The start to the 2021-22 season has been a bit of a mixed bag for the Vancouver Canucks. On the positive side, the franchise managed to sign their two big restricted free agents before the season kicked off, meaning that they were able to put the best team possible on the ice from day one.
Also on the positive side is the hot start to the season a few players are experiencing. J.T. Miller has regained his 2019-20 form, as he currently leads the team with five points. Also, Connor Garland, who was acquired in the offseason as part of the massive Oliver Ekman-Larsson trade and was promptly extended, has been fitting in with the team nicely, posting four points.
Despite these positives, however, the Canucks have also been facing their fair share of struggles. They have posted a 1-2-1 record through their first four games, which is below what they should have been expected, especially after playing teams like the Detroit Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres that were thought to be towards the bottom of the Atlantic Division.
After losing 5-2 to the Sabres, the Canucks’ captain Bo Horvat said that their play, simply, wasn’t good enough.
“It’s unacceptable. We realized we can’t be playing like that and expect to win” Horvat said. “I’m happy we get to play tomorrow and get to redeem ourselves. It will be a good test for us and we have to come ready to play.”
Canucks Can’t Let a Slow Start Derail Their 2021-22 Season
For the Canucks, starting out the season 1-2-1 should be considered unacceptable, especially considering the level of talent the franchise features. On paper, the team should have easily dispatched the Sabres and Red Wings, yet they came up short in both games.
However, this doesn’t mean that it is time for Vancouver to panic. Since they play in the relatively weak Pacific Division, a slow start to the season won’t doom them as long as they can get back on track and pull a positive record out of their next ten games.
If they can’t do this and continue to struggle, though, it may cause change within the organization. As said by Adam Kierszenblat of THW:
If Vancouver wants to make the playoffs, they need to beat teams that are lower than them in the standings… If not, the temperature in Vancouver will only continue to rise and it could lead to some personnel moves within the front office and coaching staff.
For the Canucks, the near future should be positive, as their next two games are against teams that they should beat. If they can rattle off a few victories and get a winning streak going, they may be able to build on that momentum and firmly entrench themselves in the playoff hunt.
With this in mind, though, Vancouver should be in contention for the Pacific Division title given the names on their roster, not being happy to sneak into the postseason as the third-seed. The team features far too much talent (and payroll) to be just good enough on the ice.
So, while it is far too early to start thinking about the Canucks firing their coach midseason or making big shifts in their current front office, it’s not impossible that these moves could happen if Vancouver continues to fall flat against teams they should beat. Winning would solve this situation, of course, so the next 10-games will be fascinating to watch for the franchise.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.