It’s safe to say that the Vancouver Canucks’ fanbase is worried. The team is off to a 3-5-1 start and is at the bottom of the Pacific Division standings.
There’s not a lot going their way. The goaltending has been good, Oliver Ekman-Larsson hasn’t been as bad as some models projected, and Conor Garland is as advertised as an excellent top-nine piece. Aside from those three positive points, there isn’t much else.
Change needs to come and it needs to come quick if the Canucks want to be battling for a playoff spot when we reach the final couple months of the season.
As we tread through the tough waters, it’s time for another Monday mailbag.
The great people of Twitter have questions, and I’ll do my best to give some answers.
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Let’s get right into it.
After signing a three-year, $22,000,000 contract at the end of the preseason, Elias Pettersson has not looked good for the Canucks. He is shooting the puck less than ever in his four year career and is only controlling 40% of the shot share at five-on-five. Canucks fans are hoping that this is just rust and I believe it is.
Pettersson has enough of a sample size to know that he can be a top-line scoring centre. On top of that, his defensive game has shown very well for a young player coming into the NHL. For now, we have to believe it is rust. Pettersson missed the final 30 games of the season with a wrist injury last year and reported late to camp this year. The rough start can be passed on to the time away from hockey and that is why it was so important for him to be back with the team early to get a full training camp and preseason.
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That is one excuse, but Quinn Hughes came in late as well and has looked like a much-improved defenceman compared to last year. That being said, Hughes didn’t deal with a season-ending injury last year and Pettersson did.
It looks like Pettersson’s timing between his mind and hands is off. There’s a struggle about how he is handling the puck and those small fumbles are taking away chances for him to get good shots off. One thing we know about Pettersson is that he is very selective with his shot attempts. You can see how picky he is on the power play when it comes to a one-timer shot and he is similar when set up in the offensive zone.
We have to hope that this is rust and one thing I would like to see in the next few weeks is Pettersson just firing shots as much as possible. The Lotto Line looked better on Saturday night and they need to build off of that momentum. It may just take one game for Pettersson to shake off the rust but we’ve been saying that for about five games now. It’s time to finally see it happen.
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It’s a great question.
This team is looking like they want to be more committed to being better defensively after last season. The problem that I see is that they added one defensive-minded player in Jason Dickinson but added a near-handful of offensive pieces to the lineup with Jack Rathbone, Conor Garland, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and to a degree, Vasily Podkolzin.
This team doesn’t have an identity. They are trying to be a team that is “hard to play against” but are the worst team in the league when it comes to controlling high danger scoring chances.
The team had success in 2019-20 because they leaned on a more aggressive forecheck and backed it up with excellent goaltending. The playstyle has changed since that year and the record has shown that it hasn’t worked well. The Canucks’ top nine forwards need to play a more aggressive game and with the current defence personnel that they have, leaning into a more aggressive system may be the best move because they simply are not good enough to be a powerhouse defensive team with their d-corps.
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I’ll just throw three names out there even though I don’t believe that the Canucks organization is close to even considering letting Travis Green go.
Bruce Boudreau is available.
Dan Bylsma is an assistant coach in the AHL and could be interviewed with the permission of the Seattle Kraken. Bylsma interviewed with the Canucks back in the summer of 2014 for their head coaching job that was later filled by Willie Desjardins.
Claude Julien is another big name without a job.
The Canucks could end up going with someone like Brad Shaw until the end of the season before a full search as well, but it would surely be strange to see him take over a coaching staff that has pretty much been assembled completely by Green.
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Green just signed a two-year contract and it would shock me to see a move get made swiftly on the coach. If the Canucks are still at the bottom of the Pacific Division in January, then we can get serious about it. Until then, I’d bet on a big trade being the first major shake-up for the organization.
It was a little much.
I applaud the creativity but it was a lot to handle.
There is obviously NHL speed in Justin Bailey’s game. The problem is that he has not been able to find a consistent role with an NHL team over his seven-year pro career. He killed penalties for the Buffalo Sabres during his 11 games in 2017-18 and he is now killing penalties for Travis Green and the Canucks in 2021. Adding the ability to kill penalties to his game gives him a big leg up on the competition and does pose a question on if he is a better addition to the roster than Justin Dowling or Matthew Highmore.
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Bailey had shoulder surgery last year after taking a hit from Milan Lucic and battled complications from surgery and then had COVID-19-related problems with coming to Canada for training camp earlier this fall. When he arrived in Abbotsford, it was clear that he was too good for the AHL. He has looked like that for the past few years but needed to do something different instead of becoming the next Reid Boucher and ultimately ending up in the KHL.
It seems like Bailey recognized that and made it clear that he wanted to kill penalties in the AHL and ultimately, the NHL. His outrageous speed can be a threat on the penalty kill and now it will depend on how he fits on a fourth line. Bailey has average to below-average offensive skills in the NHL so it will depend on if he can play good enough defence to fit in the lineup. A fourth line with Bailey and Tyler Motte would have a ton of speed and brings some excitement to the fourth line. I hope we see it at some point.
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Well, that wraps up another Monday Mailbag here at CanucksArmy. Thanks to everyone who sent in a question this week and we will be back next week with another installment of the mailbag. Let’s hope that the Canucks’ situation is a bit better than it is this Monday.