Vancouver Canucks: Offence could be elite in 2018

WINNIPEG, MB - MARCH 26: Alexander Edler
WINNIPEG, MB - MARCH 26: Alexander Edler /

Though the Vancouver Canucks offence has been one of the NHL’s worst since 2012-13, the depth and rise of young players could turn this team into a scoring juggernaut.

There was once a time when the Vancouver Canucks didn’t have to worry about scoring goals. With the likes of the Sedin twins, Ryan Kesler, Mason Raymond and Alexandre Burrows, Vancouver knew that scoring would come aplenty.

In 2009-10, they finished second in goals per game with 3.27. That was the year Henrik Sedin took home the Art Ross after scoring 112 points. The next year, Vancouver’s 3.15 goals per game were tops in the NHL. As everyone remembers, they won the Presidents’ Trophy and reached the Stanley Cup Final that year.

In 2011-12, Vancouver finished fifth in goals per game at 2.94 as they took home a second consecutive Presidents’ Trophy. Things have gone way downhill ever since.

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Dating back to 2012-13 (the last year Alain Vigneault was head coach), Vancouver has finished 19th or worse every season with the exception of 2014-15. That includes second-last in both 2015-16 and 2016-17.

So now you get the idea, the Canucks simply cannot score much these days.

The Kesler trade and the age and declining of production from both Sedin twins have been major factors. But believe it or not, things are actually looking up in 2017-18.

If you take a look at the veterans, youngsters and offseason additions, Vancouver just might actually score quite a lot next year.

Let’s examine why.

Depth, depth, depth

Back in July, I pieced together what I think the Canucks lineup should look like on opening night. Here’s what I project the forward lines to be:

Sven Baertschi — Bo Horvat — Brock Boeser
Markus Granlund — Brandon Sutter —Loui Eriksson
Daniel Sedin — Henrik Sedin — Sam Gagner
Nikolay Goldobin — Alexander Burmistrov — Jake Virtanen

So you have five guys who have already scored 20 goals in their careers: Bo Horvat, Brandon Sutter, Loui Eriksson, Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin. We can expect Horvat to continue after breaking through in 2016-17. Eriksson is due for a bounce-back year, and Sutter is always a threat to score 20. The Sedins are probably done scoring 20-plus goals, but don’t count them out entirely.Elsewhere, you have Sven Baertschi (18 goals last season), and Markus Granlund (19 goals last season). Had they both stayed healthy throughout the season, that would have been 20 goals apiece right there.

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Who knows what promising prospect Brock Boeser can do, but four goals in just nine games is a nice indication that he is ready to score 20-plus. Sam Gagner has also yet to reach 20, but he has his 18 twice. He’s a sure bet for 40-plus points a year. You know what you’re gonna get from him.

Now, I’m not saying every single forward is going to have a career year and score 20-plus goals. But the Canucks have three lines of quality forwards, and the scoring can be spread all over the roster. Last season, 12 different Calgary Flames scored double-digit goals. The Canucks have the depth to pull off that feat, too.

The right mix

The Canucks haven’t had a good mix of forwards over the last three seasons. It’s been Sedins-or-bust for the most part. Up until the 2015 Entry Draft, Horvat was the only promising prospect in Vancouver’s system.

Now, they have a great group of young players who can score. Furthermore, general manager Jim Benning robbed the Flames in the Baertschi and Granlund trades. He just may have some perennial 20-goal scorers from here on out.

Sutter, Eriksson and Gagner have all showed their potential to score 20 goals before — and they can all do it under new head coach Travis Green. With young forwards, the Sedins and other veterans still in their heydays, the Canucks have so many guys who can score the big goal.

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If at least five of these guys can play up to their respective potentials in 2017-18, the Vancouver Canucks just might own one of the NHL’s most prolific scoring machines.