Canucks’ Trade Candidates if Losing Streak Continues

Last week was not kind to the Vancouver Canucks as they finished their first road trip of the season with only two of a possible 10 points and then lost both games on their brief two-game homestand 5-1 and 3-2 against the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes respectively. They now sit as the only team without a win on the season at 0-5-2 and are off to the worst start in franchise history having lost their first seven games.

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That begs the question, how long will president Jim Rutherford and general manager Patrik Allvin wait until they do something to shake up this team? Last season the Canucks also started slow, but by this time they already had three wins and were sitting with a decent record of 3-3-1. As everyone knows, that still eventually cost Travis Green, Nolan Baumgartner, Jim Benning, and John Weisbrod their jobs and triggered the hirings of Rutherford, Allvin, and Bruce Boudreau. While I don’t necessarily see them firing Boudreau, stranger things have happened, considering he wasn’t their choice from the beginning as owner Francesco Aquilini hired him before they were officially brought into the organization.

If a coaching change doesn’t happen, management might go the route of trading someone significant to address the Canucks’ very thin blue line. In fact, even if they do find a way to turn things around, Allvin and Rutherford should still be looking to strengthen a defence that featured Jack Rathbone and Kyle Burroughs as a second pairing against the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday (Oct. 24). With that, here are a couple of players that could see a ticket out of Vancouver sooner rather than later.

Conor Garland

This isn’t the first time Conor Garland‘s name has been mentioned in trade speculation. Last season, only a few months after signing a long-term deal with the Canucks, his name popped up as possible trade bait just before the trade deadline. At that time the Los Angeles Kings were said to have “serious interest” in the shifty forward, but of course, nothing came of it. Then the offseason came and the Kings, Toronto Maple Leafs, and New Jersey Devils were reported to have reached out again to Allvin and Rutherford to see if a deal could be struck. Again, no trade occurred.

Connor Garland Vancouver Canucks
Conor Garland, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Now Garland’s name is once again making the rounds after a healthy scratch found him sitting in the press box for the first time in his career. When asked about the decision, Boudreau said, “We have to be accountable with the way we play…I could have taken a lot of guys out, I chose him” (from ‘Conor Garland’s healthy scratch and why the Canucks need better from Quinn Hughes’, The Athletic, 10/19/22). Choosing Garland as the player was puzzling, to say the least as there were many others more deserving of that treatment like J.T. Miller and Tanner Pearson who both really haven’t had a complete game this season yet.

So, should we be looking into that healthy scratch as a sign that Boudreau doesn’t see Garland as a key part of the team? If that is the case, Allvin and Rutherford might look at trading him for a right-handed defenceman – or any NHL defenceman for that matter considering the injury situation the Canucks currently find themselves in.

Nils Hoglander

Nils Hoglander was the next forward to sit out as a healthy scratch and fans were not happy about it. All across Twitter, people were calling for Pearson or Dakota Joshua to take up a seat in the press box rather than the 5-foot-9 Swede. Again, like Garland, his performance didn’t warrant being left off the roster. Boudreau’s explanation for the choice was based on the Minnesota Wild’s overall size, not Hoglander’s play.

“We’ve got 13 forwards…This is a bigger, physical team and sometimes you make decisions on that,” Boudreau told reporters in Saint Paul. “I told Hoggy he’s playing pretty good. I really like the way he’s playing, and be ready to get back in a hurry. Sometimes you look at your opposition and you see what you need.”

While that may be true on paper, in my mind Hoglander gives the Canucks a better chance to win when he’s in the lineup. Sure, they haven’t won a game yet, but he hasn’t been the problem in any of the seven losses. He’s been good defensively and arguably one of the hardest working forwards out there shift-in and shift-out. To me, that type of player needs to be in the lineup regardless of the makeup of the opposing team.

Nils Hoglander Vancouver Canucks
Nils Hoglander, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Hoglander’s name has also been bandied about in trade rumors going back to the offseason based on his usage by Boudreau after he took over from Green. Boudreau also called him out in the media for his lack of defensive game and reduced his minutes to a career-low average of 11:31. This season, his ice time has gone up to a career-high 15:27, but he’s been a healthy scratch already even though he’s played well both offensively and defensively sporting a plus-1 plus/minus rating, and a 57.8 Corsi-for percentage (second amongst forwards). All in all, it doesn’t appear Boudreau is the biggest fan of Hoglander, which might lead to a trade if things continue to go south.

Canucks Might Have to Shake up the Roster if Losing Continues

Up to this point, Allvin and Rutherford have avoided shaking up the roster. Instead, they have added players like Ilya Mikheyev, Andrei Kuzmenko, Riley Stillman, Travis Dermott (who has yet to play this season), Dakota Joshua, and Curtis Lazar in an attempt to complement what they already have. Unfortunately, that plan has gone horribly wrong with the Canucks’ losing their first seven games of the season and being outscored 15-2 in third periods. Along with that, there’s been reportedly drama in the dressing room and a squad that doesn’t seem motivated to work hard when the going gets tough.

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While I don’t think the front office will rush into a desperate attempt at a quick fix or trade of a big name like Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, or even Miller, I do think some change is on the horizon. Whether it is yet another coaching change or a trade that brings in some help on the back end, this losing streak could lead to the first major move of Allvin’s tenure as GM. Will it be in the form of Hoglander or Garland being dealt? We will just have to wait and see.

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