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Pacific Preview: Vancouver Canucks are stuck in the middle of nowhere

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Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Ryley Delaney
6 months ago
This is the third article looking at Pacific Division teams, what they did during the off-season and their outlook for the upcoming season. We’ve looked at the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks, the basement teams in the division, and now we have the Vancouver Canucks, a team stuck in the middle. 

Vancouver’s 2022-23 season:

Record:  38-37-7
Goals For: 270 (13 of 32)
Goals Against: 296 (24 of 32)
A 0-7 start sunk the Canucks season before it really began, but they still finished with a winning record for the second time in as many years. There was also some controversy with stringing their former coach Bruce Boudreau along.
After hiring Rick Tocchet, the Canucks finished the season with a 20-12-4 record and pulled themselves up in the standings high enough to not really be in the mix for the Connor Bedard sweepstakes. This late-season success was in large part due to Elias Pettersson finishing with over 100 points for the first time, and Quinn Hughes developing into a legitimate first-pair defenceman.

Vancouver’s off-season:

Notable Additions: Carson Soucy, Pius Suter, Teddy Blueger, Ian Cole, Sam Lafferty
Notable Subtractions: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Ethan Bear, Travis Dermott, Vitali Kravtsov
The Canucks essentially didn’t make any major additions but added some depth to their roster. Carson Soucy was their most notable add of the off-season, and just two seasons ago, he scored 10 goals and 21 points in 64 games. Pius Suter had a fine year with the Detroit Red Wings, scoring 14 goals and 24 points in 79 games, but fell short of his 15 goals and 36 points the season prior. They also added veteran defenceman Ian Cole.
In terms of who they let go, the biggest name on the way out was captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who had his contract bought out just a few years after the Canucks paid a significant price to acquire him from the Arizona Coyotes. OEL’s buyout will carry a penalty for six seasons, including a $4,766,667 cap hit during the 2025-26 and 2026-27 seasons. 

Vancouver’s current outlook:

Vancouver is the first team we’ve looked at in the Pacific Division that could realistically contend for a playoff spot this season. Will that actually happen?
They need Pettersson and Hughes to be as good as they were last season and they also can’t afford a decline from Andrei Kuzmenko, who scored 39 goals in his first season in the NHL last year. On top of that, the Canucks need to be better at keeping the puck out of the net. Thatcher Demko posted a .901 save percentage last season and the Canucks need him to be better than that. 
Something interesting to watch will be how the Canucks handle themselves if they’re not in the playoffs come trade deadline time. Another thing worth paying attention to is Pettersson’s contract, as he’s set to become a restricted free agent following 2023-24 and he only has one more year left of team control after that before he’s eligible to become an unrestricted free agent. If the Canucks move into a rebuild that would be the place to start.

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