It took the Vancouver Canucks eight games to win their first game of the season. The win, a 5-4 victory against the Seattle Kraken, officially cemented Bruce Boudreau as the second-fastest coach in NHL history to reach 600 wins (in 1049 games). Before joining the Vancouver Canucks after a four-year stint in Minnesota, Boudreau held the 12th-best points percentage and 13th-best win percentage among all coaches in NHL history with more than 82 games coached in the regular season.
Since joining the Canucks, Boudreau’s points percentage has dropped to 14th-best, below Toe Blake, and his winning percentage has decreased by 0.7%, still 13th, just above Dan Bylsma. Sunday’s victory against the Hurricanes, Boudreaus 617th of his career, ties him with Jacques Martin for 20th on the all-time wins by a coach in NHL history.
Despite his beyond-successful regular season track record and ability to maintain an above-500 record with this Vancouver Canucks roster, the organization has all but confirmed its decision to replace Boudreau with Rick Tocchet later this season. Should the Canucks continue to drop games with Boudreau at the helm, he will finish the season with the worst points percentage of his NHL career spanning 16 seasons.
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The Canucks losing ways have naturally resulted in some totally normal discourse that the media and the market are too negative toward the team. That concern about the 7-million-dollar defenceman being a healthy scratch in year two of his six-year contract is too negative. That taking issue with the soon-to-be 8-million-dollar forward screaming at his goaltender before slamming his stick on the net is too negative. Tha, talking about the team’s present cap situation is too negative. That discussing the team’s inability to retain their captain Bo Horvat or their free agent star winger Andrei Kuzmenko without using assets to offload other contracts is too negative. Even talking about the organization’s lack of communicated team direction is an agenda set to run management and players out of town.
Talking about this team’s futile attempt to “get into playoffs and see what can happen” is not negative. Full stop.
What is negative, and actually resulting in members of the organization being run out of town, is the Canucks’ management group — one that is facing a playoff miss for the eighth time in ten years — deciding to go FULL boiled frogs with its beloved, upbeat, and affable head coach during the team’s most challenging stretch of the season. Negotiating with said head coach’s successor quite publicly all the while.
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It’s one thing to tune into a Canucks game and periodically look up from your phone to see how close they are to giving up their fifth goal of the night. It’s another to be inundated with media reports of the organization’s frankly spiteful treatment of its head coach, that was lauded for his ability to bring this Canucks franchise within six points of the final playoff spot as recently as five months ago.
To this management team’s credit, they were unaware of the second year on Boudreau’s contract and were quite critical of the team’s underlying playstyle and performance despite being close to the playoff bar. However, that does not absolve them of the “doubling down” they did on the roster last offseason, nor does it absolve them of the shameful publicly-made criticisms and undermining of Boudreau’s work via out-of-market insider news reports and various radio and podcast appearances.
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Frankly, it isn’t right, and the callous treatment of Boudreau is the antithesis of rapport building with a market that has done everything this past decade to remain positive.
On that note, we have a game to reflect on. A strange one interrupted by tragedy, featuring two teams on the opposite spectrum of the NHL standings — both on the tail-end of back-to-backs — battling to the shootout in a game that ranged from “complete blowout” to “tightly-contested nail-biter.”
Worst ah s***, here we go again
I mean, we all knew the Canes were going to score first, right? Heading into Sunday’s matchup, the Canes had outshot their previous two opponents something like 800-12 (exaggerating a smidge) and outscored them 8-3.
Their work rate in the offensive zone is second to none, and they made the Canucks pay early and often with their blistering attack off the rush.
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Returning to the lineup for the first time since December 22nd, Kyle Burroughs’ first shift of the game probably went worse than he’d have liked when Martin Necas burned him around the outside for a shot attempt.
Not 20 seconds later, the Canes were back in the Canucks’ zone, pressuring and forcing egregious misplays with the puck.
At this point, “[insert player] wants that one back” is a meaningless statement in the Canucks lexicon. I’m sure the majority of Canucks players want most of the last two years back. But, Jack Studnicka? Yeah, I think he’ll want that giveaway back.
After giving away the puck to one of the few guys you really don’t want to give the puck away to in Andrei Svechnikov, the Canes quickly made it 1-nothing.
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Paul Stastny, recognizing that all five Canucks were caught cheating on the right side of the ice, did a cute little jumping stick raise to catch Svechnikov’s attention, and just like that, the Canucks were four goals away from another five-goal loss.
