Why both Jim Rutherford and Bruce Boudreau are correct about the Canucks’ goaltending situation
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
By Noah Strang6 months ago
With the Canucks’ season over, both Jim Rutherford and Bruce Boudreau have been appearing on podcasts and radio shows as guests. This has been a great opportunity for Canucks fans to get a better idea of the vision and philosophy of the newcomers to the organization. There are plenty of important decisions to be made as the pair enter their first offseason at the heads of their departments within the franchise.
One result of the mini media tours that both men have been on has been conflicting quotes about the team’s goaltending situation and general makeup. It’s no secret that the Canucks heavily relied upon Thatcher Demko to smooth over defensive miscues all year. The San Diego native has blossomed into one of the league’s finest netminders and without him, the Canucks’ defensive flaws would’ve been exposed much more aggressively.
During the early days of this offseason, Rutherford has harped on this point as something the team needs to improve upon. He has cited an overreliance on goaltending and a lack of structure as issues that must be addressed this offseason as a priority. When Boudreau recently appeared on local radio, he seemed to dismiss this viewpoint a bit, citing that “we’re [The Canucks] lucky to have him [Demko] and he’s not going to apologize for having a great goaltender.”
The seemingly-contradicting statements immediately caused a slight stir in the Vancouver fanbase with many fans expressing concern while the quotes became a talking point among media members.
However, a closer look at the situation shows two men speaking from their respective points of view, just as they should. While both the President of Hockey Operations and Head Coach share the same goal of winning the Stanley Cup, they do so from very different positions, and as a result, look at the goal at different scales. Despite stating somewhat opposing stances on the issue, both men are right when we assess the issue from their perspectives.
Analyzing Rutherford’s take on the situation
“I want to see us get to a point where we don’t have to lean on him as much,” said Rutherford recently when he was on the Daily Faceoff Rundown Podcast.
Demko faced the second-most expected goals against at 5-on-5 this season, as well the third most shots against. Despite this heavy workload, he managed to have the third-highest save percentage at 5-on-5, giving the Canucks a chance to win most games, even when they were heavily outplayed.
From Rutherford’s macro perspective of the team, it’s clear that this is not a sustainable way to build a team that can contend every season. He’s right. Anyone that watches enough Canucks hockey knows that Demko is the key component to the team’s success, and if he even just has an average night, it likely means a loss.
“We’d like to see our team play a more structured game and not rely on our goalie as much,” commented Rutherford when he addressed the media in early May. “We’re very fortunate we have a terrific goaltender…but at the same time, we’ve got work to do.”
Analyzing Boudreau’s take on the situation
“It’s a point of contention,” said Boudreau in an interview with Sportsnet 650’s Satiar Shah and Dan Riccio. “I mean, I agree that we rely on the goalie, but every team relies on their goalie. We had some deficiencies in other places, but a goalie would come up big, and every team needs a good goalie to win.”
Last season, Demko made the second most saves across the league against high-danger opportunities at 5-on-5. The lack of defensive structure often left him having not only to make saves, but make difficult stops as the Canucks bled dangerous chances.
“So I sort of poo-poo the assessment that your goalie kept you in it.”
From Boudreau’s perspective, he’s working on a much smaller scale. He’s trying to do the best with the personnel he’s given and frankly, that personnel doesn’t allow him to play a more structured style. Former head coach Travis Green tried that approach and he’s now out of the league, hoping for another shot at an NHL coaching job.
Relying on Demko was the best path forward for the Canucks this season and Boudreau shouldn’t apologize for abusing that. There’s no doubt that he would love for the team to be rock-solid defensively, but the current roster just doesn’t make that a possibility.
Why it’s healthy for them to have different viewpoints
Healthy discussion is good for any organization and the Canucks are no different. Both Rutherford and Boudreau are correct in their assessment of the team and as we move into next season, there’s no doubt that there will be an effort to shift things around to give the coaching staff the tools to alleviate some of Demko’s workload.
The best evidence of Demko’s value to the Canucks may be their play when he wasn’t playing. While Spencer Martin managed to find some success, the Canucks played very poorly with Jaroslav Halak or Michael DiPietro in net as they failed to fill Demko’s gigantic shoes.
The Canucks had their best stretch in years under Boudreau playing a more run-n’-gun style of hockey. Until there are significant personnel changes, that’s unlikely to change. But with “Trader Jim” at the helm, those changes may come sooner than later.
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