Frustration has been building in the Vancouver market for years as fans have watched the Canucks go from back-to-back President’s Trophy champions to the laughingstock of the league. There is a large contingent of Canucks fans that are deeply passionate and engaged with the organization and as the team has fallen down the standings, they’ve stayed loyal.
That’s not to say that they haven’t made their displeasure heard. There’s been jerseys thrown on the ice, crowd-funded banners flown over the downtown core, and organized social media movements to get the voice of the fanbase amplified.
The unfortunate part is that the Canucks, as they stand right now and over the past decade, haven’t been operating like an organization that cares about these passionate fans. Instead, the moves from top to bottom have been made to appeal to the casual fanbase, resulting in the mess they have now.
This isn’t to say that management needs to be listening to Canucks Twitter and making personnel decisions based on their advice. Far from it. But the continued short-sighted nature of many decisions made to get casual fans interested has left them far from the team that was setting the gold standard in the NHL just over a decade ago.
What is the Canucks’ ultimate goal?
There should only ever be one goal for every NHL team and that is to win the Stanley Cup. That hasn’t always felt like the case for the Canucks in recent history.
A great example is the recent Andrei Kuzmenko extension. In a nutshell, it’s a fine contract for a player that has shown chemistry with the team’s biggest star. However, committing significant money to yet another winger doesn’t help the Canucks improve very much.
The Canucks are not built to win a Stanley Cup in the next two seasons and while Kuzmenko might help keep them out of the basement, he’s not going to be the deciding factor for any playoff runs. Missing out on the chance to earn some picks or dump some salary in a trade is disappointing considering the current state of the team.
But Kuzmenko’s extension does give casual fans something to look forward to as he plays an exciting brand of hockey and is quickly becoming a fan favourite.
A similar story could be said about the J.T. Miller extension last season. Patrik Allvin and Jim Rutherford arrived in Vancouver promising change and a new beginning, but all they’ve delivered is a continuation of handing out boatloads of money in an attempt to push this bottom-dwelling team to a first-round playoff exit.
Playoff pushes and 6-5 losses
The Canucks have consistently kept this short-term outlook throughout the past ten years and it’s continued to burn them at every opportunity. There is a long list of moves that have been made to push the team into the playoffs, the most glaringly obvious one being the trade with the Arizona Coyotes.
The entire structure of the roster at the moment is made to appeal to casual fans. The Canucks are rich in wingers, the least valuable asset leaguewide. Oliver Bjorkstrand, a scoring winger coming off a 28-goal season with three 20+ goal seasons to his name, was traded last offseason for a third and a fourth round pick.
There is little market for these players that the Canucks keep signing, especially at their bloated cap values. Brock Boeser, Conor Garland, Tanner Pearson, and JT Miller are all wingers that the team has signed and now would likely love to get out of their contracts. The team even spent its top draft pick last offseason on another scoring winger.
There hasn’t been enough capital allocation, whether that be draft picks or salary cap dollars, to centres and defencemen. This is why the Canucks couldn’t hold onto a lead to start the season and why they struggle to win games despite scoring plenty of goals. It’s an exciting brand of hockey that will at least make casual fans happy even if it doesn’t lead to much in the standings.
As time goes on, the voice of the fanbase is getting louder. It’s time for the organization to accept reality and start to make moves that might scare off some of the casual fans. At the end of the day, when those moves pay off, it’ll be better for everyone involved with the Vancouver Canucks.
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