Dear Santa: Vancouver Canucks Wish List for 2023

The start of the 2022-23 season for the Vancouver Canucks has gone off the rails just 31 games in. They are one of the worst defensive teams in the league and recently set an NHL record for the most 5-1 home losses in a season with five. The saddest part about that record is that Vancouver has only played 15 home games this season. While their wish list for Santa is undoubtedly massive, here are four that may make the list.

2023 Draft Lottery Luck

What Vancouver could really use is a generational prospect who is from the area and grew up a fan of the organization. Luckily, this year’s draft has just that prospect, as Connor Bedard is slated to go number one in the 2023 NHL Draft. Winning the draft lottery and getting to select the best prospect to ever come out of the Western Hockey League (WHL) would be a dream come true for most fans, especially considering the Canucks as a franchise are one of nine teams to have never gotten the opportunity to pick first at the NHL Draft.

Connor Bedard, Regina Pats
Connor Bedard, Regina Pats (Photo Credit: Keith Hershmiller)

The issue is that the Canucks are too good of a team to finish last overall and get the best odds in the lottery. Even if they did trade away their entire roster and tank, they could still lose the draft lottery, just like the Buffalo Sabres did famously in 2015. While it is very possible the only time fans in Vancouver will see Bedard in a Canucks jersey is in an EA Sports video game, it is fun to imagine what it would be like for the ping-pong balls to fall just right and the Canucks’ draft curse to finally be lifted.

Add Picks & Prospects at NHL Trade Deadline

While selecting high in the draft is great, what the Canucks really need is volume at this point to improve their prospect pool. Currently, they only have six picks for the upcoming 2023 Draft and are also down a second for the 2024 Draft. Vancouver needs to find a way to move out players and get back picks and/or prospects in order to build up a prospect pool that most have ranked near the bottom of the league.

Related: Canucks Could Trade 4 Major Players Before 2023 Trade Deadline

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What the Canucks have failed to understand over the past decade is that the more picks you accumulate, the better chances you have at hitting on a late-round prospect. For example, look at the New Jersey Devils. During the 2016 Draft, they ended up with nine selections overall, with seven of those picks coming in the third round or later. Of the nine total picks, only two have failed to play an NHL game, with sixth-round pick Jesper Bratt becoming the steal of the draft. Using players like Bo Horvat, Conor Garland, Brock Boeser, and Kyle Burroughs as trade pieces, the Canucks should aim to add at least four picks before the upcoming draft.

A Compliance Buyout From the NHL

In the summer of 2013 and 2014, the NHL and NHLPA allowed teams to use one compliance buyout per year to ease some salary cap restraints. This was the league realizing organizations made some mistakes when signing some of their stars and gave them a fresh start with the entire salary coming off the books as long as they paid the player two-thirds of the remaining contract. Some players who received buyouts included Rick DiPietro, Christian Ehrhoff, Scott Gomez, Ilya Bryzgalov, and Vincent Lecavalier. Vancouver took full advantage of this option as they used their two buyouts on Keith Ballard and David Booth, who both struggled after coming over from the Florida Panthers. This concept could once again help the Canucks as they have a few contracts the organization would not mind parting with if there were no salary cap implications.

If the NHL and NHLPA did allow each team one compliance buyout, it would be hard to imagine the Canucks spending it on anyone but Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The 31-year-old defenceman carries a cap hit of $7.26 million until the 2027-28 season and is virtually unmovable not just because of his play but also his no-move clause. With so many holes in this roster and Vancouver struggling to find cap space, getting him completely off the books with no future ramifications would be a miracle for this organization.

Learn How to Kill a Penalty

After last season’s horrific penalty kill, the general thought was there is no way it could get worse. Well, 31 games into the season, that theory has been proven wrong as, somehow, the Canucks are worse on the penalty kill this season. They have only had eight games where they have not given up a power play goal and currently sit last in the NHL with a 67 percent penalty kill rate. The penalty kill has cost them multiple times this season and is one of many frustrating issues surrounding this team.

Related: Canucks News & Rumors: Horvat, Schenn, Lekkerimaki & More

Whether it is player deployment or general scheme, the Canucks need to figure out what is wrong with the penalty kill. This is easier said than done, but they are too talented to be this bad when down a skater. Another layer of frustration is they don’t even take that many penalties, as they rank 27th with 94 times shorthanded this season. This is an organization that, from 2010-11 to 2020-21, had the seventh-ranked penalty kill across the league. As for the last two seasons, they rank 32nd. Hopefully, in 2023, things will change, and Vancouver can learn how to kill penalties on a consistent basis.

Canucks Expect Big Changes in 2023

In the end, the most important wish surrounding the Canucks is from fans who wish they would give in and do a proper rebuild. Even if Vancouver goes on a run to start 2023, there are fundamental issues with this franchise that need to be resolved before they can be considered Stanley Cup contenders. Ownership may be wishing for playoff revenue next year, but that may be one wish not even Santa Claus can grant.

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