The Canuck Way Mailbag: Pettersson, Miller, Virtanen, more

Jan 13, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Vancouver Canucks players celebrate a second period goal by forward Nils Hoglander (36) against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 13, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Vancouver Canucks players celebrate a second period goal by forward Nils Hoglander (36) against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports /
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Vancouver Canucks celebrate (Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)
Vancouver Canucks celebrate (Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Vancouver Canucks are finally back on our television screens and I for one couldn’t be happier. Hockey is as much a form of therapy as it is entertainment for many people, so it’s definitely a blessing to have it back.

The Canucks started the season on a high with a solid game against the Edmonton Oilers when Brock Boeser scored his first two goals with his patented wrist shot and exciting Swedish rookie Nils Hoglander also potted his first NHL goal in a 5-3 victory. Unfortunately, that high quickly faded with two straight losses where they were outscored 8-2 and were shut out by their former starting goaltender Jacob Markstrom and long-time defenceman Chris Tanev.

Markstrom looked like the MVP the Canucks had last season and Tanev, of course, played solid defence and blocked a ton of shots in front of him. They basically showed the Canucks what they had lost. Special teams have also been a sore spot so far as they have gone 0-for-11 on the power play and have given up five goals on the penalty kill. Clearly, they miss Tanev’s massive presence there too.

To make a long story short, the Canucks have some major issues they need to address before the next game on Monday. As always, some of those concerns have come out in The Canuck Way mailbag, which I am happy to be returning to. So, without further ado, let’s get our first regular season edition started with more of your questions!

Pettersson, Virtanen & Juolevi

People tend to forget that Elias Pettersson didn’t have a banner start to the 2019-20 season. In his first two games against the Oilers and Flames, he was held off the score sheet and was a minus-2. He also only had three shots on goal and was largely shut down. I’m sure the words, sophomore slump, were uttered by some people as well.

Pettersson went on to silence his critics with 18 points in his next ten games, so clearly, the panic button should not be pressed just yet. In fact, it would take a pointless streak of epic proportions to convince me to even consider it.

What’s more, the Canucks are without a key part of their attack in JT Miller. He and Pettersson were joined at the hip during the 2019-20 season and produced 50 goals as a duo. I’m sure once he is reunited with his partner, the goals and points will start flowing like the Nile River during flood season.

With Miller out of the lineup due to COVID-19 protocol, Travis Green chose to give Jake Virtanen a spot on the top line beside Pettersson and Boeser. You would think that being gifted an opportunity like that would light a fire under him to perform or at the very least, be noticeable on the ice. Unfortunately, he has not risen to the occasion so far and just continues to go through the motions, hoping that his talent will just take over.

Virtanen has displayed an inconsistent work ethic throughout his career, and just when we thought it was dealt with last season, it has reared its ugly head once again. I’m not sure how much more of this Travis Green and Jim Benning will endure before their patience finally runs out. He’s still a young player with loads of potential, but sometimes the shelf life runs out in a particular city with a particular coach.

In Virtanen’s case, it’s a coach that he has been with for most of his professional career. Green’s voice may have been tuned out a long time ago. Unfortunately, it might be time for a change of scenary because it just seems like he’s hit a brick wall in Vancouver.

Honestly, I’ve really liked Olli Juolevi’s game so far. He had one misstep against the Oilers’ Kailer Yamamoto when he stripped him of the puck, but I chalk that up to inexperience at the NHL level. Mistakes are how we learn, and he learned that moving the puck quickly and decisively is the be-all and end-all in a league as fast as this one.

We should not be predicting Juolevi’s entire NHL career based on just three games of work. It is a very small sample size that should never be used to evaluate a player’s overall game and future in a particular sport. For the most part, he has stuck to his calm and mistake-free brand of hockey, and that is all we should be asking of him at this point in his development. He is not, and will never be a defenceman like Quinn Hughes. The quicker everyone realizes this, the better off they will be.