It is difficult to find any positives for the Canucks. Perhaps, the only positive is that their latest road trip was not longer than three games.
Vancouver’s penalty-killing continues to be a detriment
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
Eating lots of beans produces flatulence and the smell is not very appealing. That is equivalent to how the Vancouver Canucks have been playing lately.
The Vancouver Canucks started the season with optimism. However, at the time of writing, their record is 5-10-2. Lately, the team is struggling to stay afloat in the Western Conference standings. If Vancouver does not find a way out of their current slump, they will be out of the playoffs before January, as the general public starts getting the COVID-19 booster shot.
Adam Proteau, a writer for The Hockey News, states it is not just the players who should be held accountable; he believes Canucks GM, Jim Benning, deserves the majority of the criticism: “Now is not the time for another letter-to-season-ticket-holders from Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini. Now is not the time for more patience. Now is the time for change. And as always, organizational change often should start with the GM. Benning has had the job for more than seven years, and the Canucks have missed the playoffs in five of their past six seasons. That’s enough time for him. Vancouver needs a new vision, not a revision.”
Ben Kuzma, a writer for The Province, provides his analysis for the Canucks’ current woes: “Does owner Francesco Aquilini, buoyed by off-season acquisitions to trumpet his club as a playoff contender, suddenly jettison head coach Travis Green? Does he point the finger of blame at general manager Jim Benning for roster construction? Or does he wait to see what the Canucks generate on a three-game homestand with Travis Hamonic and Tucker Poolman returning to bolster a bleeding back end?”
The Canucks are indeed a fragile team. The team was not playing with confidence even before they lost all three games on their recent road trip to Colorado, Vegas and Anaheim. The loss to Colorado on November 11 by a score of seven to one was particularly alarming. The Canucks showed no pushback and their competitive drive was lacking.
In their next game, Vancouver played better against the Vegas Golden Knights but lost again by a score of seven to four. Then on November 14, the Canucks lost to Anaheim by a score of five to one. Vancouver did open the scoring on a goal by Nils Höglander (fifth of the season), whose play has been a lone bright spot.
Sportsnet posted on Twitter after the latest Canucks’ defeat, “The Vancouver Canucks are coming home with major problems after a 5-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. The reeling Canucks were outscored 19-6 on their three-game road swing.”
Canucks coach, Travis Green, said after the game against Anaheim that he still believes in his team. “I feel confident our team will pull out of this,” he said as reported by Sportsnet. “I think our penalty kill is going to have to help get us going. I think it will come around. I know our power player will score. I know we have some players that will produce (because) they’ve produced before. I know getting some of our defencemen back will also help our game. Things haven’t gone the way we’ve wanted to, but I will say that I’m confident that our team will turn it around.”
But throughout the scrutiny by fans and media surrounding his team’s poor play, Green has maintained his sense of humour. During his media press conference on November 16, Green was asked by Ben Kuzma: “Travis, are you good at just shutting out all the noise, everything that’s surrounding the hockey club?” Green quipped, “Not you, sometimes.”
Vancouver lost again to the Colorado Avalanche at Rogers Arena on November 17 by a score of four to two. The Canucks have now lost five straight, gaining only two wins in their last 10 games. It is difficult to find any positives for the Canucks. Perhaps, the only positive is that their latest road trip was not longer than three games.
The penalty killing is still problematic for Vancouver as it still ranks last in the NHL. Brandon Sutter is a key penalty killer, who is still injured. Sportsnet Stats posted on Twitter how poor the Canucks’ penalty killing has been: “Canucks 19 PP goals allowed are their 2nd most in franchise history in a 10-game span, while their 52.5 PK % is 2nd worst.”
Elias Pettersson appeared to have emerged from his slow start with a productive game against the Dallas Stars on November 7. But during the Canucks’ three-game road trip, Pettersson was not noticeable. Vancouver needs EP40 to score, along with Brock Boeser.
Vancouver is six points out of a playoff spot. But that number could get larger if the Canucks continue playing poorly and going on extended losing streaks. And if that occurs, changes will be imminent. The first casualty when changes do occur, is usually, the firing of the head coach. It may not be fair, but that is the nature of professional sports. When the results are not there, someone else will be brought in to hopefully obtain better outcomes. It is always easier to fire the coach than to fire 23 players. As former Vancouver Canucks player, Todd Bertuzzi, once famously said, “It is what it is.”
Canucks schedule this week (five-game road trip)
Wednesday, November 24 @ Pittsburgh Penguins (4 pm)
Friday, November 26 @ Columbus Blue Jackets (4 pm)
Sunday, November 28 @ Boston Bruins (4 pm)
Monday, November 29 @ Montreal Canadiens (430 pm)
Wednesday, December 1 @ Ottawa Senators (430 pm)