Vancouver Canucks: Veterans need to try a lot harder in preseason

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 28: Erik Gudbranson
VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 28: Erik Gudbranson /

The Vancouver Canucks are already getting their teeth kicked in at even strength and it’s only preseason. Most NHL veterans mail it in during preseason, but if the Canucks want to justify their veteran-heavy roster, we need to see more.

The Vancouver Canucks really are a frustrating team. I’m not bothered by the fact that most of the prospects are not ready for the NHL. That’s not an issue, especially since Elias Pettersson will be on the roster. Perhaps that gives some perspective if you were expecting three or four rookies to make the team, regardless of available roster spots.

I’m not even bothered by losing 6-0 to the Oilers with most of our starting lineup. Losing as many games as possible for high draft odds is fine by me. What really irritates me is the level of effort from many Canucks during this training camp.

Now, veterans have a history of mailing it in during the preseason. It is the time for players to get back up to speed. I’m sorry, but if you are fighting for a spot on the team, you need to show us more than going through the motions. It’s even worse to not try because you think you have a guaranteed spot.

The forwards

The title of the article may focus on veterans, but most players on this team outside of Bo Horvat, and Elias Pettersson have not played well. I will admit that Brock Boeser has just been okay at best. Throw Troy Stecher (I know, not a forward) and Sven Baertschi in that camp as well. Jake Virtanen is playing like an entitled veteran. He won’t get cut, but you can he’s not giving his all.

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We were promised a resurgence from Loui Eriksson. When he wasn’t hurt, he was ineffectual. He looked too comfortable out there because he knows that nothing will cut him from this roster. Brandon Sutter has had a rough go, but his revolving door of wingers may be the issue. Jay Beagle has not stood out aside from showing that he is a serviceable penalty killer.

Speaking of the new additions, Tim Schaller is a lot worse than I expected. The bar shouldn’t be high for the fourth line, yet he found a way to slump under it. Can you give me a real reason why Markus Granlund or Sam Gagner should be in the lineup? Outside of a lone goal, Gagner has been dogging it since day one. He is another player out there who is far too comfortable. That contract should not be a safety net. This is what happens when there is no real pressure on contracted players.

Sadly, one player on the bubble is doing nothing to keep his spot in the NHL. I don’t know why Brendan Gaunce isn’t trying hard enough to stand out. His spot is on the line and as of now, it looks like he will start the season in Utica. Consistency is an odd theme this season and we see it vary for Nikolay Goldobin and Brendan Leipsic.

The defence and goaltending

Stop me if you heard this before, the Canucks are bringing back the same defence. And they found a new low to sink to. I have to say, that’s incredibly impressive since Erik Gudbranson and Michael Del Zotto are already terrible.

It doesn’t matter if Gudbranson throws one nice hit when he’s still an awful defenceman. Or how that pairing lazily coasts back on a change, leading to a goal against. Like I said, it’s not just the veterans. Derrick Pouliot has been nothing short of awful and I want to get off the Ben Hutton roller coaster. I’ll just leave you with what Jason Botchford said (which is very true).

I feel awful for the goaltenders. They have to play behind the worst defence in the NHL and will be under siege all season. However, Jacob Markstrom and Anders Nilsson still look like their December selves. Last year, you had to laugh when the Canucks were routinely giving up six or seven goals a night. We just might see a few more of those this season.

Travis Green isn’t pleased

Travis Green really hammers the point home in his post game comments from the Oilers game. It’s rather disturbing to see consistent low efforts when an NHL job is on the line. I know this season is going to suck. And it’s for the greater good of building for the future.

But being perpetual mediocrity is not the end goal. The nice thing about tanking is to watch the team’s younger players develop even if the NHL squad finishes in last. You can see positive trends, like dominating shot shares, even when you are losing. At times, the Canucks are barely breaking even, which is no change from three years ago. And let’s be honest, Pettersson has shown his best on the power play, which does not fix how bad the team is at even strength.

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It’s the same old song and dance every year and the Canucks just seem to shuffle the deck chairs. They can’t score, they can’t defend and can’t do much of anything. So when you have so many players with experience, you expect a little more. A team that has more wins than losses in the standings can justify a slower speed camp, but when a team is this bad, there is no excuse.