The Vancouver Canucks are about to miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season now. And despite the rise of rookie Elias Pettersson, it’s clear the Canucks are still many pieces away from finishing this rebuild.
Thanks to a sensational performance by rookie Elias Pettersson, the Vancouver Canucks stayed around in the playoff race up until late February, but they’ve since fallen to the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
Vancouver dropped a 3-2 road contest to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night; only the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings sit below them in the West. That’s what happens when the injuries pile up, when key players stop producing and when you simply drop 12 out of 16 games.
Obviously, the likes of Pettersson (57 points, likely Calder Trophy winner), Bo Horvat (48 points), and Brock Boeser (46 points), cannot be blamed for another lackluster season. These have been Vancouver’s only consistent contributors on offence throughout the season. It’s not exactly ideal that Antoine Roussel is fourth in team scoring with just 29 points.
Jake Virtanen was supposed to take another step this season, but even before he got hurt, the 2014 first round pick had just 12 goals and 22 points. Nobody needs a reminder about Nikolay Goldobin being mismanaged. It was expected that he’d have more than seven goals and 27 points up to this point.
But even if Virtanen and Goldobin haven’t performed up to expectations, at least they’re not taking out big chunks of Vancouver’s cap space. The Canucks are paying far more cash to other forwards who simply aren’t scoring.
The defence needs a whole new makeover, plain and simple. It’d be a huge blow if top blueliner Alexander Edler left in free agency. He’s the only productive and legitimate top-three defenceman this team has. Derrick Pouliot will surely be leaving after this season, and the Canucks may decide to shop Chris Tanev in his contract year.
Fans have good reason to be excited about the pending arrival of Quinn Hughes, but he’s not going to patch up all the holes on the rest of this blue line. General manager Jim Benning is going to have quite a daunting task in finding two or three new defencemen to join Hughes, Edler and co. next season.
Outside of Hughes, the Canucks don’t have any grade-A prospects that are on the verge of turning pro. Benning simply can’t wait around and expect this current core to get better. He has to find a way to build around Pettersson, Horvat, Boeser and Hughes.
As you can see, the Canucks have so many roster weaknessess — and Benning won’t fix this overnight. This team won’t be competitive again until they completely rebuild the bottom six and at least two new defencemen to help out.
Making the necessary changes and finding the right players is easier said than done, of course. As the Canucks head for a fourth consecutive non-playoff year, the front office will have quite the task in finding out what the next step is during this painful and very slow rebuild.