The Vancouver Canucks face quite a few changes heading into the 2020-21 NHL season. These changes include those on their roster and to their division. The Canucks will be in the North Division, which means they will face off against the other Canadian teams during the 56-game season.
The Canucks had an impressive run in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, which means the club will have higher expectations next season. Canucks fans hope Santa can help them with a few things on their Christmas wish list to meet those expectations.
Wish #1: Wins Against the Jets
The Canucks will play the Winnipeg Jets 9-10 times next season. The Canucks have not fared well against the Jets, as they have dropped the last 10 games against them. For the organization to be successful this season, they’ll need to be better against the one team they’ve struggled to beat.
It is critical for the Canucks to pick up wins over the Jets since four teams from each division will make the playoffs. Missing the playoffs next season is unacceptable since the Canucks showed they are a playoff team.
Wish #2: Great Goaltending
Jacob Markstrom was undoubtedly Vancouver’s MVP last season. However, the Canucks will need Thatcher Demko and Braden Holtby to step up since Markstrom is now on the Calgary Flames. The two will split starts in net for the club next season.
Demko impressed in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs, as he replaced the Swedish goaltender, who was unfit to play. The 25-year-old made 123 saves while allowing two goals in three games against the Vegas Golden Knights. The Canucks signed Holtby for two seasons with an average annual value of $4.3 million. The former Vezina Trophy winner is coming off his worst season, based on his save percentage of .897.
The Canucks will need Demko and Holtby to be at their best throughout next season. If the two can perform as well as Markstrom did last season, the Canucks will be well off.
Wish #3: Improved Defence
The Canucks’ blueline will look a lot different in the 2020-21 season. The club lost Chris Tanev and Troy Stecher but added Nate Schmidt. Outside of Quinn Hughes, the team’s D-core was not the best at transitioning up the ice with the puck. Schmidt improves the Canucks’ top four as he adds mobility to the group.
Schmidt replaces Tanev on the right side, but Stecher still leaves a hole on defence. The Canucks have a few young prospects who can fill in for Stecher. Olli Juolevi, Brogan Rafferty, Jalen Chatfield and Jack Rathbone will have a chance to replace the former Canuck, and one of the young defenders will also have an opportunity to improve the defence from last season.
Wish #4: Help From the Bottom Six
The Canucks’ bottom-six was the club’s weakness last season and in the playoffs. Brandon Sutter, Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel have a combined cap hit of $10.375 million and struggled to provide the team with depth scoring. Their struggles were evident in the playoffs, as the trio scored four goals in 17 games.
The Canucks do have a few options to change up the bottom six next season. Jayce Hawryluk, who the team added through free agency, provides grit and tenacity and has offensive potential. They also have their 2019 second-round pick, Nils Hoglander, who has an opportunity to make the team out of training camp.
Wish #5: Repeat Postseason Performance
The Canucks surprised a lot of people with their performance in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. They beat the Minnesota Wild in four games in the play-in round and defeated the defending Stanley Cup champions, the St. Louis Blues, in six games. They forced a Game 7 against the Golden Knights after being down 3-1 in the second-round series.
The team has set high expectations for the 2020-21 season after their performance in the playoffs. They should be one of the best teams in the North Division. The Canucks may not finish in first but should be a lock for a playoff appearance.
The 2020-21 Season Should Be Interesting
The Canucks will look a little different in the 2020-21 season, and it will be interesting to see if the changes made will improve the team. The new division will create new rivalries across Canada. Canucks fans will now see their team face-off against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators more than twice this season.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.