Vancouver Canucks’ 3 New Year’s Resolutions for 2022

Since Bruce Boudreau took the reins from Travis Green on Dec. 5, the Vancouver Canucks are a sparkling 8-0-1. With a 2-1 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings as their only blemish, they are ready to make a run to the playoffs. After yet another win, this time to the Seattle Kraken on Jan. 1, they are also undefeated in 2022 albeit three days into the year.

The last month of 2021 saw a lot of changes as Boudreau took over behind the bench and Jim Rutherford took the reins in the front office as the team’s new president of hockey operations. Green, Nolan Baumgartner, Jim Benning, John Weisbrod, Chris Gear and Jonathan Wall were also relieved of their duties as a new culture began in earnest.

Related: Canucks Trending in the Right Direction Heading Into 2022

I’m sure 2022 will also see its share of changes as the front office takes shape. Derek Clancey, who previously worked with Rutherford in Pittsburgh, was the first of those changes as he was named assistant general manager (AGM) on Dec. 15. As COVID-19 continues to ravage the globe, it’s unclear when more hirings will happen.

In any case, it’s the start of a new year once again, and that means resolutions are in order. Let’s take a look at a few for the Canucks as they start 2022 with a new leadership group at the helm.

New General Manager Sooner Rather Than Later

As I mentioned in the opening of this article, the Canucks are still without a general manager (GM) after Benning was fired at the beginning of December. Since being hired as president of hockey ops on Dec. 9, Rutherford has taken the mantle of interim GM and is currently on the hunt for a permanent GM. Names like Patrik Allvin, Jason Botterill, Chris MacFarland, Mike Gillis, and Hayley Wickenheiser have all been bandied about in recent weeks as the search has progressed.

Rutherford reiterated what he said in his opening press conference in a recent interview on Sportsnet 650. He wants people in the front office that are diverse and not afraid to speak their minds.

“What I’m looking for, is having people that come up through the hockey system in different ways, and will probably have different viewpoints on certain things. It’s very important to have your hockey operations as one cohesive group, but you want different opinions, and you want them to debate. You want them to take a position on something that’s different from somebody else.” – Jim Rutherford

So, it’s really no surprise that women like Wickenheiser and Jennifer Botterill are being discussed as potential candidates for GM or AGM. After decades of the “old boys” club, Rutherford is looking to break the mould and craft a diverse group that will eventually lead this team to its first Stanley Cup. Hopefully, that process is completed sooner rather than later. Ideally, this new leadership group is in place way before the trade deadline so that they can make the right decision for the future of this franchise.

Hold Onto First Round Picks & Try To Acquire More

That brings me to the Canucks next resolution, holding onto their first-round picks in 2022 and 2023 and hopefully acquiring more. They have not had one since they drafted Vasily Podkolzin in 2019 and are now treading water when it comes to top talent in their prospect pipeline. As much as we love Danila Klimovich and Aidan McDonough, they are not blue-chip talents destined for top-line roles in the NHL.

Vancouver Canucks Vasily Podkolzin, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Juho Lammikko celebrate
Vancouver Canucks Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Juho Lammikko celebrate Vasily Podkolzin’s first NHL goal (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

That means, the Canucks have to make a selection in the first round in both 2022 AND 2023. These next two drafts are going to be chock full of elite talent in the opening rounds and they need to be part of those festivities. Fortunately, Rutherford is saying all the right things when it comes to that part of the trading game.

“…with the trades that we make going forward, if we make trades, it’d be for draft picks, it’ll be for younger players, so we can bring this team together hopefully within a year or two, to be that consistent playoff team.”

If that’s Rutherford’s goal, then Canucks fans should have nothing to worry about. Though, as we all know, words are just that, words. We won’t know for sure until that first trade is made to find out if those words ultimately transform into action.

More Production From Elias Pettersson

The best thing that could come from 2022 is a return to form for Elias Pettersson. The man that was the Canucks’ star attraction in 2018 has become anything but so far in 2021-22. He has looked better since the coaching change, but he still does not look like the player that terrorized the opposition in 2018-19 and 2019-20 when he put up 55 goals and 132 points in 139 games. Dare I said it, but he looks more like Loui Eriksson. That might be a little harsh, but until he starts showing everyone more of the player that we saw in his rookie season, that comparison might rear its ugly head more often.

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Canucks need this Elias Pettersson in 2022

Pettersson certainly has the skill and hockey IQ to bust out of this slump, so fans shouldn’t give up on him just yet. He’s playing with two skilled players in Podkolzin and Conor Garland, and it’s only a matter of time before that line busts out offensively and puts up Sedin or West Coast Express-like numbers. All he has to do is be confident in his abilities and start shooting the puck whenever the opportunity presents itself. The goals and points will come in time if he does that more consistently. He’s just too good of a player to let this offensive drought continue much longer.

Could the Canucks Repeat What the 2018-19 Blues Did?

If the Canucks continue to play the same aggressive, in-your-face hockey that has become their identity over the last nine games, they will make the playoffs and be a tough out for any team facing them. With Thatcher Demko’s Vezina Trophy numbers over the past month and Quinn Hughes‘ Norris Trophy-like season so far, they could be the 2021-22 version of the 2018-2019 St. Louis Blues. They rode a hot goaltender and a new coach’s system on a meteoric rise from the basement all the way to the Stanley Cup Final where they knocked off the Boston Bruins to win the Stanley Cup. This team has a lot of the same vibes as they have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and are now contending for the playoffs. Just one month ago, that seemed like an impossible feat.

St. Louis Blues Stanley Cup
Can the Canucks repeat the Blues’ feat of climbing up from the basement to the summit of the Stanley Cup? (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Canucks have the roster to be a playoff team, and with the right strategic moves from Rutherford and their yet-to-be-named GM, they could become a Stanley Cup contender as well. What once was a team covered in dark clouds has become one seeped in hope and anticipation. Let’s hope it continues for the rest of 2022 and beyond.

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