Who has been the Vancouver Canucks’ unsung hero during the 2023-24 NHL season?

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
David Quadrelli
25 days ago
Over the weekend, the Vancouver Canucks announced that voting is open for their annual team awards. Among the seven awards that the team will hand out during fan appreciation night against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday, April 16th, are four fan-voted awards: MVP, Best Defenceman, Most Exciting Player, and Unsung Hero.
We basically know which players will win the first two awards, and really, you could throw most exciting player in there as well.
MVP will go to one of Quinn Hughes or JT Miller, and maybe Thatcher Demko will get some consideration. Barring a hack to the Canucks’ online voting system from user NotAllanWalsh11, Quinn Hughes will take home the Canucks’ best defenceman award for the fifth year in a row. He’ll likely continue to win it every year that he’s on the team, and for good reason. And for most exciting player, it’s likely going to be one of the Canucks’ core players as well.
But there’s some mystery when it comes to the Fred J. Hume award, given to who the fans deem to be the Canucks’ unsung hero of the season.
Last year, Dakota Joshua took home the award. Before that, it was Luke Schenn, Tyler Motte, JT Miller, Antoine Roussel, Derek Dorsett, Markus Granlund, and Jannik Hansen back in the 2015-16 season.
As you can see, the award is almost always given to somebody outside of the team’s core group of players or leading scorers. They’re players who sometimes chip in on offence but most often make an impact away from the scoresheet (see Schenn and Joshua).
So, who should win the award this season? We’ve narrowed it down to four options.
Nils Höglander
If there was a “most improved” award, it would be hard to deny that Nils Höglander is most deserving of it.
With 22 goals this season — all of which have come at even strength — Höglander has gone from a player that three coaches couldn’t trust to play well defensively to a fixture in the Canucks’ top six. He’s worked tirelessly at improving his play away from the puck this season, and with the guidance of Rick Tocchet’s coaching staff, it seems like Höglander has finally put it all together this season.
Still, despite his goal scoring and top six status, Höglander is far from a core player, and his unsung status increases every night he plays on Elias Pettersson’s wing this season.
Just imagine if the Canucks make the Elias Lindholm trade and Höglander doesn’t take the step towards becoming a top six player. How much worse does this Canucks team look heading into the playoffs?
Höglander is certainly a fine option to take home the Canucks’ unsung hero award this season.
Casey DeSmith
Acquired just before training camp in a deal that sent Tanner Pearson to the Montreal Canadiens, Casey DeSmith has provided the Canucks with a level of stability at the backup goaltender position that they simply haven’t had for years.
More specifically, DeSmith has come in and allowed the Canucks to monitor Thatcher Demko’s usage far better than they have in past seasons, especially early on when the Canucks basically alternated their two netminders.
Through 26 games this season, DeSmith has put up a .901 save percentage. Of our four candidates, he’s probably the least likely toa actually take home the honour, but he deserves some recognition nonetheless. If he were to win the award, he’d be just the second goaltender in Canucks history to win the award, joining the short list that currently starts and ends with Eddie Lack in the 2014-15 season.
Dakota Joshua
Last year’s winner of the award, Dakota Joshua has been a major bright spot for the Canucks this season. After enjoying some success last season (his first with the Canucks), Joshua faced some adversity early on this season when Rick Tocchet made it clear that Joshua had to pick things up if he wanted to stick around with the Canucks.
What could have been a Kuzmenko-like fall from grace quickly turned into a great story, as Joshua got back to basics and has evolved into one of the Canucks’ most reliable forwards at both even strength and on the penalty kill. He’s a pending unrestricted free agent and has certainly driven up his price tag with the 15 goals he’s scored and the impact he’s made every night.
If Joshua wins the award this year, he would become the fifth Canucks player to win the award in back-to-back seasons, joining a list that includes Hilliard Graves (1976-77 and 1977-78), Rich Sutter (1987-88 and 1988-89), Steve Bozek (1989-90 and 1990-91), Martin Gelinas (1994-95 and 1995-96). Jannik Hansen won the award three times, the most in team history.
If Joshua takes home the award this year and subsequently re-signs with the Canucks this offseason, there’s a very real chance he could at least tie Hansen’s record.
Conor Garland
But where would Dakota Joshua be without Conor Garland? Where would Conor Garland be without Dakota Joshua? These two have quickly come together like peanut butter and jelly this season, forming what was the most dominant third line in the NHL for most of this season.
These two were absolutely rolling right up until Joshua suffered a hand injury after dropping the gloves in defence of Garland. Upon returning, Joshua has seen a promotion along with Garland to the team’s top six, flanking JT Miller.
For Garland, he’s been the engine that keeps the Canucks moving on many nights already this season. His never-say-die attitude and high work rate have been evident in nearly every game the Canucks have played this season, and even though he might not eclipse the point totals he put up in his first two seasons in Vancouver, it’s hard to argue that this has been the season in which Garland has played the biggest role in the Canucks’ success.
Maybe the lower point total will actually help Garland take home his first team award as a Vancouver Canuck?
Who do you think should take home this year’s Unsung Hero Award? Let us know in the comments section below!

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