In the Summer of 2021, Jim Benning made multiple moves in his last offseason with the Vancouver Canucks. The highlight of Benning’s final offseason is the trade he made with the Arizona Coyotes for Conor Garland and Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
The former general manager (GM) also traded for Jason Dickinson from the Dallas Stars, and signed Tucker Poolman and Alex Chaisson. Additionally, Vasiliy Podkolzin arrived two seasons after being drafted, and the club also traded for Spencer Martin.
After 46 games, the Canucks have a 20-20-6 record. The former GM made moves to give his club a shot at the playoffs. The team held a 9-15-2 record under Benning before the president of hockey operations, Jim Rutherford, and new GM Patrik Allvin took over. Since Benning’s firing, the Canucks have held a 12-5-4 record. Here is how the team’s 2021 offseason additions have done halfway through the 2021-22 season.
Garland signed a five-year, $24.750 million contract after being traded to Vancouver. He was expected to be a top-six forward for the club upon his arrival while putting together a career season statistically. So far, Garland has scored 10 goals, three of which were game-winners, and posted 24 points in 41 games while averaging 16:19 time on ice.
The forward got off to a great start to the 2021-22 season but has cooled off as of late. Garland’s electric start has made him a fan favourite as he was able to show off his skill and competitiveness.
Although Garland has emerged as a fan favourite, the forward has been involved in trade rumors recently. The 25-year-old could have a short tenure in Vancouver despite looking like a promising player for the Cancuks.
Ekman-Larsson joined the Canucks as an 11-year veteran. The club expected him to provide the team with a two-way presence and play top-four minutes.
So far this season, Ekman-Larsson has been great in the defensive end and has been a stabilizer for Tyler Myers. Midway through January, only two players with at least 200 minutes had been on for a lower rate of goals against than Ekman-Larsson.
On the offensive side, Ekman-Larsson has been disappointing. Throughout 43 games, he’s scored three goals and posted nine points. The 30-year-old defenceman has seen a dip in his production over the past few seasons, posting 24 points in 46 games last season and posting 30 points in 66 games in the 2019-20 season. His drop this season could be due to him not playing on the first power-play unit, but six points at even strength are still not what is expected out of the two-time All-Star.
Podkolzin made his much-anticipated debut this season. The Russian rookie was expected to take his time adjusting to the NHL.
So far this season, he’s scored seven goals and posted 10 points in 43 games. All seven of his goals have come at even strength. Nonetheless, Podkolzin has had an up and down season so far. Recently, he was healthy scratched by head coach Bruce Boudreau. Boudreau noted the forward needed to take a step back and maybe see things differently as he tries to do too much.
Podkolzin should finish off the season strong under Boudreau’s guidance. He’s set to have a promising career once he puts everything together.
The Canucks added Dickinson as a shutdown third-line centre to help out on the penalty kill (PK). Dickinson hasn’t been anything near what the organization expected. First, he’s spent most of the season playing on the wing. Second, the team’s PK ranks last in the league at 69.9 percent. Additionally, he’s been non-existent on the offensive end. He’s scored three goals and posted six points in 43 games.
The Canucks signed Poolman to a four-year deal with an average annual value of $2.5 million. At the time of the deal, many wondered if he was worth it. The defenceman was expected to play in the club’s top four d lines. Instead, he has been beaten out by Myers and Luke Schenn, and has been playing on the bottom pairing.
The contract is still questionable, as the Canucks have locked up a bottom pairing defender for three more seasons. Additionally, when the Canucks are fully healthy, it is questionable if Poolman gets a spot in the lineup over someone like Travis Hamonic.
Chaisson signed with the Canucks after signing a professional tryout contract with the club. He was brought on as a cheap depth forward who could help out on the power play. Chaisson had done exactly that, as he’s scored five goals and nine points in 37 games. Four of his five goals have come on the power play.
Not much was expected from Martin this season. The Canucks acquired the goalie from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for future considerations.
Martin got his NHL opportunity after Thatcher Demko and Jaroslav Halak were sidelined due to COVID. He played in three games, posting a 1-0-2 record, a .958 save percentage and a 1.59 goals-against average. The Canucks have unexpectedly found another goalie who could be a backup for them soon and opens a window for a potential Halak trade.
Underwhelming Half Season from Newcomers
Other than Martin in his three games, none of the newcomers have been exceptional. Garland started out playing impressive hockey but has slowed down, while Ekman-Larsson has been great defensively but non-existent on offence. Rookie Podkolzin has played to expectations, slowly learning the NHL game. Meanwhile, Poolman and Dickinson haven’t been great and have contracts Rutherford could attempt to move. Lastly, Chaisson has been great on the power play but is not noticeable anywhere else, as expected.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.