It’s way too early in the 2022-23 NHL season to discuss a team totally collapsing this early into the campaign and yet the Vancouver Canucks seem to have painted bullseye targets on their backs. To be fair, a 1-5-2 record to start out the season is nothing to brag about and being the last team in the league to win a game is a dubious distinction. However, the crux of the Canucks’ problems seem to be in how they’re losing and they fact that the Canucks have already made an NHL record by losing four early season games in a row while having a multiple goal lead going into or in the third period of those consecutive losses. However, the Canucks did finally pull off a tough 5-4 victory over the Seattle Kraken on October 27th, and the proverbial monkey should now be off their backs-for now.
Excuses are easy to throw around and the Canucks can certainly point fingers at the string of early season injuries that are already plaguing the Vancouver bench. Marquee defenseman Quinn Hughes has been out since with a lower body injury and his absence has sorely been felt on the Canucks blue line. No less than a combination of ten other defensemen have been used to try and find some sort of combination to fill the void made by Hughes’ absence in the lineup. Other injuries to top-line forward Brock Boeser and center Curtis Lazar have also been acutely felt with Lazar out a reported three to four weeks.
The Canucks’ lone win this season is far more than a simple victory but symbolic of Bruce Boudreau’s coaching career and his 600th career win. Sadly, it took nearly a month for Vancouver to finally put up a “W.” Nevertheless, the sole win helps the Canucks move forward with a better footing on the ice. Any game winning celebrations no doubt were subdues in the Canucks’ locker room as the task of getting the 2022-23 season back on track is a daunting task to say the least.
Is Bruce Boudreau Waiting for the Axe to Fall?
Despite the win and the milestone win achievement, Bruce Boudreau still is the bench boss for a team that cannot or will not find itself and pull together wins this season. Even when leading in multiple games, the Canucks found multiple ways to lose those games and set an NHL record for squandering multiple goal leads in a string of early season games. Remember, Travis Green was fired last year on December 5th after posting an 8-15-2 record along with GM Jim Benning. Bruce Boudreau’s team record is an embarrassing 1-5-2 right now and the Canucks are fighting with the Anaheim Ducks to occupy the Western Conference cellar.
Team president Patrik Allvin has come out and somewhat given his seal of approval for keeping Boudreau on as head coach: “I see the hard work the coaching staff is putting in every day and my job is to always look at options to get better and support them.” (Source: nhl.com) If you read into this statement, Allvin certainly isn’t giving a resounding vote of confidence in Boudreau’s ability to pull the Canucks out of their early season doldrums. What this means for this franchise is that the Canucks’ fortunes better turn around soon or Bruce Boudreau needs to start working on updating his resume-soon.
Do the Players Bear Some of the Blame for Early Season Failures?
This question can be answered with a resounding yes, the players do bear a portion of the responsibility for the 1-5-2 record. After all, coaches dan draw up the X’s and O’s and explain concepts but ultimately it’s up to the players to get on the ice and make things happen to win games. After the home opener at Rogers Arena, the Canucks met with a chorus of boos from their own fans including some sweater throwing onto the ice to show fan displeasure this early in the season. The entire Vancouver franchise has a big task on order to restore fan faith in this team and prove that they are a viable winning organization again. Otherwise, the Canucks can ill-afford an outright fan revolt this early in the season.
The offensive numbers show that only three players are making things happen for the Canucks. Elias Pettersson currently leads the team with four goals and five assists , Bo Horvat has contributed to the cause with an additional four goals and two assists and the top three are rounded out with J.T. Miller putting in an additional four goals and two assists. The offensive firepower drop-off is pretty obvious when the next top point scorer on the Canucks’ bench is injured blueliner Quinn Hughes. The recent win against Seattle allowed a bit more of the younger players to guide Vancouver to the win column with Ilya Mikheyev and Andrei Kuzmenko finally making big offensive contributions.
The NHL Season is a Marathon, Not a Short Footrace
The Vancouver Canucks find themselves in an unenviable position of being quickly at the bottom of the Pacific Division before the first month of the season is over. In a similar fashion, the 2021-22 Canucks skated into the abyss last year early on and that cost the head coach and the GM their jobs and sealed the team’s fate for missing the playoffs in the spring. It’s great that Bruce Boudreau got a milestone win and its’ equally great that the Canucks finally found a way to win. The hard part will be for the Canucks to keep on a winning path as Boudreau’s presence behind the bench is tenuous at best right now.