One underrated key to the Canucks’ success this year

Many factors have contributed to the Vancouver Canucks’ success this year, but there’s one factor that flies under the radar: depth scoring.

Conor Garland has contributed to the Canucks’ depth scoring this year.
Conor Garland has contributed to the Canucks’ depth scoring this year. / Patrick Smith/GettyImages
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After eight mediocre seasons — broken up by an uncharacteristic playoff run in 2020 — the Vancouver Canucks have suddenly stumbled upon greatness. Some have even compared this team to the 2011 squad, which lost in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. While there are many factors that have led to the Canucks’ success this year, one factor seems to fly under the radar: depth.

It’s no secret that good NHL teams are deep. For example, the 2023 Vegas Golden Knights boasted William Karlsson and Reilly Smith on their third line. Every team gets good production from its first line, but to win in today’s NHL, you need contributions from everyone.

Depth prevails in Chicago

In the Canucks’ 4-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, they got two goals from Conor Garland and one each from Dakota Joshua and Nils Höglander. Garland was an empty-net post away from a hat trick, while Joshua recorded a Gordie Howe hat trick.

The Canucks now lead the NHL in players with double-digit goals, as Garland joined the 10-goal club Tuesday night, becoming the eleventh Canuck to do so this season.

“It’s great because if some guys (are) in some slumps, other lines can pick it up,” said Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet after the game. “I think the Garland line, if we have some guys that are not scoring goals, they can chip in.”

Depth scoring is only a portion of the Canucks’ success this year. They sent six players, a coach and a P.A. announcer to the All-Star Game, so something must be going right — but on nights like Tuesday where the big guns don’t show up, it’s nice to have other guys who can take the reins.

The nameless third line — which Garland made sure remained nameless — has contributed 29 goals. Taking up less than $7.7 million between Garland, Joshua, and Teddy Blueger, it’s one of the most cost-effective lines in the league.

Getting even deeper?

With the announcement that the Canucks have brought three-time Stanley Cup champion Phil Kessel to train in Abbotsford, the team could get even deeper. The veteran winger isn’t likely to drive offense the way he did for the Pittsburgh Penguins in their 2016 and 2017 championship runs, but he could contribute invaluable playoff experience in the locker room — something that the Canucks currently lack.

On the Stanley Cup-winning Golden Knights last year, Kessel potted 14 goals and 36 points through 82 regular season games. He struggled to make the lineup during the playoffs, but so did Blueger.

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The Canucks now head home for a rematch against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday.