The coaching change has resulted in a resurgence in the team’s on-ice performance
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
Vancouver’s record of eight wins in their last nine games is respectable and commendable; if the team maintains this type of consistent play, the playoffs may be realistic.
The Vancouver Canucks have been a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” team since the 2021-2022 season began. At the time of writing, the Canucks’ record is 16-15-3. They are seventh place in the eight-team Pacific Division and are three points out of a Wild Card playoff spot.
During the first two months of the season, the Canucks played poorly. After losses began to accumulate, speculation increased with fans and media about the job status of head coach, Travis Green. The breaking point finally occurred after a home loss on December 4, 2021, to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Canucks fans showed their displeasure with a chorus of boos and chants of “Fire Benning.” As well, a Bo Horvat jersey was thrown on the ice. The next day, Travis Green and general manager, Jim Benning, were fired.
Bruce Boudreau was hired as the newest bench boss with Jim Rutherford later hired as president of hockey operations. Also, Stan Smyl was promoted to vice president of hockey operations. Rutherford has had managerial positions with the Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins, winning a Stanley Cup with Carolina (2006) and two cups with Pittsburgh (2016 and 2017).
Canucks owner, Francesco Aquilini, believes the hiring of Rutherford will help the franchise achieve their goal—to be competitive and win a championship. “It is time for a new vision and a new leader who will set a path forward for this team,” Aquilini said in a statement as reported by The Province on December 9, 2021. “Jim has tremendous experience building and leading winning organizations and I believe he will help build the Vancouver Canucks into a team that can compete for championships again.”
Before Travis Green’s dismissal, the team worked hard under his watch—but they did not look coordinated and in many ways, they seemed to lack confidence. The Canucks played like a team that was waiting for something to happen, rather than being assertive and taking the initiative to make things happen. Many nights, it was apparent the team was not working as a unit. This was evidenced by the Canucks’ poor special teams, notably their penalty killing (worst in the NHL). A coaching change was the right decision to try to salvage the Canucks’ season.
The Canucks recently had a seven-game winning streak with Boudreau behind the bench. Vancouver eventually lost to the Los Angeles Kings on December 30 by a score of two to one in a shootout. However, the Canucks redeemed themselves two nights later in Seattle—defeating the Kraken by a score of five to two. Vancouver’s record of eight wins in their last nine games is respectable and commendable. And if the team maintains this type of consistent play, the playoffs may be realistic instead of an afterthought. Canucks fans will have to wait and see how the team performs during the last three months of the season; hopefully without any more postponements due to COVID-19 outbreaks.
Vancouver’s next game was scheduled for January 5 at home against the New York Islanders, but the game was postponed by the NHL due to COVID-19 restrictions imposed by provincial health authorities, limiting crowds at large events to 50 percent or fewer capacity in Canada. Sportsnet reported January 3 that the NHL has postponed over 90 games this season because of COVID-19 concerns: “As all seven teams in Canada are playing under various levels of attendance restrictions imposed by provincial governments—from as low as zero [percent] in Quebec to as high as 50 [percent] in Alberta.”
Sportsnet reported on January 6 the Canucks have five players in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol: Brock Boeser, Phil Di Giuseppe, Justin Dowling, Jason Dickinson and Elias Pettersson. Bruce Boudreau told reporters that winger, Alex Chiasson, had tested positive for COVID-19 and had not been added to the league’s protocol list.
Vancouver was scheduled to play the Ottawa Senators at Rogers Arena on January 8, but TSN reported the game was postponed due to capacity limits. The Canucks have had seven games postponed. The Canucks embark on a difficult five-game eastern road trip. Then Vancouver returns home to play the Florida Panthers on January 21 (pending postponement due to COVID-19).
Canucks’ schedule this week (all road games)
Tuesday, January 11 @ Florida Panthers (4 pm)
Thursday, January 13 @ Tampa Bay Lightning (4 pm)
Saturday, January 15 @ Carolina Hurricanes (10 am)
Sunday, January 16 @ Washington Capitals (11 am)
Tuesday, January 18 @ Nashville Predators (5 pm)