Welcome to 2023!
Maybe this is the year when the Vancouver Canucks begin their upward trend towards becoming a team that can compete in the playoffs for years to come.
Or maybe this is another calendar year where we see the team continue their seemingly neverending fight with themselves to maybe sneak into the playoffs.
No matter the case, we will be here every Monday, answering your questions and having another year of coverage on this hockey team.
After a pair of losses heading into the new year, the Canucks are back under .500 and sit six points out of a wild card spot. They are also just four points up on the Arizona Coyotes — so that’s how things are going so far this season.
There’s no shortage of storylines for this organization. J.T. Miller has been under a barrage of criticism for his effort level, the Canucks’ 2022 first-round pick Jonathan Lekkerimäki is being overshadowed by the team’s 2022 third-round pick Elias Pettersson at the World Juniors, the Abbotsford Canucks are absolutely rolling in the AHL and are playing with a great defensive structure under head coach Jeremy Colliton.
It’s rarely a slow day in Canuckland and we’ve got a lot of questions to get to for this week’s mailbag. So, without wasting any more words in the intro, let’s see what the great people of #CanucksTwitter had to ask this week.
Well, moving Bo Horvat would probably be the big move that maybe swings the team toward an actual rebuild. They’ve latched on to J.T. Miller for seven years and that felt like a contract that was signed to signal that this team is in win-now mode. Now, they’ve got a lot of money on the books, a massive extension on the horizon with Elias Pettersson, and not a ton in the cupboards coming in terms of NHL prospects.
A big step back to slingshot themselves down the road is what this team needs, but all we hear is that the team is committed to “building” instead of “rebuilding”.
If you could simply build your way to a Stanley Cup, you’d be the smartest management group in hockey. In fact, you’d likely be smarter than any management group ever assembled in hockey. Teams need to rebuild to get to the next level and the mediocrity that this organization has shown over the past 10 years is more than enough of a sample size to understand that a full rebuild is needed.
I don’t know when the dominoes will begin to fall, and to be honest, I don’t know if the dominoes will fall at all.
It feels like the team needs to begin making moves that are planting seeds for winning a Stanley Cup instead of building their team to be better in the here and now.
A winning culture felt like it was being built with Bruce Boudreau last season but that has clearly fallen apart this year. I’m not sure how this group can learn to be winners. It just seems like a rebuild is so clearly needed and from the reaction we see, the fanbase is ready for it as well.
Aidan McDonough is able to sign a contract with the Vancouver Canucks when his NCAA season concludes.
That is likely to be in late March or early April if he goes on a run.
If McDonough chooses not to sign with the Canucks, he becomes a free agent on August 15th and can sign with any NHL organization.
A lot of people are looking at how his best friend Jack Rathbone’s experience with the Canucks has gone and wonder if McDonough wants to sign with the Canucks or have his pick of signing with any other NHL team. We will have to wait and see. McDonough is holding all of his cards close to the vest about the situation but he told CanucksArmy back in May that his plan is to sign with Vancouver at the end of the NCAA season.
Plans can change but he is happy with his relationship with Ryan Johnson and enjoyed his time at Canucks development camp back in July.
I’d be curious to see what a right-shot defenceman looks like with the Canucks‘ second power play unit.
It feels like Ethan Bear would be a better option than Tyler Myers right now.
So, yeah, I’m a bit curious.
I do think Oliver Ekman-Larsson does a pretty good job of getting the puck toward the net but Bear moves much better and hasn’t been given the chance to be on one of the Canucks’ power play units just yet.
Abbotsford Head Coach Jeremy Colliton certainly deserves praise right now with what he’s doing in the AHL. His last game saw the Canucks limit their opponent to six shots in both the first and second periods while then following it up by allowing three shots in the third period to close out a win against the Manitoba Moose.
Danila Klimovich had two more assists in that game and though he’s still being used in a fourth line role without much power play time, Klimovich is beginning to produce offence. He’s up to 14 points in 24 games this season and though it’s a flawed stat, Klimovich’s plus/minus is a +7 this year after being a -8 last year.
The part of his game that looks the best right now is his effort level and understanding of how to create in the offensive zone. For the longest time, Klimovich floated in the offensive zone, simply believing that he was on the ice to shoot pucks. Now, Klimovich seems to have had something click where he knows he actually needs to be a hockey player instead of just a sniper. He is doing a much better job of being engaged on the forecheck and disrupting the opposition in the neutral zone.
We’ve really liked his play in the neutral zone as the turnovers that his line of Klimovich, Chase Wouters, and Arshdeep Bains create are being capitalized on by Klimovich’s smarts on odd-man rushes. He clearly has the shot that goalies and defenders need to be worried about and when Klimovich recognizes that he is being keyed in on during a two-on-one, he is able to make a good pass to his teammate.
The kid still has the shot and what’s been impressive about his recent scoring streak of 11 points in his last 13 games is that he is doing all of this at five-on-five. Once he gets back onto the power play, his numbers may jump up even more.
An elevated effort is still the key and we are seeing a much different version of Klimovich ever since Vasily Podkolzin was sent down to the AHL. That was when Klimovihc turned the corner. Maybe there’s something to Podkolzin’s presence for Klimovich, or maybe it just happened to be when everything clicked for him, but having Podkolzin around certainly isn’t hurting him.
It would certainly surprise me if he did earn a contract. There are a lot of good NCAA free agent goalies that would love to work with Ian Clark and his goaltending department. The Canucks should have their pick of the litter when it comes to NCAA goalies.
Slim to none.
I don’t think Riley Stillman is that guy.
Something positive and exciting would be hearing about the direction of this team. Right now it’s a ship that’s spinning in the harbour and if there was a direction indicated by the team, at least we could see the steps that they are taking in that direction and praise or knock them for those moves.
You have to just judge this team off of being a competitive team that is trying to make the playoffs right now and that’s because it’s the direction that this team seems to be wanting to go.
The AHL team having success is an exciting story to follow right now.
There are a couple of prospects who have been hot of late as well.
Elias Pettersson taking a big step this season is also a positive and exciting story.
I’d bet he does unless the wheels completely fall off over this tough stretch of games that is coming up for the team.
There’s a big break for the All-Star game at the end of January.
Elias Pettersson continues to look like a solid pick in the third round. You can’t judge a prospect just off of what they do at the World Juniors but D-Petey was beginning to have success in the SHL before this tournament. He is taking massive steps in development since the Canucks drafted him and his strong play at the World Juniors has just been a cherry on top of his excellent 2022 calendar year.
The hope is that Pettersson returns to the SHL and continues to play more minutes with Örebro.
He’s been the most trusted penalty killer for Sweden at this tournament and seems to get a lot of minutes late in games. Pettersson also showed up in the Canada game where it looked like a lot of Swedes cowered away from the tough competition.
As for Jonathan Lekkerimäki, it’s been a lot of what we have talked about all year long.
He’s clearly skilled, but he’s lacking that drive to go get the puck and make things happen on his own. In a similar way to Klimovich in the early parts of the season, Lekkerimäki isn’t playing like a hockey player, he’s playing like a sniper. You’ve got to be world-class to have success in the NHL if you are just a sniper and Lekkerimäki is going to need to work on his drive if he wants to stay at the top of the Canucks’ prospect pool rankings.
It’s been a down tournament for Lekkerimäki but he still has time to turn it around.
That wraps up our first Monday Mailbag of 2023!
Thanks to everyone for the questions, and we will see you all next Monday.