The End of an Era
A big page of the Canucks’ history was turned at the conclusion of last season when Daniel and Henrik Sedin retired. Now that they are gone, who will take the torch from them?
Yikes. The good news for the Canucks, the process (XGF, XGA, GSAA) was marginally better than the results (goals, goals against, save %). Vancouver might not be quite as bad as its record showed but they were still far from good.
What went right:
Brock Boeser came out firing in his rookie season. Despite missing 20 games, he still finished 2nd among rookies with 29 goals. He showed off in the All-Star game too, winning the accuracy skill competition and being crowned MVP of the 3-on-3 tourney. His accuracy seemingly rubbed off on the rest of his teammates, as Vancouver put 59.5% of their slot shots on net, good for 3rd in the NHL and just 0.1% shy of the league-leading Minnesota Wild. Their powerplay was also very effective, led by Bo Horvat and Boeser, who each recorded 10 powerplay goals, and Henrik Sedin, who completed more passes to the slot than anyone in the NHL on the man advantage.
What Went Wrong:
Unfortunately, Vancouver’s accuracy wasn’t enough to overcome a lack of volume and finishing. They generated the 2nd fewest scoring chances of any team and scored on only 4.4% of their shot attempts, ranking 21st in the league. Their defense wasn’t much better, allowing the 6th most goals and the 2nd most passes to the slot. A big part of those struggles was the absence of Christopher Tanev for nearly half the season. He ranked first on Vancouver’s blueline in puck battles won in his own zone, zone entry denial rate, and defensive zone blocked passes per-game.
Key Additions: Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, Tim Schaller
Key Departures: Daniel and Henrik Sedin (retired), Nic Dowd, Jussi Jokinen
Other Key moves: Re-signed Sven Baertschi, Markus Granlund, Troy Stecher, Jake Virtanen, PTO for Ben Betker
The Sedin Era in Vancouver is over. Drafted in 1999, Daniel and Henrik have been synonymous with the Canucks franchise ever since, owning numerous franchise records between them including games played, assists, points, and plus/minus for Henrik and goals, game-winning goals, and shots for Daniel. Even at 37-years old, they were playing at a high level. The next stop for them is likely to be Toronto, in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
As for the moves they made in free agency, they are questionable at best. Beagle and Roussel aren’t bad players per se, but giving a pair of bottom-six forwards a combined six million dollars a year over the next four years, each with a modified no-trade clause, doesn’t sound like a smart move. They also brought in former Boston fourth-liner Tim Schaller for nearly two million a year. If you’re keeping count, that’s nearly eight million dollars annually to three players who best project as fourth liners, not ideal. Considering how far this team has to go to be a contender, it’s kind of like painting one side of a barn while the other is on fire.
Next season preview
What could go right?
Next season is all about seeing who will pick up the torch from the Sedins as the new core of the Canucks. Brock Boeser will be looking to continue establishing himself as one of the most dangerous goal scorers in the NHL. Bo Horvat has shown a lot of promise and had a career-high in goals despite also losing games to injury. Rookies Elias Pettersson, Olli Juolevi, Adam Gaudette, and even 2018 first-rounder Quinn Hughes are all promising prospects. In net, Thatcher Demko will be looking to earn a roster spot after finishing with a .922 save percentage with the Utica Comets, 6th best in the AHL. If even just half of these players pan out, the Canucks will have a solid foundation to build on.
What could go wrong?
Vancouver will have a roster filled with inexperienced players, bottom-6 forwards and declining veterans next season. Even during their 37-year old seasons, the Sedins were still key players and will be missed. Henrik directed more passes to the slot per-20 (3.87) than any player in the league, the next closest was Nikita Kucherov at 2.81. Daniel, meanwhile, was 15th in deflected shots per-20. Their chemistry and offensive game will be missed for a team that finished 26th in goals with them in the lineup.