3 Causes the Canucks Will Make the Playoffs in 2023-24

With one other clear slate, the Vancouver Canucks will look to make the lengthy highway to the playoffs for the primary time for the reason that bubble in 2020. Whereas that wasn’t that way back, Rogers Enviornment and the town of Vancouver haven’t seen the white towels and automobile flags since Bo Horvat’s rookie season in 2014-15. That was eight seasons in the past, and the wide-eyed 19-year-old is now a grizzled veteran of 651 video games, and together with his current commerce to the New York Islanders, not one participant stays from that playoff crew that bought eradicated by the Calgary Flames in six video games.

Elias Pettersson Celebrates a Aim with the Vancouver Canucks Bench (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

May this 2023-24 crew led by Elias Pettersson, Andrei Kuzmenko, Quinn Hughes and J.T. Miller bump the stoop and make the playoffs? The adjustments normal supervisor Patrik Allvin made to the roster within the offseason weren’t strikes of a rebuilding crew trying to tank and get the most effective possibilities at Vancouver native Macklin Celebrini. He rebuilt the defence and bottom-six with veterans Carson Soucy, Ian Cole, Matt Irwin, Teddy Blueger and Pius Suter all within the hopes of capturing that elusive playoff spot. With that mentioned, listed here are three causes the Canucks will make the playoffs in 2023-24.

Thatcher Demko At 100 %

Final season, Thatcher Demko was not the identical goaltender that garnered Vezina Trophy votes in 2021-22. He struggled proper from the get-go after recovering from surgical procedure within the offseason and by no means actually discovered his footing. Then, he suffered one other harm, this time to his groin as he tore it in a sport in opposition to the Florida Panthers on Dec. 1. After three months of reflection and time to consider his struggles originally of the season, he returned to the Canucks’ lineup on Feb. 27 in opposition to the Dallas Stars and appeared just like the Demko of outdated. Whereas he nonetheless allowed 4 targets, he made 34 saves and gave the impression to be assured and in charge of his actions.

I knew coming again it was an excellent alternative for a recent begin…I spent quite a lot of time on the psychological facet of issues, constructing myself again up and ensuring, you understand, that I used to be utilizing these final video games that I needed to set myself up for subsequent season and attempt to get my sport again to the place I do know it may be.

– Thatcher Demko

After that sport, Demko gained 10 of his subsequent 16 begins and completed with an 11-4-2 document together with a strong 2.52 goals-against common and .918 save proportion. In comparison with his 3-10-2 document, 3.93 GAA and .883 SV% earlier than his harm on Dec. 1, that was an enormous step up in efficiency.

Thatcher Demko Vancouver Canucks
Thatcher Demko, Vancouver Canucks (Picture by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire through Getty Pictures)

This season, with a extra structured system and defence corps in entrance of him, Demko ought to be capable of return to a type extra resembling “Bubble Demko” quite than a borderline backup or No. 3 goaltender. Whereas goaltending isn’t the be-all and end-all of a crew making the playoffs, it certain helps to have a strong starter able to stealing a sport or two from time to time – and Demko has proven previously that he might be that kind of starter. Even when he is ready to put up numbers across the 2.50 GAA and .915 SV% mark, the Canucks’ offence ought to be capable of rating sufficient to win extra video games than not.

Higher Defence & Penalty Killing

The Canucks didn’t have any bother scoring targets final season as they completed within the higher half of the league with 276. What they did have bother with, nevertheless, was preserving them out of their very own internet – each at even power and on the penalty kill. Closing the season with a minus-22 objective differential and 298 targets in opposition to, together with a penalty-killing unit that completed lifeless final at 71.6 p.c, it was a large motive why they finally missed the playoffs by 12 factors.

So, it was actually no shock that Allvin targeted on each of those areas within the offseason. Signing Soucy, Cole, Irwin, Blueger, and Suter virtually ensures they’ll have a greater penalty kill this season. The defence may nonetheless be a piece in progress however with the tough-as-nails additions of Soucy, Cole, and Irwin – and a full season of Filip Hronek – they need to be more durable to play in opposition to in their very own zone. Even with a depleted defence final season, new coach Rick Tocchet instilled a system that restricted high-danger possibilities and made life simpler on the goaltenders.

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Below Tocchet, the Canucks had a optimistic objective differential of plus-5 and a 78.4 p.c penalty kill. In addition they considerably diminished the variety of photographs and high-danger possibilities in opposition to. With higher personnel on each defence and the penalty kill, these numbers must be amplified this season, leading to a greater probability at making up these 12 factors and ending within the realm of 90-100 quite than 80-85.

Return of Ilya Mikheyev

Final offseason, the Canucks’ greatest free-agent acquisition (other than Kuzmenko, in fact) was Ilya Mikheyev. Coming off a career-high 21 targets and 32 factors with the Toronto Maple Leafs, he signed a four-year deal price $4.75 million common annual worth (AAV) to affix the Canucks. He instantly discovered chemistry on the highest line with Kuzmenko and Pettersson and scored 13 targets in his first 46 video games. Sadly, a lingering harm that was revealed afterward to have occurred through the preseason ultimately derailed his marketing campaign and left him on the sidelines.

Ilya Mikheyev Vancouver Canucks
Ilya Mikheyev, Vancouver Canucks (Picture by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire through Getty Pictures)

Now the speedy Russian is on the highway to restoration and must be prepared to start the season on Oct. 11 in opposition to the Edmonton Oilers. A wholesome Mikheyev ought to make that prime line much more deadly as his velocity will take the eye off of Pettersson and Kuzmenko. The Canucks’ main scorers from a season in the past ought to have extra room to work with, and in flip, may put up even gaudier numbers than the 102 factors and 79 factors they bought respectively in 2022-23. A (hopefully) full season with the dynamic duo also needs to give Mikheyev the chance to smash his 21-goal career-high and flirt with 30 targets. With Horvat’s 31 targets in New York, that will likely be a welcome growth for the Canucks of their pursuit of a playoff berth.

Canucks Seem To Be a Sharper & Extra Centered Staff This Season

Going into this season, the Canucks look like sharper and extra targeted than ever earlier than. Earlier than the gamers departed on their respective offseasons, Tocchet and the teaching employees set a mandate for everybody to ramp up their conditioning. They emphasised that elite conditioning and a dedication to onerous work have been the components to a profitable season in 2023-24. Everyone knows phrases are simply phrases, nevertheless it looks like quite a lot of the gamers took the message significantly. Particularly, Kuzmenko’s intense train routine in Bali and Hronek’s bodily transformation.

Brock Boeser additionally modified his entire exercise routine within the offseason by switching trainers and forgoing his annual look within the “Da Magnificence League.” He additionally feels at peace mentally following the lack of his dad to most cancers in Might 2022.

“Final yr was positively a hurdle mentally, it was a bit totally different…you don’t come to the peace at first, you sit there and surprise why sure issues occur, however I feel I’ve come to that peace. I feel this summer season was actually good [for our family] and we’ve all discovered that peace…I really feel loads higher mentally, I really feel actually motivated proper now and I’m actually excited to get camp going.”

All in all, the Canucks appear to be further motivated to show the ship round this season and be within the combine when the playoffs start in April. Hopefully, for Canucks Nation’s sake, it’s not all simply smoke and mirrors.

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