The Vancouver Canucks and their fans have A LOT to look forward to in 2022
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
1 year ago
As of this writing, we don’t yet know whether or not the Vancouver Canucks will play any more games in 2021. That could have a big impact as far as your holiday entertainment plans are concerned, but it doesn’t much change the impetus for folks on our end of the business to start churning out some year-end content.
Whereas most media outlets use this time of year to get reflective and look back on the year that was, that approach just doesn’t make a lot of sense at the moment for a blog that covers the Canucks. After all, this is a franchise that has just gained new management, a new coach, and an entirely new outlook on the sport. All eyes are aimed toward the future in the world of the Canucks, and that includes us here at CanucksArmy, too.
With that in mind, it’s time to forget about 2021 and get a head-start on 2022 — which promises to be a big one for the Canucks, their mediasphere, and their fans.
Here are just some of the things we can all look forward to over the next calendar year:
An Exciting Playoff Push with No Pressure
The Canucks were 6-0-0 under coach Bruce Boudreau when the NHL hit its holiday Omicron pause. That still left them with a sizeable amount of ground to make up in order to make the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but that’s perfectly alright.
This is a no-lose, all-upside sort of proposition.
A few weeks ago, everyone had given up on the playoffs. Now, not only is the postseason a little bit more within the realm of possibility, it’s flipped over to a no-pressure situation.
Making a push for the playoffs under the Benning Regime and missing would have necessitated a full offseason of soul-searching, and a whole lot of “Eight years for this?!” exclamations.
But doing so under new management? That’s just the Canucks making the best of a bad situation.
The weight of eight years of disappointment is gone. If the Canucks make the playoffs against all odds, it will be an amazing story. If they come close but don’t quite make it, it will still make for a wonderful run.
Either way, it’s consequence-free, so fans can focus purely on the chase, and forget all the context around it — and it’s been far too long since this fanbase could feel that way.
The Return of the Black Skate Jersey
Speaking of “far too long,” it seems that the fan favourite black skate jersey will be making a return in time for that aforementioned playoff push.
Again, with the pressure off of the Canucks, this fun little item gets to just be fun, and nothing more than that. Fans get to enjoy seeing the Canucks skating around in their best jerseys and not worry that the throwback is just meant to distract them from mismanagement.
Sometimes, it’s the little things.
The Inevitable Elias Pettersson Bounceback
We can argue all day long about the degree to which Elias Pettersson is going to bounce back in 2022, but we all know a bounceback of some sort is coming.
Before the hiatus, Pettersson had three points in three games for the Canucks, and was just starting to look like his old self again. The Boudreau Effect has been less immediate and pronounced in Pettersson as it has in some of his teammates, but the turnaround is still apparent — and it’s going to start being reflected in Pettersson’s numbers sooner rather than later.
Will Pettersson get back to point-per-game status before the regular season is through?
Maybe. Maybe not. He’d have to notch 66 points in his final 51 games to achieve that.
But watching him make a push for it is going to be exciting, regardless, as will be watching Pettersson continue to regain the confidence vital to his on-ice uniqueness.
The Continued Arrival of Vasily Podkolzin
It’s probably a little late in the game for Vasily Podkolzin to make a genuine run at the Calder Trophy. But the Canucks winger is only four goals off the rookie lead, and has been looking a lot more comfortable at the NHL level of late, which suggests that the best is definitely yet to come for the 20-year-old.
It’s already clear that Boudreau is willing to hand Podkolzin a lot more on-ice responsibility than Travis Green was, and it shouldn’t take long for both team and player to reap the benefits of that.
Seeing Podkolzin continue to evolve into a genuine top-six power forward is going to be exhilarating, and it’s going to have a demonstrable impact on the long-term competitiveness of the franchise.
For Podkolzin and his fans, NHL hockey can’t come back soon enough.
Jack Rathbone Under Bruce Boudreau
The much-hyped full-time arrival of Jack Rathbone to the Canucks’ roster sort of fell flat on its face early on in 2021/22. As the team collapsed around him, Rathbone visibly struggled in a way that he’d yet to struggle at any point in his hockey career.
It wasn’t long before he was shipped down to Abbotsford for more ice-time.
Unfortunately, Rathbone has since incurred an injury that has kept him out of the Baby Canucks lineup. But he’ll be back soon enough, and then it won’t be too terribly long before he earns another call-up to the big club — and then fans will finally get to see what Rathbone can do under coach Boudreau.
On paper, it’s a match made in heaven. Rathbone is an offensively-gifted blueliner with immense vision and excellent puck-moving skills. That’s the kind of player that can thrive under Boudreau’s fast-paced, offense-first system, and Rathbone is probably going to get a lot more trust from Boudreau right off the bat than he ever did from Green.
