After retooling their defence with Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Tucker Poolman and adding Conor Garland and Jason Dickinson to their offence, the Vancouver Canucks were supposed to be an improved team this season. Except, they are not. Far from it, in fact. Now 16 games into the 2021-22 season, they hold a record of 5-9-2 and have allowed 19 goals over the last three games. Their penalty kill is a league-worst 62.3 percent, their power play is 25th and they are in the bottom half of the NHL in goals for and against.
All this has led to speculation that head coach Travis Green and general manager Jim Benning’s heads might be on the chopping block. With the Canucks desperately trying to win back a fan base that has seemingly become apathetic to their team’s success and failure, something has to be done to right the ship. After three games where they have looked utterly lost in almost every aspect of the game, Green will probably be the first to go. If that ultimately happens, veteran coaches Bruce Boudreau and Dan Bylsma should be two of the first names on their list of potential replacements.
Since he was named head coach of the Washington Capitals back in 2008, Bruce Boudreau has been one of the most successful bench bosses in the NHL. He’s coached superstars like Alexander Ovechkin, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Zach Parise, and many others and his team’s records have been winning ones more often than not. He has 567 wins and a Jack Adams Award on his resume and has only missed the playoffs twice in parts of 13 seasons.
Known for coaching a system that caters to offensively-minded players, Boudreau’s teams usually have no problems scoring goals. Up-tempo hockey and an aggressive forecheck are also two of his primary M.O.’s. Two things the Canucks have not employed in a very long time.
On paper, the Canucks should be a team that thrives on speed and scoring off the rush. This season, they have been anything but. For the most part, they have looked slow and unable to sustain pressure in the offensive zone. Last game against the Anaheim Ducks, they went through a couple of stretches where they couldn’t generate a shot on a goal for over seven minutes. Boudreau’s system should remedy that and play to the strengths of Elias Pettersson, Conor Garland, Quinn Hughes, and Nils Hoglander, who all have speed and creativity in their arsenals.
Dan Bylsma hasn’t been a head coach in the NHL since the 2016-17 season when he was coaching the disaster that was the Buffalo Sabres. Before that, he was one of the best coaches in the league with the Pittsburgh Penguins where he won a Stanley Cup, accumulated a record of 252-117-32, and never once missed the playoffs. Like Boudreau, he coaches an offensively-minded system that is based on speed and skill.
Bylsma’s strengths are intelligence, he’s very personable, and he has a great system when it’s on. He is very perceptive, a student of the game and all those clichés and will improve any team’s structure. He’s a proven winner and a really good coach that has gotten more out of teams then he should have in the regular season.Jim Rixner, Pensburgh manager
Currently, an assistant coach with the American Hockey League’s Charlotte Checkers, Bylsma has experience bringing up young players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang and seems to know how to pick up the pieces from a disaster. When the Penguins were struggling for wins at the end of the 2008-09 season, he went on an 18-3-4 run as an interim head coach and eventually won a championship as the youngest coach in the NHL.
After that, Bylsma strung together three straight seasons of 40 or more wins and two seasons with 51 wins. The Penguins were also one of the top offensive teams in all five seasons he was behind the bench. Like Alain Vigneault, he was fired for his lack of success in the playoffs, not the regular season as he failed to make it past the Conference Final in the five seasons after winning the Cup in 2009.
Canucks Need a New Voice With a New System
Boudreau and Bylsma’s system of high-octane offence is perfectly suited to the Canucks’ roster right now. They need structure and most of all, a system that plays to the strengths of their top players.
Boudreau and Bylsma’s history with stars like Crosby, Malkin, and Ovechkin and elite puck-moving defencemen like Kris Letang and Mike Green, they should be able to get the most out of Pettersson, Hughes, and Brock Boeser. At least, in theory, that is. If nothing else, their system should generate a bit more excitement and entertainment for the fans watching the games. In the end, that’s what hockey is all about, right?
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Matthew Zator is the assistant managing editor at THW and a writer who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.
Matthew also co-hosts The Hockey Writers Prospect Corner on YouTube.