They may have missed the postseason yet again, but 2018-19 was a successful year for the Vancouver Canucks — who are now trending in the right direction.
The Vancouver Canucks entered the 2018-19 season with extremely low expectations, but the team fared much better than anybody expected.
And for that, you have to call this season a success — even though they missed the playoffs for a fourth straight year. Because, after a very frustrating five years, this team is finally trending upwards.
With the Sedin twins retired, rookie Elias Pettersson, sniper Brock Boeser and future captain Bo Horvat took the reigns and emerged as the new franchise faces here on the west coast. And despite so many injuries to key players throughout the season, Vancouver’s three young stars kept this team in the playoff race up until early March.
Goalie Jacob Markstrom — facing immense pressure to put it all together once and for all — finally came through with an excellent season that landed him the team MVP award. Markstrom won 28 games and registered a .912 save percentage. And this was with little help from a struggling and oft-injured blue line, where the Canucks simply have to get better. Thatcher Demko is really going to have to push hard for the starting keys.
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There was more progress from 2014 first round pick Jake Virtanen, who finished with 15 goals in 70 games. Had he stayed healthy, the 6-foot-1 forward could have hit 20 goals for the first time in his career. He should (finally) break out in 2018-19 with a 20-25 goal season.
There was some excellent production from trade acquisitions in Josh Leivo (10 goals in 49 games with the Canucks), and Tanner Pearson (nine goals in 19 games). These two players — along with Virtanen — should be able to supply Vancouver with some much-needed secondary scoring.
And then there was an excellent five-game audition from 2018 first round pick Quinn Hughes, who picked up three assists here after turning professional. He should be this team’s long-term answer as the power play quarterback, and Hughes promises to be the ultimate difference-maker on that blue line.
Speaking of the defence, Alexander Edler enjoyed a resurgent year and deserves a new contract this offseason. He scored 10 goals and 34 points in just 56 games — tied for the fourth-best offensive totals of his career.
Vancouver missed the playoffs by nine points, but three teams in the Pacific Division finished below them — the long-time bullies in the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings. The Canucks have finally gotten past those teams, and they’ll surely catch up to the San Jose Sharks before long.
Add up all of these positives, and you can see why 2018-19 was actually a successful year in Vancouver. They missed the playoffs, sure. But this team is going to do just fine without the Sedins — with Pettersson, Horvat and Boeser ready to lead the way.
The young stars are only getting better — and the supporting players should play even bigger roles next season. Hughes will be a big impact player next season — and the Canucks will be ready to end what will be a five-year playoff drought. Indeed, things are finally looking promising again for the Canucks and their fans.
*Stats courtesy of Hockey Reference*