The 20/21 season was supposed to be a step up for the Vancouver Canucks, who made the second round of the playoffs the year prior, losing to Vegas in seven games, unfortunately that wasn’t the case.
The season started off with high hopes, but those were quickly shattered as the team dropped 12 out of their first 20 games of the season. As the season continued it was more of the same, however there were some bright spots. Let’s start off with the good.
The Good: Hoglander, Demko, Boeser and Rookies
The brightest player from this this tough season was Nils Hoglander. The 5-foot-9, 185 lbs left winger showed so much effort and compete from day one, which led to him quickly becoming a fan favourite. It was a strong rookie season in which he potted 13 goals and 14 assists in 56 games for 27 points. He never seemed intimidated and looked like he belonged.
After the departure of Jacob Markstrom, the Vancouver Canucks showed faith in their 24 year old goalie. Thatcher Demko showed the Canucks their faith wasn’t misplaced. Demmer struggled at the start of the season but quickly heated up and had a nearly perfect run in March.
Demko ended the season with a .915% save percentage and a 2.85 GAA. The Nucks locked up their tendy to a 5×5 contract. The Canucks’ crease is in safe hands for the foreseeable future.
Another bright spot was Brock Boeser returning to his rookie year form. The elite winger was tearing it up and was a Rocket contender for the first 17 games or so. He did cool off but he still ended the season with 23 goals and 26 assists for 49 points in 56 games, all without his right hand Elias Pettersson . His skating looked so much better and his shot looked elite again. It will be exciting to see what he does next season.
The last bright spot has to be all the players who were rookies this season. That includes the aforementioned Nils Hoglander, Jack Rathbone, Olli Juolevi, Jonah Gadjovich, Will Lockwood, Jalen Chatfield, Kole Lind and Marc Michaelis.
Now some of these players were real bright spots such as Nils Hoglander, Jack Rathbone and Will Lockwood. Others showed their potential such as Olli Juolevi and Kole Lind. Michaelis, Gadjovich and Chatfield all showed that they could be solid depth pieces but not really much more than that. These rookies gave hope to Canucks fans and helped show how bright the future is.
The Bad: Record, Free Agency, a Injury and Defence
The Vancouver Canucks finished the season with a 23-29-4 record which was good enough for last in the Scotia North division and 24th in the league. For the Canucks, who made a great playoff run the year prior, the 20-21 season was a massive step backwards.
There are tons of reasons and explanations but simply put the team wasn’t good enough. The team has the elite core it’s just a matter of time before they get it together, and when they do, the league better watch out.
The Canucks are absolutely terrible at defense. All you have to do is watch a game and you’ll see. The only reason it wasn’t a bigger issue is because they get amazing goaltending. However that can’t last forever and the defense must improve. The team allowed 187 goals this season and a lot of it is due to defensive errors and lapses. I don’t know if it’s the system or the players but improvement is needed and fast.
Jim Benning received a lot of criticism for the decisions he made in free agency and rightfully so. Firstly, many key players left in the offseason and the team never really recovered. Jacob Markstrom was elite for the Canucks in 19/20, but the Canucks chose Demko over him and so far that looks like the right decision. Chris Tanev also departed and that left a massive hole at the backend. Tanev was Hughes’ partner and really helped the young defender flourish.
Without Tanev, Hughes massively struggled in the defensive zone. Now onto Tyler Toffoli. The winger scored 28 goals and had 44 points in 56 games, for a team that lacks a bonafide winger to pair with Bo Horvat , Toffoli would’ve been perfect. Add to the fact Benning traded Tyler Madden, Tim Schaller, a 2nd round pick and a conditional 4th rounder for only 15 or so games of Toffoli and it just rubs salt in the wound.
Anyone who follows the Vancouver Canucks knows how injuries are always part of the season and this season was no different. The big one was a injury to Elias Pettersson, which only let the forward play 26 games. The injury was unknown for a long time but has been revealed as a wrist injury.
Hopefully this doesn’t affect his shot and other skills in the future. The young Swede is a big part of the Canucks core and is still yet to play a full season. How this affects his contract, only time will tell. Not to mention the Covid outbreak which affected the entire team and coaching staff.
Overall, this season had ups and a lot of downs, but it was an important one. Some players improved and others regressed, either way next season should be very interesting. The Canucks hold the 9th pick in the draft and could potentially add another key piece to their elite core.
Next season, Vancouver Canucks should definitely be making the playoffs, especially being in the weak Pacific Division. The West Coast is getting restless and next season the playoffs are a must.