Vancouver looking to improve after rocky pre-season
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
“I didn’t like the last eight minutes of the first period but really liked our start. They have a lot of firepower over there and our guys stuck with it.”-Travis Green
The Vancouver Canucks opened the 2021-22 season on October 13 with a three-two shootout road loss in Edmonton. The Canucks trailed early with a score of two to zero before goals from Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Quinn Hughes tied the game and sent it into overtime.
Canucks coach Travis Green said he liked the effort and resiliency of his team after being down two goals. “It was a good game, a fast game and hard-working game to battle back and get a point,” he said during his post-game media conference as reported by The Province. “Pretty happy with the effort. You’re never going to eliminate those two guys [Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl] and they control the game a lot. Our game was pretty strong. I didn’t like the last eight minutes of the first period but really liked our start. They have a lot of firepower over there and our guys stuck with it. You have to believe in the process, but our power play has to get sharper. We want the units to challenge each other and when Brock (Boeser) comes back, it’s going to help.”
Sportsnet writer, Iain MacIntyre, in his October 14 column, was also impressed with the Canucks’ effort: “When it looked like the first game of this season was going to be like most of their games from last season, the Vancouver Canucks did something to offer hope that things might be different: they came back [….] The Canucks played positively and came away with something, rather than nothing.”
Three days before the season opener, Canucks GM Jim Benning traded Olli Juolevi, a first-round draft pick (fifth overall) from 2016 to the Florida Panthers. In return, the Canucks received forward Juho Lammikko and defenceman Noah Juulsen.
Juolevi played 23 games for Vancouver last season, recording three points. He played in 63 games in two seasons with the then AHL Canucks affiliate, the Utica Comets. Juolevi scored three goals with 35 assists. Jim Benning, in a statement reported by Sportsnet, thanked the 23-year-old defenceman: “We would also like to thank Olli for his years of service with the Canucks organization and we wish him well in his future endeavours.”
Rob Williams reported in the Daily Hive on October 10, the Canucks placed defenceman, Travis Hamonic, on waivers after he did not report to the team. Including Hamonic, Vancouver cut four players from their roster: Madison Bowey, Phillip Di Giuseppe and Justin Bailey. All four players needed to clear waivers before being sent to the Abbotsford Canucks.
Also, Canucks forward, Brandon Sutter, will not be returning to the lineup. The Canadian Press reported via Sportsnet that Sutter was experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. He had initially tested positive for COVID-19 seven months ago during an outbreak that affected 25 players and staff. Jim Benning told Sportsnet there is no timeline when Sutter will be returning. “He’s experiencing some of the symptoms of the [sic] COVID. I guess they call it being a long hauler,” he said. “He still has some issues he’s working through with that. So once he’s feeling better, the first step for him is to get feeling better and then once he’s healthy enough and feeling better, he’ll start working out and get back out on the ice.”
As well, the Canucks lost forward Zack MacEwen on waivers, claimed by the Philadelphia Flyers on October 13 as reported by Sportsnet. During the 2021 season, MacEwen played 34 games with one goal, one assist and 44 penalty minutes. He also provided toughness; with MacEwen’s departure, the Canucks will need to address the grit factor in their lineup, should other teams take liberties on Canucks’ star players like Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson.
In other NHL news, Canadian singer, Justin Bieber, was part of the NHL’s opening night on ESPN on October 12. NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, confirmed the news during an appearance on Good Morning America the day before. “He’s going to be introing our game. Tune in tomorrow night and you’ll see it. He is a huge fan and we’re excited to have him as part of the NHL family,” he said.
The “Biebs” narrated an introductory package before the doubleheader games. The first game had cup champions, Tampa Bay Lightning, losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of six to two. The second game had the Vegas Golden Knights winning at home against the Seattle Kraken by a score of four to three. Bieber is a big Toronto Maple Leafs fan and has attended numerous Maple Leafs home games at Scotiabank Arena with his wife, Hailey Bieber, by his side. The “Biebs” also has a bromance happening with Leaf’s star player, Auston Matthews. It seems to be a strong friendship that neither man is feeling “Sorry” about.