The first person to reach Stastny and celebrate the game’s opening goal? Ex-Canuck prospect Jalen Chatfield!
Best Wolverine reminiscing in bed meme.png
Look, no one could have predicted Chatfield’s NHL glow-up. During the shortened 2020-21 season, Chatfield played a heavy game and showed a high work rate with every opportunity. However, like every Canuck that season, the sum of his parts was not up to snuff.
Did the Canucks under Jim Benning let one get away? Not really. Chatfield did not look like a player who could, at any point, have the most goals in the NHL by a defender in a specific date range.
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Chatfield spent the bulk of his season with the Charlotte Checkers, contributing 2 goals and 6 assists toward their Calder Cup win. The Hurricanes play a tight system that rewards players with a high work rate on dump-ins and transitional play.
For all of their warts, the Canucks organization under Rutherford and Allvin has invested heavily in their development process. Between the Sedins, Mike Komisarek, Mikael Samuelsson, Mackenzie Braid, and Yogi Svejkovsky, the Canucks haven’t had a full-time support staff dedicated to prospect development this large in years.
Between Danila Klimovich and Arshdeep Bains’ rise on the Abbotsford Canucks’ 5v5 scoring leaderboard, Arturs Silovs’ skyrocketing save percentage, and Linus Karlsson’s league-lead in AHL rookie scoring, it’s safe to say they’re already see quality early returns.
Maybe there won’t be as many McCanns, Chatfields, and Forslings, over the next ten years as there were over the last.
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Best Wyatt Arndt isn’t working today, can we take a message?
The slow-roll #FreeTheSkate marketing plan that extended into this totally-not-paid-for bit represents one of the few long-term coherent strategies enacted by the organization to improve the team.
Worst halfway to five goals against
With less than one minute to go in the first period, the Canucks inched closer to a 5-goal defeat after running into more puck management issues.
JT Miller had the right idea when he attempted to hook the initial rebound to spring Bo Horvat ahead on a breakaway. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the right power or angle, giving the puck to Jaccob Slavin, who promptly turnstiled Miller before setting up Jordan Martinook for the Canes’ second of the game.
Should Horvat have been attempting a breakaway skate here? Maybe not. Miller is a 50/50 man. Half the time, that pass is tape to tape, and Horvat is scoring a breakaway goal. The other half? Well, it was that.
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Worst effects of the long change
The second period is rough for every defending team caught inside the d-zone. In the first, Vancouver was hemmed in the d-zone frequently but came up even against the Hurricanes, with both teams recording six shots on goal apiece. Through the first four minutes of the second period, the Hurricanes crushed the Canucks in their zone, outshooting them 8-0.
The Canes routinely exploited the Canucks’ inability to settle the puck for clean breakouts. At one point, Bo Horvat ate a hard wrist shot off the inside of his foot. Horvat struggled to get up, creating a terrifying sight for anyone in the fanbase, hoping the organization monetizes Horvat while his trade value is at its peak.
Ethan Bear finally broke the run of dominance, recording Vancouver’s first shot at 4:33 of the period. The Canucks’ best run of sustained zone time came on a power play off a penalty drawn by JT Miller. Sadly, Vancouver was only able to generate a single shot on goal.
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The Canucks’ best scoring chance came moments after their failed power play, with Will Lockwood springing Andrei Kuzmenko past the Carolina defence for a backhander on Pyotr Kochetkov.
Lockwood has shown impressive wheels and a high work rate away from the puck through his nine games but has yet to find his offensive game this season. The stretch pass to Kuzmenko on the line was a great play, and to maintain his spot in the Canucks’ lineup, he’ll need to show he can generate more plays like it.
Worst fall
Speaking of “terrifying sights for the fanbase,” midway through the second, Bo Horvat led a two-on-two rush with Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
That’s not the “terrifying sight,” but seeing Ekman-Larsson tripped up along the half-wall and his head whipping dangerously backwards toward the ice.
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Fortunately, OEL managed to return to his feet and return to the d-zone to defend against the Hurricanes’ attack. But it was a heart-dropping moment for a defenceman who has struggled mightily in his sophomore Canucks season.
Best intial dose of positivity
Before their game against the Canes, the Canucks were rocking the worst penalty kill percentage in the league at 66.1%. A suspect check to the head of Dylan Coghlan by Curtis Lazar put the Canucks on their second PK of the game.
