WDYTT: Has your opinion of the Canucks changed over the first month of the season?

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
7 months ago
Welcome back to WDYTT, the only hockey column on the internet that keeps shuffling forward mindlessly like a zombie.
Speaking of zombie, it’s the time of the season…for one-month retrospectives. By the time you’re reading this, the 2023/24 season will be one month old. And if we’re sticking with our toddling metaphor here, it’s fair to say that the Vancouver Canucks have hit some of their developmental stages way ahead of schedule.
In other, less bizarre words, the Canucks have outperformed the expectations of even the most optimistic of fans through one month of play.
Vancouver fans have seen a few hot streaks over the last couple of years. There was the Boudreau Bounce, there was the Tocchet Turnaround. But the hot start to the 2023/24 campaign just feels different, somehow. Or, maybe it doesn’t! That’s kind of what we’re here to figure out today.
You all came into the season with some sort of opinion on the home team. You all came in with a set of beliefs about who and where the Canucks were as a franchise.
What we’re wondering now is: have those beliefs changed?
This week, we’re asking:

Has your opinion of the Canucks as a team changed over the first month of the 2023/24 season?

Let it be known in the comment section.
Last week, we asked:

Who is the most improved Canuck (compared to last season) through the month of October?

You answered below!
Killer Marmot:
The Puck Hög. He’s playing like he never wants to step foot in Abbotsford again.
Hard to argue with Marmot. I did not have a lot of hopes for Höglander sticking in the lineup. I had him penciled in as floating in and out of the press box all season. Outside of the first game, Boeser is on pace for last year and Demko picked up where he left off last season. Solid pick in Höglander.
bruce donice:
His goal-scoring may be down but I think Kuzmenko’s overall game has improved. He is doing more work on the defensive side, and skating harder, and the goals and assists will come as he has been setting up his linemates with some nice opportunities.
(Winner of the author’s weekly award for eloquence)
To me the answer is easily JT Miller.
Probably not who most are thinking, as we are probably thinking outside the core of the team, but consider this: the previous two seasons, JT has had very slow starts. In 2021-2022 Miller faced the scorn of fans for lackluster backchecking and a slow start; it seemed that it wasn’t until Horvat suffered a broken leg that Miller picked things up and increased his overall play. His October scoring was good with 9 points in 9 games, but he wasn’t playing a complete game.
In 2022-2023, Miller had 7 points in 9 October contests, but we saw a lot of negativity coming from him. This really turned around upon the arrival of Tocchet and departure of Horvat, again Miller finished the season strong in his all-around game.
So to call Miller the most improved player in October may seem to some like a stretch, because the scoring has always been there, albeit his pace is higher this year with 13 points. But the main thing is the improvements to his all-around attitude and complete game to start the season. This sets a good example for younger players and sets a tone for the team. Miller is one of the older players on the squad, so younger guys will look at what kind of example he is following. It has overall been very positive in October, an improvement over previous seasons, so I give Miller the honours.
defenceman factory:
It doesn’t give the players or coaches their due to single out a player as most improved. Most of the players are playing better than last season, and the ones who aren’t were either great last year or aren’t on the roster. It is the overall effort and execution which is most improved.
Over the next 10 games, we’ll start to see if the improvement, where needed most, has been accomplished. This will be how consistently the team can show a strong effort. They should steamroll the Sharks tonight. Last year they probably would have phoned in this game and lost. Will the Canucks bring it every game?
Much has been made of systems improvements. For every system, there are recipes to break it. Teams in the division and conference are scouting the Canucks hard right now, figuring out how to beat them.
The Canucks are still vulnerable to a hard forecheck and getting pinned in their own zone. The dump-ins are now mostly going into the right corner, try and keep the puck from Hughes and attack the RWer so he can’t clear the zone.
We all watched Green fail to adjust as teams figured out how to counter his moves. Is Tocchet up to the challenge? Can the organization scout other teams well enough to get ahead of them? I hope so, but none of that matters if the effort and execution from the players isn’t there. So far, it has been.
Quinn Hughes. He’s elevated his game from the high levels of last year. He’s showing more urgency and leadership. He went from a bubble top-five defender in the league last year to player who’s clearly in the top-three of all defensemen.
I know his numbers are helped by playing on the top PP and not PK, but so far this year Boeser has been on the ice for 18 of the Canucks 36 goals for and only 3 of the 21 against. Even if you take away the four-goal game to start the year, he would be on a 60-point pace over a full season, and that doesn’t even account for all the goals he has contributed to by being a net-front presence. It seems like every game the Canucks score a goal where he doesn’t get a point on the play but his screen is a major reason for the puck ending up in the net.
He is running some unsustainable #s and his PDO of 114.3 is especially unsustainable, but last year he was on the ice for 93 goals for and 82 against, which is awful when you consider how many of his goals came from the PP while none of the goals against came while PK.
I expect his goals against to go up as the PDO normalizes over the long season, but if he keeps getting to the front of the net and stays healthy, I would not be surprised to see him put up a 30-goal, 75-point season.
I think Boeser. Yes, I know that four of his goals came in the first game, but there are lots of differences from even late last year. He is checking. He is shooting like he used to and the wrist seems okay. He is screening the goalie often. He is smiling. He is happy. All of those are significant changes.
Quinn Hughes is the most improved. He has become captain and he has taken his play to a whole new level. Before he used to be a bit predictable, in that he was an assist generator. He is now way more dynamic and unpredictable. He is shooting a lot more and is a threat to score every time he is in the offensive zone.
Eastern media are now starting to take note of his play, and he should be a legitimate candidate to win the Norris Trophy this year.
Hughes is probably the easiest answer, so I’m gonna go with Demko. Yes, he was injured last year and was playing through something, but his statline to start this year is terrific. At this same point last year, he was below .900% and above 3.00 GAA. Currently rocking a .935% and 1.92 GAA. That’s a huge improvement.
Craig Gowan:
I would have to say Quinn Hughes, who was an excellent player last year, but in October, looks like a dominant player.
First off, the whole damn team from assistant coaches to pressbox sitter have improved. But to who has improved the most???
For me, it’s Huggy. Has taken to the leadership role and is better in front of the camera. Shoots more, with more accuracy, and is scoring at a better pace. The icing on the cake is his control of play and his defensive awareness. All things are improved and at a higher level.
It’s clearly Phillip Di Giuseppe. At this time last season he was injured and on the AHL roster.
Today, he’s an NHL top-six forward and 8th in team scoring (2g, 2a), ahead of the much higher paid Garland, Beauvillier, and Suter. He’s +7, rocking a 50% CF% (EV) and is a staple on the team’s PK.
All this for a salary of $775K. What’s not to like?
The internet has spoken.
Quinns Quest:
There is a lot of love for the top forwards and QH, but their play isn’t the most improved. If you want to stick to the October script, you can’t include PDG either. Höglander maybe, but the biggest impact is Demko. Night and day from last October, and that’s made a huge difference to wins. He’s made the timely saves allowing the Canucks to roll along with their other improvements.
Most improved?
I’m gonna go with Di Giuseppe. From an AHL player to a top line player just like that.

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