On second thought, there may be no better time for the Canucks to ‘go for it’

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
8 months ago
Never let it be said that we don’t offer a wide variety of perspectives here at CanucksArmy.
Sometimes, those multiple perspectives even come from the same point of view.
Yesterday, we published an article that argued “A trade to ‘reward’ the Canucks would be the wrong takeaway from their early success.”
Today, we’re back with “On second thought, there may be no better time for the Canucks to ‘go for it’,” written by the exact same author on the exact same website.
So, what gives?
There just happens to be multiple ways to look at this thing.
The hesitance and fear that arises when fans and media alike hear whispers of Canucks management wanting to reward the team’s hot start with a big trade is perfectly natural. It does come off as an overreaction to a small sample size. It does read like a wrongheaded approach. It is a case of putting the cart before the horse.
And something that we didn’t mention in that article, but was heavily implied throughout, is that going ‘all-in’ on a hot start and cashing in future assets to ‘go for it’ now is a move that can’t help but to remind us of Jim Benning.
But this current managerial office, led by GM Patrik Allvin, is not Benning. And the team that they’re managing is not the same as any of the teams that were here during Benning’s eight years at the helm.
The team has changed, and so have its circumstances.
Which is why it’s now possible to make an argument that the present moment is well and truly the best time for the Canucks to ‘go for it,’ to swing big on a roster-improving trade that could put them ‘over the top.’
Here’s why.
Speaking of the top, let’s start there, as in the top of the Canucks’ depth chart and the top of the NHL’s major statistical categories, which happen to have a ton of overlap right now.
Elias Pettersson sits at second overall in NHL scoring.
Quinn Hughes is tied for the league lead in scoring by a defender.
Filip Hronek is tied with Hughes for second place in D assists.
JT Miller is currently tied for eighth overall in points.
Thatcher Demko has the sixth-lowest GAA in the league and the seventh-highest save percentage.
What that means is that each and every one of the Canucks’ best players, their true core, are playing at their absolute best to start 2023/24, and they don’t look like they’re slowing down anytime soon.
Such opportunities don’t come around every day.
We’re not suggesting that many, or any, of these individual players are ‘peaking.’ Pettersson and Hughes are still just 24 years old. There are many more productive years yet to come from this Canucks core.
But as far as the absolute peak of this core as a whole goes, it could very well be this year. Everyone is in their prime. Pettersson, Hughes, Demko, and Hronek are all right within the range of their expected best years. Miller appears to be extending his prime right into his 30s.
What are the odds of another year happening past this one in which everyone continues to play at their absolute best? We don’t know, but we do know that the odds go down with each subsequent year past this one.
As the old saying goes, you’ve got to make hay while the sun is shining.
And the sun is definitely shining in Vancouver (probably not literally, but you know what we mean.) It’s not just the core players that are playing at their best. So is Brock Boeser, so is Andrei Kuzmenko, so is Ilya Mikheyev.
Age curves exist, but predicting the peaks and primes of individual hockey players is all but impossible. Lining up those peaks and primes is an even more arduous task. But intentional or not, it seems to have happened naturally for the Canucks.
Even if one doesn’t believe that 2023/24 will be the singular best season of performance for this particular Canucks core, one thing is all-but-certain: this will be the most cost-effective season of this core.
Hughes and Demko are locked into bargain contracts for the time being. Miller is still worth the money he’s making on his new extension. But Pettersson and Hronek are in the final year of their contracts.
Those two players alone probably add a good $6 million or more in salary to the books as soon as this offseason.
The summer after that, Boeser and Kuzmenko will need new deals.
And the summer after that, it’s Demko, Mikheyev, and Carson Soucy.
But those summers haven’t come yet. In the present moment, the Canucks’ core is offering as much bang-for-buck as it ever will. Sure, there are less-than-ideal contracts elsewhere on the roster, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Canucks will never again get as much per-dollar value from their best and brightest talents.
That’s a circumstance and an opportunity well worth considering. Especially because it’s happening at a time when the entire league is hard up for cash and cap space. It’s something that puts the Canucks at a distinct advantage.
Speaking of which, there are factors outside of the team that also conspire to make this a fine time to ‘go for it.’
The Pacific Division has never been weaker. As it stands, the Vegas Golden Knights are the only other team in the division playing on the Canucks’ level, and they’ll have to dela with their Stanley Cup hangover (and karma) soon enough.
Then there’s the whole ‘end of the flat cap era’ ongoing. More cap space is coming, just not yet. Which means that any moves the team can make and manage now, even if they’re expensive, will be less comparatively expensive as soon as this offseason, and more so in the years to come.
What are we really advocating here?
An ‘all-in’ approach to the 2023/24 season? No way. As we already said, there are plenty of productive years to come from this core.
The trading of an unprotected first round pick? Uh-uh. We’re nowhere near that confident in the sustained success of this roster.
The emptying of the prospect cupboard? Absolutely not. Should the Canucks move into a period of contention, we want it to last as long as possible, and that requires an influx of prospects.
But taking the approach that had so many hackles up when it was mentioned as a possibility earlier in the week? Making a big trade (or two) for a quality missing piece that could potentially put this team ‘over the top’ and place them firmly within the realm of contention?
That’s an approach for which the time actually seems right.
A core this good won’t come around again for a long time, and a season in which a core this good is all playing at their absolute peaks isn’t guaranteed to ever come around again.
With that said, maybe it is the time for management to ‘go for it.’ Not to reward the Canucks, but to make the most of an opportunity that may pass quickly and may not come again.
Maybe it does all make sense.
On second thought, anyway.

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