Amazingly, the Canucks’ PK successfully shut down Carolina’s power play, going 2/2 on the night!
Bittersweet poetry
Confidence at an all-time high, the Vancouver Canucks built off their second successful PK to put themselves within one.
Who else but Ethan Bear to score against his former team?
The Canucks’ effort to get back within the game came off an excellent forechecking effort from Jack Studnicka, who beat Carolina’s Brett Pesce to a dump-in at the near-side half-wall. Studnicka managed to absolve himself of his earlier giveaway on the opening Stastny goal, fishing the puck out to Kuzmenko for the eventual setup to Bear at the right circle.
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The bittersweet aspect of Bear’s goal against his former team was how shortly it occurred after the broadcast reported Gino Odjick’s tragic passing.
The ultimate team player who would stick up for anyone, Odjick was one-half of the greatest odd-couple in NHL history, one of the toughest in franchise and NHL history, and an inspiration to Indigenous youths across BC. Following his 8-year tenure as a Canuck, Odjick retired to Vancouver, where he planted deep roots as a beloved member of the community. In 2014, Gino was given just months to live following the diagnosis of the terminal disease cardiac AL amyloidosis. However, as he did throughout his NHL career as a fifth-round pick, Odjick fought valiantly against his diagnosis for nine long years before passing away at the tender age of 52.
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Rest in peace to an absolute legend.
#RingOfHonour
Worst “oh right, there’s still 20 minutes left” 
The news of Odjick’s passing left a solemn feeling for the final 20 minutes of the game. Even though Vancouver played their best hockey of the entire road trip, the effort and eventual result were ultimately forgettable in the grand scheme of things.
JT Miller evened things at 2-2 with a rocket off the crossbar, catching his rebound after cruising through the middle for a backhander over Kochetkov’s glove side.
Despite his earlier blunder on the 2-nothing Jordan Martinook goal, Miller played solid through the final 20 minutes, including the game-tying goal and flashes of quality defensive play.
Unfortunately, moments after Miller’s pickoff at the Canucks’ blue line, the Hurricanes remembered they’re the top team in the East for a reason and scored with a stretch pass from Jacob Slavin to spring Sebastian Aho into the Canucks’ zone for a gorgeous breakaway goal.
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Best Brock Boeser bounceback
Amazingly, like most Canucks’ games of late, the boys in blue and white rallied. Undeterred by Aho’s goal, and with Delia at the bench for the extra attacker, Brock Boeser stayed hot, scoring his 9th goal of the season to force overtime. The extra time guaranteed that the Canucks wouldn’t leave their five-game road trip empty-handed.
Boeser even provided some overtime heroics, putting the moves on Teuvo Teräväinen to generate the Canucks’ best chances of extra time.
The real hero in overtime was Collin Delia, who provided some Hasek-like highlight-reel saves to push the Canucks to the shootout.
Taking note from Andrei Vasilevsky, Delia stunned the Carolina home crowd with a sprawling save on Jaccob Slavin with only five seconds left.
Best Kuzmenk-show
Kuzmenko kicked off the shootout with a perfectly acceptable goal that shouldn’t draw any kind of Twitter-ire in my direction from Wyatt Arndt. That’s for sure!
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All I said was, “Canucks fans should temper their expectations of Kuzmenko.”
That’s all I said.
Please, Wyatt. No more.
Best way to secure two points
After going toe-to-toe against top competition, the Vancouver Canucks occasionally find an extra gear that pushes them over. In Sunday’s example, Elias freaking Pettersson secured the Canucks’ second win of 2023 with The Forsberg.
“Built different,” as the kids say.
While the result may have fell secondary to the news of Odjick’s tragic passing. Commendation should go toward the Canucks’ skaters for overcoming several brutal defensive misplays to rally back from two-goal and one-goal deficits to beat the second-best team in the Eastern Conference.
The Canucks’ schedule doesn’t relent when they return home as they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning, Colorado Avalanche, and Edmonton Oilers in three of five nights before a Tuesday night meeting with the Chicago Blackhawks. The two points against Carolina may have broken the tension and let some oxygen in the locker room. But the uphill climb for a wild card spot is steep and won’t get easier anytime soon.
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Best “well, this can’t possibly go wrong now, can it?”
Best one more time, from the heart
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