Over the course of an 82-game season, there are bound to be ups and downs. Some teams like the Carolina Hurricanes or Colorado Avalanche have more success than failure and others like the Arizona Coyotes and Montreal Canadiens experience the other side of the spectrum. The Vancouver Canucks fall somewhere in the middle, as they have seen both sides of the coin in 2021-22.
So, in the spirit of the rollercoaster that has been the 2021-22 season, we are going to highlight the ups and downs for the Canucks on a weekly basis. What headlines have Canuck Nation ready to beat the drum of the playoffs and which ones have them looking forward to yet another Draft Lottery. With that, here is the latest edition of Canucks’ three up and three down.
Plus One: Travis Hamonic Trade & Adding Travis Dermott, Brad Richardson
After all the rumors about Conor Garland, J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser potentially moving at the trade deadline on Monday, all that happened was Tyler Motte being traded to the New York Rangers for a 2023 fourth-round pick. The only other transaction they made was picking up gritty veteran Brad Richardson off waivers from the Calgary Flames to fill Motte’s role on the fourth line.
Richardson returns to the Canucks after spending parts of seven seasons with the Arizona Coyotes, Nashville Predators and Calgary Flames. He was last seen with the Orca on his chest in a game against the Flames on Apr. 25, 2015 when they were eliminated in Game 5 of the opening round of the 2015 Playoffs. Daniel and Henrik Sedin were still the focal points of the team and Bo Horvat was a 19-year-old rookie. Now, the Sedins have since retired and joined the Canucks front office and Horvat is a 26-year-old captain with 561 NHL games under his belt. That’s how long Richardson has been away from Vancouver.
Patrik Allvin’s biggest moves, however, were made the day before the deadline when he acquired 25-year-old defenceman Travis Dermott from the Toronto Maple Leafs and shed salary by dealing Travis Hamonic‘s $3.5 million average annual value (AAV) contract to the Ottawa Senators. In the end, he gained $1.5 million of cap space and a young blueliner, all for the price of a third-round pick. He also gained an asset for a player that was likely going to be too pricey to re-sign in the offseason in Motte. Not too shabby for his first deals as GM of the Canucks. They weren’t flashy by any means, but they got things started for what promises to be an interesting offseason in Vancouver.
Minus One: Capping Off Key Homestand with Losses to Red Wings, Flames & Sabres
Last week, the Canucks were firmly entrenched in the playoff race. This week, not so much. Now four points back of the final wild card spot with 18 games to play and the Dallas Stars with games in hand, the future doesn’t look bright when it comes to the postseason. After a massive seven-game homestand that only yielded five of a possible 14 points, they are reeling and looking for answers yet again.
Slow starts continue to plague Bruce Boudreau’s team as they allowed the first goal in all but one of the seven games (that being against the New Jersey Devils where they won 6-3). They were also outscored 10-3 in the first period as they chased games from the outset. They did end up outscoring their opponents 11-3 in the third period, but more often than not, that outburst was too little too late as they dropped five of the seven games.
Plus Two: Miller Hits Career Highs in Goals & Points
With another five points since our last three up and three down, J.T. Miller now has a new career-high in points. After 73 in his first season with the Canucks, he now has 75 (25 goals, 50 assists) and is projected to hit 97 points, which would be the highest since Daniel Sedin hit 104 in 2010-11. He couldn’t keep his 13-game point streak going this past week, as Alex Nedeljkovic stopped it in its tracks with his 1-0 shutout on Thursday.
Fortunately for the Canucks, Miller’s point drought only lasted two games, as he returned to the scoresheet in a big way against the Sabres with another two points (1 goal, 1 assist). He couldn’t be the hero again though, as they fell 3-2 after Rasmus Dahlin buried the game-winner 48 seconds into overtime.
Minus Two: Trading Motte For Only a Fourth-Round Pick
After failing to negotiate an extension with the spark plug known as Motte, the Canucks decided to deal him to the Rangers instead of risking losing him in the offseason for nothing. It was disappointing that the move resulted in only a fourth-round pick coming back in return though. With how many premium assets were flying around at the deadline this year, it would have been nice for the Canucks to cash in for once.
Motte isn’t Brandon Hagel, but he’s got to be worth more than just a late-round pick. Yes, he’s a fourth-liner and yes, he is essentially a rental, but couldn’t have Allvin squeezed a mid-range prospect out of the Rangers along with the pick? All in all, the return wasn’t exactly what I thought the Canucks should have received for what I believe is one of the best bottom-six forwards in the NHL.
Plus Three: Hughes Joins Elite Company With His Second-Career 50-Point Seaosn
While Quinn Hughes has yet to hit a new career-high, he is approaching it mighty fast. With an assist in the 5-2 loss to the Flames, he hit 50 points for the second time in his career and then inched three points closer to a new milestone with another assist in the 3-2 overtime loss to the Sabres. Only Christian Ehrhoff (2010-11) has tallied 50 for the Canucks in the past decade, and Hughes has done it twice in three seasons already. He joins Jyrki Lumme (1993-94, 1995-96), Paul Reinhart (1988-89, 1989-90) and Dennis Kearns (1975-76, 1976-77) in the prestigious two-timers club.
Hughes now has 51 points (5 goals, 46 assists) on the season and is on pace to record 67 points. If he hits that number, he would pass Doug Lidster for the most points by a defenceman in franchise history. Lidster accomplished that feat way back in the 1986-87 season. Talk about a spectacular season for a player who has yet to turn 23 years old.
Minus Three: Defence Hanging Demko Out To Dry
His team hasn’t done him any favours, but Thatcher Demko hasn’t been his usual stingy self lately. He’s allowed three or more goals seven times in his last ten and holds an uncharacteristic .907 save percentage (SV%) over that same span. Not horrible by any means, but not good either. Though, to be fair, he has started a career-high 50 games, so fatigue could be a factor in his performance right now.
Having said all that, the Canucks’ slow starts and spotty defensive zone coverage are also a reason why his stats have taken a nosedive recently. In the last ten games alone, Demko has faced a total of 67 high-danger shots and allowed 10 high-danger goals. As a team, they have allowed 21 goals, so a little less than half of them were what the advanced analytics crowd calls “high-danger”. So, they haven’t exactly made it easy on him in the crease lately.
Demko is still making highlight-reel saves and holding his team in games regardless of the swiss cheese defence and lacklustre effort they are providing in front of him. The Canucks need to start helping their MVP out once in a while or the playoffs will become a pipedream (if they aren’t already). You can only rely on your goaltender so long before the high-danger scoring chances start going in. He can’t stop everything all the time, even though he’s shown that he’s capable of it sometimes. In the end, he should be allowed to be “ordinary” sometimes. With how amazing he’s been this season, his team owes him at least that much.
That does it for the latest edition of Canucks’ three up and three down. The 2021-22 season has been a roller coaster ride thus far, and as such, we’ll continue to bring you all the ups and downs that surround the Canucks moving forward.
Will we be talking about a new career-high for Hughes? How about wins against the powerhouse Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild? Stay tuned as we at The Hockey Writers continue to bring you all the latest from Rogers Arena and beyond.
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout 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.