In the NHL, there are teams with great players, there are plainly great teams and then there’s the Vancouver Canucks. If you’re a Canucks fan, don’t start throwing vitriol my way yet, because I too believe that the Canucks have some great players and could be a great team down the road. With the hiring of head coach Bruce Boudreau during the mid-season meltdown last December, the Canucks front office under president Jim Rutherford and GM Patrik Allvin took the initial steps to help get this sinking ship off the rocks and at least back into shallow waters. Under Boudreau, the Canucks did finish up 32-15-10 with him at the helm and missed the playoffs by six points.
Well, those six points might have been six thousand because Vancouver has only made the postseason once since 2014-15 and they did it under the umbrella of the 2020 Covid-19 season debacle. It’s a sad state of affairs when an NHL team faces the demise of its season before Christmas but Boudreau kept this team from sinking totally into the abyss. Now, the hard part starts. Bruce Boudreau cannot blame any other coach other than himself for whatever happens this year and the Canucks’ players can’t just strap on blame throwers and take each other out. Whether you sink or swim, you have to do so as a team and the Canucks need to find this out the hard way this season, The best teams figure it out and those are the franchises you still playing hockey well into May and even June when everyone else has headed out to the lakes or the golf course.
Bo Horvat – the captain as a leader or a distraction this season?
Bo Horvat enters his third season as the Canucks team captain and looks to expand his leadership role this season. The 2013 first round draft pick (ninth player picked overall) has spent his entire NHL career in Vancouver and looks to continue staying in Canada’s west coast for the conceivable future. What the term conceivable means, however, could be dampened by the fact that Horvat enters the 2022-23 postseason as an unrestricted free agent (UFA) and his long-term prospects in a Canucks uniform may in fact not be longer in term than next spring. Horvat enters the final year of his six year, $33 million dollar contract with the Canucks and the distractions surrounding his impending free agency are already sending ripple waves around Vancouver. Horvat is considered one of the rocks on the Canucks bench and the third line center provides the necessary veteran leadership this young team sorely needs entering the 2022-23 campaign.
Horvat has a career-high season in 2021-22 with 31 goals and 21 assists for 52 total points in 70 games played. Combined with first line center J.T. Miller, the Canucks are not lacking in offensive firepower from these teammates. Miiller, for his part, led the Canucks in all offensive production with 32 goals and 67 assists last year. Both Miller and Horvat were due to become UFA’s after this season but Miller chose to avoid the dark contract cloud over his playing time and entered training camp with a new seven year, $56 million dollar extension (with an annual average value of $8 million dollars.) Horvat, on the other hand, chose not to enter into any contract extension talks with the Canucks front office (sounds like an Aaron Judge-type move contractually) and decided to just play out the season and see what happens down the road.
Despite playing without a new contract or any type of extension, Horvat still plans on anchoring the Canucks’ third line with line mates Vasily Podkolzin and Conor Garland as the new season unfolds. Horvat finished off the 21-22 season prematurely with a broken leg; with rehab workouts early on this summer, Horvat at least in the preseason looks to be back with a clean bill of health. Vancouver seems inclined to keep Bo Horvat in on the Canucks’ bench after this season but is reluctant to rush contract talks now that the preseason is over and games are now “for real.” J.T. Miller’s contract extension probably gives the Canucks’ front office a bit more breathing room and the Horvat contract talks will probably begin in earnest as this season starts unfolding. As Darren Dreger reported: “The #Canucks are in no hurry to sign Bo Horvat . . .they’d like to keep Horvat . . .but it feels like there’s a concession required, it’s going to have to come from the player’s side.” For now, Bo Horvat has one important mission in his hockey career: help get the Vancouver Canucks into the playoffs this season. If he can accomplish that, a contract extension deal should follow keeping him in Vancouver possibly for years to come.