Photo credit:© John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
The real argument for the Canucks going all-in is on display at All-Star Weekend
18 days ago
These days, when folks say that the general manager of the Vancouver Canucks is “all-in,” they’re not just misspelling his name.
If anyone doubted Patrik Allvin’s intentions as he approached the 2024 Trade Deadline, he clarified earlier this week by acquiring Elias Lindholm from the Calgary Flames, far and away the most impactful player available on the market.
The Canucks are pushing all their chips across the table on the 2023/24 season…and most seem to agree that they’re right to be doing so.
By now, you’ve no doubt heard many of the leading minds in the media and fanbase discuss their reasons for supporting an all-in approach.
Some are simply based on the Canucks’ position at the top of the standings, still the case as of the All-Star Break.
Others base their opinion on more practical, financial concerns, like the pending offseason negotiations for Elias Pettersson, Filip Hronek, and about half the rest of the roster.
Still others think the Canucks should go for it this year because they think the Canucks should go for it every year.
But if one really wants to know why the Canucks are and should be all-in on this particular season, they need not look much farther than the festivities at All-Star Weekend in Toronto.
Much has been made of the fact that the Canucks have six player representatives (and a coach!) at the All-Star Game. But it’s not just the quantity of players that stands out, but the quality, and the question of whether that quality has reached a peak of sorts.
We say the evidence is out there on the ice in Toronto right now.
Let’s think back to darker days, the grim and gritty era that was the Jim Benning Regime. When lamenting the process a few years back, fans could often be heard making statements about how mismanagement was going to result in the franchise wasting the “best years” of superstars like Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and Thatcher Demko.
Well, it sure seems quite possible that the foretold “best year” has arrived. Fans should feel grateful that Benning and Co. are no longer in charge, and that the new front office has taken the past two years to put the team into a genuine position to make the most of it.
And that they’re actually doing it.
Peaks are a tricky thing to talk about in the sport of hockey. There are aging curves and scoring distribution charts that purport an ability to predict when a player will be the most productive throughout their career, but it’s only ever applicable in a general sense. Players are individuals, and it’s more or less impossible to truly prognosticate the path their careers will take.
But some safe assumptions can be made all the same.
Let’s go over the All-Stars themselves, who can also be understood as the Canucks’ current core (plus the new guy.)
All four of Pettersson, Hughes, JT Miller, and Brock Boeser are scoring at the highest rates of their career, and by quite a margin, too.
Thatcher Demko, meanwhile, is posting his own best season, second in the league in goals-saved-above-expected and challenging for Vezina contention.
Some of the best players in franchise history are playing at their absolute best.
Hughes is just 24, and has just taken an enormous leap forward as an NHL defender. It’s possible that this will be the best season of his career, but it’s just as likely that the best is yet to come.
The same could be said for Pettersson, a year older but still very much evolving as a player.
As for the rest? It’s less certain. Goalies are mercurial, and it’s hard to imagine Demko getting much better than he is right here, right now, especially over so long a stretch.
Is Boeser going to be a regular 40-50 goal-scorer right now, or is he popping off at exactly the age that most NHLers see their highest point totals?
And, hey, we’ve been wrong on Miller’s peak before. It wasn’t that 99-point campaign of a few years ago, after all. But he’s now 30 years old, and time will eventually catch up to him. By having his best statistical season past the 30-year threshold, Miller is already an anomaly. Expecting him to continue to anomalize from here on out is a losing game. All we’re saying is that the odds of this being Miller’s best season are probably higher than they are for the rest of the crew, but individual peaks aren’t really what we’re talking about here, anyway.
It’s about the collective peak. We can argue until Mathew Barzal finishes an obstacle course about whether each individual Canuck is truly at their peak right now. But at the same time, we can probably all agree that the odds of so many core Canucks performing this well ever again, simultaneously and across an entire season of play, are much lower than the odds of 2023/24 representing the peakiest peak of this particular core.
The same thought process can probably be extended well beyond the All-Star rosters. Others, like Hronek and Dakota Joshua and Teddy Blueger and Nils Höglander are all having career seasons, too.
One All-Star who is not having a career season is the only one not playing on Team Hughes: Lindholm. But then Lindholm hasn’t had a chance to play in Vancouver as of yet. If anything is going to turn his career-worst season around into something resembling his best, it’s catching the absolute wave of momentum that is the current Canucks.
And, sure, we can get back into the financial reasoning here. Many of those players we just described as having the best seasons of their careers are on expiring contracts, and will be more expensive after this offseason, with Pettersson chief among them.
Even if this roster was able to find a way to equal their performance in 2023/24 in a subsequent season, they definitely wouldn’t be able to do it for as cheap.
But, really, that’s besides the point. The point is the talent, and what the Canucks are doing with it under the guidance of Rick Tocchet.
As we watch this mass collection of Canucks skate around in Toronto and prove that they belong amongst the NHL’s uppermost echelon of skill, it’s hard not to feel like Dave Grohl singing “Everlong;” to wonder “if everything could ever be this real forever” and “if anything could ever be this good again?”
The odds are that this is the best we’re going to get for a good long while. That this is the best of the “best years” of the core that fans were once so worried was going to be squandered.
That’s why Allvin and the Canucks are all-in.
Anything less would be passing up on the greatest opportunity this franchise has ever had for achieving hockey’s ultimate glory.
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