It’s time for the Canucks to choose a new path: The road to Connor Bedard
Photo credit:Hockey Canada on Twitter
26 days ago
The Vancouver Canucks’ 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night may not have included blown leads, squabbling teammates or relentless booing, but it ended in the same result as the club’s first six games anyway.
Throughout their 0-7 start to the season the Canucks have had shifts, plays, and even full periods where they looked destined to bump their slump and find the same rhythm that put them within striking distance of the playoffs last year, and Monday night was no exception.
The Canucks held the Hurricanes to a tie game through two periods, shut down multiple power play opportunities, and put together a few dangerous chances of their own. But by the time the horn sounded, they had just 16 shots to show for it, including an embarrassingly low three after the Hurricanes took the lead in the third period.
Suddenly, with nearly 10% of their season already over, the Canucks are in sole possession of last place in the National Hockey League. The next closest team, the Anaheim Ducks, has one win and three points as well as an extra game in hand.
It’s becoming painfully clear that this Canucks core was the wrong horse for a new front office to bet on, and that the team as currently constructed can’t keep up with legitimate playoff-bound opponents. Some bad luck on the injury front certainly hasn’t helped, but it all stems from the same issues with depth, the major lack of blue-chip prospects, and expensive contracts handcuffing management’s ability to fix anything in the short term.
The situation unfolding has been brewing since long before this season began. It’s the product of a poorly executed, patchwork, “on the fly” retool that began in 2015, thanks to a franchise unwilling to accept reality and a front office all too happy to sell future success in favour of buying the “feeling” of progress. Now, even with a new management team in charge, the direction the team is going down only seems to lead to unending mediocrity.
So what do you do when the road you’re travelling is going nowhere? You pick a new direction; one that takes you directly toward a sustainably successful future, and it begins with a potential franchise-altering moment.
It’s officially time to talk about Connor Bedard.
Connor Bedard isn’t just a generational talent and the slam dunk consensus first-overall pick of the upcoming 2023 NHL Draft. He’s also a North Vancouver native who’s bled Canucks colours his entire life. When asked by the Regina Pats social media team for his Stanley Cup prediction this year, Bedard picked with his heart rather than his head,going with his hometown team. And while talking about his favourite Canucks in a video for TSN’s Bardown website last season, he brought up the Sedins as well as Tyler Motte.
And that’s before getting into Bedard’s hockey prowess. The 17-year-old centre currently leads the WHL with 21 points in 12 games, after notching 100 as a 16-year-old last year. He was electric during the World Juniors, finishing fifth in scoring on a gold medal-winning Canadian team despite being their youngest player. As a centre who can set up scoring chances just as well as he can finish them, the prospect of a Canucks top six anchored by Bedard and Elias Pettersson is too exciting to ignore.
Indeed, the hometown kid and his childhood team are a match that makes sense on every single level. It’s a fit that feels too good to be true, and in some ways, it is.
If the Canucks were to stay in last for the remainder of the season, they would simply earn the highest lottery odds — 18.5%, to be exact — at the first overall draft choice. But even if every single lottery ball falls against Vancouver, they’d still be guaranteed at least third overall in an extremely talented draft beyond Bedard, as well the first pick of every subsequent round.
If Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin want to turn the Canucks around as quickly as possible, their best chance to do so would be through an aggressive rebuilding strategy now. By moving on from large portions of the current roster to add draft picks and developing prospects, the Canucks could use the rest of the season as a showcase for up-and-coming young players, giving the rest of the season valuable purpose without worries about the outcomes.
Allvin in particular knows how well that kind of strategy works. When asked today about the idea of rebuilding this morning, he brought up his own experiences with it.
“It’s interesting, the rebuild word. I’ve been part of a rebuild. I came in late in a previous organization and we were able to rebuild them and win three Cups.”
Allvin joined the Pittsburgh Penguins’ front office in 2006-07 and worked in various capacities across his 16 years there. During that time, the Penguins successfully built a core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury — all drafted first or second overall, by the way — into a perennial contender, winning three Stanley Cups and launching the longest active playoff streak in North American pro sports.
But even with that in mind, Allvin still seemed cagey about suggesting anything drastic. “I still think that we’re building something here every day, we’re not done. I think that was something that we wanted to accomplish this summer too. Changing the culture, raising the bar, having higher standards and bringing in younger players, character players and making sure we’re always looking at the options here.”
The team might think otherwise, but Canucks fans would absolutely buy into a full-scale rebuilding plan if presented with a clear vision for it, especially if there’s a strong chance of landing one of the best prospects of a generation at the end of that journey. One who wants to see the Canucks hoist a Stanley Cup just as badly as they do.
Sure, the Canucks might not get the lottery luck to land their way. But after nearly a decade of wandering the desert of mediocrity, wouldn’t we all like to see what could happen if it does?
All aboard the Connor Bedard Express.
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