The Canucks have previously stated the entire team will be 100 percent fully vaccinated before opening night. This led to speculation that Travis Hamonic is vaccine-hesitant.
Hughes and Pettersson are still unsigned while Hamonic is also not at camp
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
The Vancouver Canucks are fine-tuning their lineup in preparation for the start of the 2021-22 season. The Canucks played their first pre-season game against the newest expansion team, the Seattle Kraken on September 26 in Spokane—losing by a score of 5 to 3. Two days later, the Canucks defeated the Calgary Flames 4 to 2 in Abbotsford.
It is difficult to gauge the Canucks without Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson in the lineup—both are unsigned restricted free agents and currently not with the team. Canucks coach, Travis Green, spoke with the media as reported by thehockeywriters.com, saying he was disappointed that the two bright young stars of the future are out of the lineup. “It affects the team and affects the players individually,” he said. “I’m disappointed they’re not here obviously as a coach. We got a lot of new bodies on our team. I think being two big pieces to our team it’s important they’re here, and obviously being two younger players, training camp is a big part of working on certain parts of your game and these are two young players that are vital to our team.”
Canucks GM, Jim Benning, also expressed disappointment about the Hughes and Pettersson situation. “I’m disappointed they’re not going to be here for the start of camp, but I’m going to continue to talk to CAA and Pat Brisson [the agent for Pettersson and Hughes] and try to get something figured out here as soon as we can,” he said. “I don’t think we’re that far apart but these are complex, unique deals. These are two good young players and an important part of our group.”
On September 30, Thomas Drance, senior writer for The Athletic—posted on Twitter with an update: “Sources indicate to @TheAthletic that the #Canucks and CAA made progress this morning in Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes talks. Don’t call it a breakthrough (yet), but there’s optimism that Vancouver and their two cornerstone players are inching toward a resolution at last.”
In addition to the Hughes and Pettersson circumstances, defenceman, Travis Hamonic, has not reported to the team—according to the Daily Hive. On September 24, the Canucks released a statement saying Hamonic was away for “personal reasons.” Irfaan Gaffar reported on September 23 that Hamonic is not in Vancouver and his absence was not injury-related. The Canucks have previously stated the entire team will be 100 percent fully vaccinated before opening night. This led to speculation that Hamonic is vaccine-hesitant. But Rick Dhaliwal, co-host of Donnie and Dhali on CHEK stated the rumours of Hamonic being “anti-vaccine” are untrue. “Everything he is doing in this decision… is family-related,” Dhaliwal said during the Donnie and Dhali show on September 27. “I am not hearing that he’s anti-vax. I am not hearing that.”
Sportsnet writer, Iain MacIntyre, known as “the triple threat” during his frequent appearances on Sportsnet 650, was in attendance in Abbotsford when the Canucks hosted the Flames. He was impressed with the new players in the lineup: Conor Garland, Mike DiPietro, Jack Rathbone, Jonah Gadjovich and Alex Chiasson. “I was [also] impressed with Oliver Ekman-Larsson,” MacIntyre said in an email interview with the Other Press. “It wasn’t just that you can see how smoothly he skates and moves the puck and gets up and down the ice, but how physically he competed in a pre-season game. He was fully engaged, which is an excellent sign for the Canucks.”
However, MacIntyre believes the Canucks are still not strong enough on the back end. “But the defence remains a question mark—and not only because Quinn Hughes is still a free agent,” he said. “Ekman-Larsson over Alex Edler is a slight upgrade, but it is offset by the slight downgrade to Tucker Poolman from Nate Schmidt. And now Travis Hamonic may choose not to play this season, which probably means Luke Schenn becomes a regular. Rathbone is a burst of sunlight, but the group still needs to be stronger. It should help that the Canucks appear to be considerably better at forward. They should have the puck more, which means less defending than they had to do last season.”
Canucks forward, Brock Boeser, who played 56 games last season, scoring 49 points (23 goals and 26 assists) appears to be back in top form. He has battled serious back and wrist injuries. The Canucks will be looking for more offence from the Minnesota-born sniper, who is now entering his fifth season with the franchise. “I’m pretty excited for this year and I’m pretty driven to have a strong year after last year and be more consistent,” Boeser said at the end of training camp in Abbotsford on September 25—as reported by Iain MacIntyre. “I think that’s a big thing: consistency. I thought I had a pretty good year last year but there’s [sic] some of those nights where you just feel off or feel you could be better for the team. That’s something I’ve really been thinking about. If I can bring that game each and every night. […] I think that’s going to help our team.”
The Canucks open the season on October 13 on the road in Edmonton; as part of a long six-game road trip. Vancouver plays their home opener on October 26 against the Minnesota Wild—part of a seven-game homestand at Rogers Arena.