Call it a do-over debut for Rathbone, and expect big things.
The Hiring of the Next General Manager (And Perhaps Some Key AGMs, Too)
Over the past few weeks, the Canucks have hired a new head coach in Boudreau, a new assistant coach in Scott Walker, a new President of Hockey Operations in Jim Rutherford, and a new Assistant General Manager in Derek Clancey.
But the biggest hiring of all is yet to come. At some point in 2022 (or perhaps at the very tail-end of 2021) the Canucks are going to name their next General Manager, and there’s plenty of reason to be excited about that.
Whoever the next GM of the Canucks is, they’ll come in free of the burden that had built up over eight years of disappointment and misplaced expectations under the Benning Regime. There’s a real sense of optimism in the air, and it will be pleasant to just watch a GM do their business without the crushing weight of past mistakes hanging over their head.
It’s a new era, plain and simple. And it’s about time.
If that new GM is joined by another AGM, specifically one named Jennifer Botterill as rumours strongly suggest, that’s even more reason for good cheer.
The First Canucks First Round Draft Pick in Two Years
The Canucks dealt their 2020 first round draft pick in exchange for JT Miller.
They dealt their 2021 first round draft pick in exchange for Conor Garland and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (and the dumping of Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle, and Antoine Roussel.)
But POHO Rutherford has made it very clear that the Canucks will NOT be trading their 2022 first round draft pick, so that’s one more thing for fans to look forward to.
For many, Draft Day is a highlight of the offseason, and it’s invariably a bit of a let-down to watch the entire first day transpire without your favourite team making a selection.
Fans may love Miller and Garland, but they also like watching the latest draft pick walk down to the stage and put on a Canucks jersey for the first time.
In 2022, fans won’t have to choose. They’ll get Miller, they’ll get Garland, and they’ll get a first round draft pick for the first time in two years.
The First Non-Benning Offseason in Eight Years
We don’t want to kick anyone while they’re down, so we won’t get too into the nitty-gritty on this one. But it probably suffices to say that a dark cloud of pessimism had settled over the Canucks fanbase in the final years of the Jim Benning Regime, and that the impact of so many past failures was becoming impossible for anyone to ignore.
But now that dark cloud has fully dissipated, and the sun is shining on this franchise once again.
The last time the Canucks entered into an offseason without Benning at the helm was in 2013. And while fans weren’t girding themselves for Benning blunders right off the hop, it didn’t take long for most of the fanbase to start cringing as the offseason — and specifically, Free Agent Frenzy Day — approached.
But those days are over. Whatever stamp the new front office leaves on the team, they’ll be doing so on a fresh sheet of paper.
Offseasons are, ideally, for optimism, and that’s exactly what the Canucks fanbase can expect in the summer of 2022.
The Sedins and Roberto Luongo to the HHOF…and Maybe More?
There was no 2021 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee class, as the 2020 inductees had to be rolled over to this year.
That leaves an overstuffed group of candidates for induction in 2022, but the Vancouver Canucks can still count on being well-represented at the ceremony.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin are almost certainly going to be inducted as first-ballot Hall of Famers, making them the first HHOFers to ever spend their entire playing careers in Vancouver.
In all likelihood, they’ll be joined in the class of 2022 by Roberto Luongo, perhaps the greatest goaltender to ever suit up for the Canucks.
And if those AGM rumours do pan out, there’s a really good chance that the Sedins and Luongo are joined in the Hall by another Canuck in the form of Jennifer Botterill, whose own induction is now overdue.
If Alexander Mogilny gets in, too, as he already should have, we could be looking at an All-Canuck HHOF Class of 2022. Wouldn’t that be something?
The Most Optimistic October In A Long, Long Time
Canucks fans are a resilient bunch, and it doesn’t take them much to build back optimism, even in the face of soul-crushing disappointment.
After the bubble run of 2020, Vancouver fans entered the truncated 2021 season with reasonably high expectations, only to have them dashed against the rocks of the North Division.
Some key trades in the summer of 2021 brought cautious optimism for the 2021/22 season, and we all know how that turned out.
But in October of 2022, fans will be gearing up for the first full season under Boudreau, the first full season under new management, and the opening pages of a brand-new chapter in Canucks history.
We can’t promise there won’t be disappointment to come. In a sense, that’s inevitable, too.
But we can guarantee that fans will be heading into the 2022/23 season with a much cheerier outlook on their favourite team and its chances of transforming into a true Stanley Cup contender.
And you know what, Canucks fans?
You deserve it.
Happy Holidays from all of us at CanucksArmy.
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