and organizations that have already scaled hockey’s highest heights. But those aren’t really questions that can be answered definitively in the middle of the schedule. Right here, right now, the Canucks have done everything in their power – and then some given pre-season expectations – to put themselves in the discussion of the best team in the National Hockey League. And based on today’s standings, there is no one ahead of them.
Because of that, it only makes sense for management to reward this group by being active ahead of the March 8th trade deadline. Any doubts that lingered about the direction in which this front office should proceed over the next six weeks ought to have been removed as the team barnstormed through the East this week. The Canucks posted impressive victories over the Devils, Rangers, and Islanders, surging to the top of the league standings in the process.
But Saturday’s 1-0 win in Buffalo was a strong reminder that there will be occasions when, for whatever reasons, the top of the line-up is held in check. It doesn’t happen often, but it can — and will — still occur. And as the Canucks slogged through their matinee match-up with the Sabres, it was apparent that this team could use some insolation behind the Lotto Line. Saturday was the first time all season the Canucks have won when none of those All-Star skaters – Elias Pettersson, JT Miller, Brock Boeser or Quinn Hughes – hit the scoresheet.
Opportunities like this don’t present themselves every year, but the conditions are ripe for Patrik Allvin and this front office to make a splash to fortify what is already a formidable line-up. As the 135-point Boston Bruins found out last season or the 128 point Tampa Bay Lightning learned the hard way in 2019, there are no guarantees of playoff success. But that’s not reason enough for the Canucks to shy away from being aggressive ahead of the deadline.
This is not meant to scare anyone, but there is a world in which Elias Pettersson elects to play himself to unrestricted free agency, fundamentally altering the course of this franchise. And in that same world, Quinn Hughes and Thatcher Demko could elect to take their services elsewhere a few seasons after that. But they’re all here right now and playing at the top of their games. This season has become a perfect storm of success for the Canucks. Why wouldn’t they want to capitalize on that fact and find a way to turbo-boost this red-hot roster?
This isn’t about emptying the prospect cupboard for one shot at glory. But it is about recognizing when glory may be within the club’s reach. Certainly there will be a price to pay to acquire a difference maker. That’s where management has to figure out the best possible package it’s willing to part with centred around a future first round draft pick.
The Bo Horvat trade in reverse likely serves as a template for the kind of deal the Canucks should be willing to make to upgrade this roster. And that’s a trade this team should make – all day, every day – in its pursuit of the Stanley Cup.
The front office has been aggressive in assembling the parts that have come together sooner than almost anyone had figured was possible. And now, it’s time to find a way to put the finishing touches on a true contender.
There have been so many wins for the Canucks already this season. Seizing the opportunity to add another significant piece ahead of the deadline would certainly qualify as another. The coaches deserve it. The players deserve it. And the fans deserve it, too.
On paper, the Canucks roster stacks up with anyone in the NHL. With the right addition in the weeks ahead, that roster could very well prove better than the rest on the ice, as well.
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