Vancouver Canucks: 3 reasons for fan optimism in 2018

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 06: Brock Boeser
GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 06: Brock Boeser /

Though the Vancouver Canucks rebuild figures to take a couple of more years, there is a lot for fans to be excited about for the 2017-18 season.

Things just haven’t gone right for the Vancouver Canucks fans throughout the last couple of decades, and the current state of this team may leave little to be desired. But in reality, things are looking up for this team in the future.

And the fans deserve it. They had to go through the heartbreaking Stanley Cup Final loss in 1994, then endured over a half decade of mediocrity. Then the Canucks built a contender around the Sedin twins but never won a championship.

Now, they’re finally entering a rebuilding stage which really should have started four years ago. Judging by the decline of Canucks’ TV ratings and less of a demand for tickets, it’s safe to say a large portion of this fan base isn’t optimistic for 2017-18. But they should be.

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Believe it or not, this upcoming season could be a pleasant surprise for Canucks fans. From a personal standpoint, it’s been a long time since I’ve been this intrigued about the roster Vancouver has put together.

So why should you be optimisic and excited about the upcoming season? Here are three reasons why.

A direction has been established

Team president Trevor Linden and general manager Jim Benning finally gave the Canucks what they wanted in April: A confession that a rebuild is on.

They showed that by not chasing big-named veterans in free agency, and by having a heckuva draft class that included fifth overall selection, Elias Pettersson.

Benning also flipped veterans Alexandre Burrows and Jannik Hansen for a pair of talented youngsters in Jonathan Dahlen and Nikolay Goldobin at the trade deadline. That made up for the 2016 trade deadline disaster, when he didn’t move out any rental players for young assets.

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Linden and Benning essentially admitted that “rebuilding on the fly” was a mistake. They’ve now told fans that a rebuild and dedication to getting younger, faster and better in the long run is their goal.

The newcomers

Rather than get caught up in the excitement of throwing money at a standout veteran player, Benning went bargain shopping and indeed found a number of bang-for-your buck players.

It started with grabbing versatile forward Sam Gagner on a three-year deal worth $9.45 million. Gagner is coming off an 18-goal, 50-point season with the Columbus Blue Jackets, and can be used all over the lineup. He can play centre or wing. Gagner can play on the first, second or third line. He’s also got dazzling speed and good all-around skill, something the Canucks lacked last season.

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Defenceman Michael Del Zotto was signed for two years and $6 million. He’ll round out the top-four and should be able to quarterback the second power play unit. He’s not that great defensively, but Del Zotto’s speed and offence will be a nice addition to the blue line.

Other signings included Alexander Burmistrov, Patrick Wiercioch, and backup goalie Anders Nilsson. Those were simply moves to fill out roster depth, but Burmistrov and Wiercioch do add nice size to a fairly small Canucks teams.

Young players, more speed

It’s safe to say many Canucks fans got bored of seeing this team run its entire offence around Daniel and Henrik Sedin, even though they haven’t been point-per-game players in a long time now. As such, fans knew going to a game meant watching a stale and desperate, slow team try to squeeze out victories. It was not entertaining hockey.

But new head coach Travis Green will try to implement a more enjoyable hockey — a style that’ll fit today’s NHL where teams are building around speed and skill.

He has plenty of it right now in Gagner, Del Zotto, Bo Horvat, Troy Stecher and Ben Hutton. If Brock Boeser and Olli Juolevi can crack the roster, then Canucks fans will have even more young talent to watch. Markus Granlund and Sven Baertschi each came close to the 20-goal mark last season, so they’ll be exciting to follow in 2017-18.

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So there you have it. There will be more speed and more all-around skill and talent on this team. Maybe they’ll struggle in 2017-18, but at least the Vancouver Canucks are building their team of the future the right way.