Once again, it’s Christmas time. The tree is up, presents are being wrapped, Home Alone reruns are on TV and the radio is playing Michael Buble’s Christmas hits. The Vancouver Canucks and the rest of the NHL are on an extended holiday break due to COVID-19.
With Christmas just a few days away, I decided to make a Christmas list focusing on the Canucks of course.
#1 Elias Pettersson to get back to his old self
It’s been a tough 2021 for Elias Pettersson. He has gone through offensive struggles and a wrist injury that kept him out for a large chunk of last season. Pettersson also received a big pay rise in September with a three-year 7.35 million dollar contract so that is one good thing that has happened to him this year.
After recovering from his wrist injury, Pettersson was expected to get back into form but has been a disappointment this season. He has looked invisible on the ice, has been turning the puck over and his shots haven’t been hitting the net. He has six goals and 10 assists so far this season which is on pace for 16 goals and 26 assists for 42 points. A player of his caliber and salary has to do better than that.
Fortunately, Pettersson is starting to look better under Bruce Boudreau. He has two goals and two assists in his last six games and his shot and playmaking are slowly getting better
Canucks fans are going to want to see Pettersson at his best in the new year. When he is, he is one of the best players in the NHL.
#2: Chris MacFarland as the next Canucks General Manager
Rick Dhaliwal mentioned Colorado Avalanche Assistant General Manager is a Canucks target on Monday’s edition of Donnie and Dhali-The Team on CHEK TV.
Joe Sakic’s right-hand man is more than ready for a General Manager job. He has years of experience as an assistant GM and Director of Hockey Operations in Colorado and with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Canucks need a GM who is a forward-thinker and MacFarland is exactly that. He and Sakic turned the Avalanche into a cup contender. A few years ago, they had the worst season in the salary cap era.
MacFarland specializes in pro and amateur scouting, contract research and negotiations, cap management, analytics, and more. The 51-year-old Bronx New York native should be the first target on the Canucks GM list. This would be a great opportunity for MacFarland to prove he can handle a GM job.
The Canucks are a team with a talented core but they have cap issues and a leaky defence that is preventing them from becoming a cup contender. The prospect pool is also pretty shallow. MacFarland can use his knowledge and experience to fix the Canucks cap issues and restock the prospect pool and take them over the hump but of course, it won’t happen overnight. MacFarland also played a role in building the Avalanche’s defensive core.
It’s going to take a lot of convincing for him to leave Denver for Vancouver. If the Avalanche were to let him go, it would likely be at the end of the season.
#3 A right-handed defenceman (Actually, how about two?)
The Canucks right side of their defence has been a problem. Right now it consists of Tyler Myers, (AKA the Chaos Giraffe thanks to Wyatt Arndt of The Athletic.) Luke Schenn, Tucker Poolman, Travis Hamonic, and Kyle Burroughs.
Poolman and Hamonic signed contracts in the offseason that are overpayments. Burroughs is nothing more than a depth defenceman. Myers is also overpaid but he can do some good things such as provide offence and drive to the net. He has been playing really good hockey over the last six games and we can hope that continues. Schenn has looked alright and can throw some big hits.
Quinn Hughes hasn’t had a reliable partner since Chris Tanev left for the Calgary Flames and the Canucks need to look for that whether through trade, free agency. It’s not going to be easy to find a good right-handed defenceman or two.
#4 A right-handed penalty-killing centre
The Canucks penalty kill has been killing them all season and it currently ranks last in the league at 67%.
Not having a right-handed centre on the penalty kill isn’t helping. The Canucks do have one in Brandon Sutter but he remains out due to the long-term effects of COVID. As of now, it seems Sutter isn’t close to returning.
Whether that’s sometime later this season or in the offseason, a decent right-handed centre who can kill penalties should also be a priority for the Canucks.
#5 A chance for a playoff spot
Despite the six-game winning streak, the chances of the Canucks making the playoffs are still quite slim. They are given a 7% chance by Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic and a 19.1% chance by MoneyPuck at the time of this writing.
While it is unlikely, Canucks fans should hope they continue to fight for a chance to make the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs and keep winning as many games as possible.
The Canucks need to continue their entertaining play under Boudreau and their playoff chances could rise. It’s wishful thinking but it’s worth putting on the Christmas list.
What is on your Canucks Christmas list? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!