A new calendar year is upon us, and what better time to reflect on where to improve? For the Vancouver Canucks in 2018, there are plenty of options. Having gone 2-9-1 in their last twelve contests, they’re in the midst of a major slump. Here are some areas – both in, and out of the team’s control – that could use some change.
Vancouver Canucks New Year’s Resolutions
This past off-season, the Canucks chose to not bring back veteran Ryan Miller, who had served as the team’s starter for a handful of years. Instead, they chose to sign Anders Nilsson, who despite good numbers with the Buffalo Sabres, had no experience as a starting netminder. He was brought in to back up Jacob Markstrom, who also had little starting experience to his name.
The experiment started off strong, with Nilsson boasting a save percentage among the league’s best, and Markstrom performing similarly. Over the past several weeks, however, their performance has fallen off. Markstrom now posted an underwhelming .906 save percentage, while Nilsson’s is identical. While the team has been missing defensive stalwart Chris Tanev of late, their roster is simply not good enough to hold up under poor netminding. Should the team have any hope of rebounding early in the calendar year, their goaltending needs to be better.
An Erik Gudbranson Trade
The Canucks currently boast a log jam on defence, resulting in a player like Ben Hutton sitting in the press box. For a team in a semi-rebuilding phase, sitting the 24-year-old simply does not make sense. Of course, this could be solved with the trading of gritty blueliner Erik Gudbranson. Despite his polarizing nature among Canucks fans, the 25-year-old appears to hold some value on the open market. In trading him, they would be able to move the club in a puck-moving direction, and potentially acquire a decent asset in return.
This would require management to admit to the initial mistake of acquiring Gudbranson. They gave up young centre Jared McCann and a 2nd-round pick for the defender. However, if they can receive a similar package in return, it’s likely all will be forgiven.
A Healthy Roster
The team has been in a tailspin since the injury to top centre Bo Horvat. In 12 games since Horvat was sidelined, the Canucks have just two wins and only one in regulation. It’s clear that he’s a game-changer for the team, and his presence is deeply missed. The club is also missing top-line winger Sven Baertschi, who has missed ten games. Horvat and Baertschi were top three scorers for the team, with 20 and 18 points in 28 and 30 contests respectively. They both remain fifth and sixth in team scoring despite their injuries.
However, it’s not just the two scorers who are missed. Key penalty killer Brandon Sutter has been out since November 24th, and in that time, the team’s penalty kill has dropped to 28th in the league. There’s also Derek Dorsett, whose career, unfortunately, came to an end, while Tanev has just recently returned to health. If even a couple of the team’s injured players were to return, it would make a notable difference.
Perhaps the biggest issue facing the team of late is the lack of defensive composure. While perhaps tied to the injury of Tanev, the team has looked horrific on the defensive side of the puck. In nine of their last 12, they have allowed four or more goals; and three or more in 11 of the 12. Indeed, the issue is a collective problem. They have just one defenceman with a CorsiFor% greater than 50%, with Derrick Pouliot at 50.3%. Three of their more heavily-relied upon players – Gudbranson, Alexander Edler and Michael Del Zotto – have a CorsiFor% of 45% or lower. If the organization truly hopes to remain competitive down the stretch, they’ll need to make some adjustments defensively.