Some random thoughts on the early goings-on in the 2020-21 season.
- My Canucks. Oh my. Get off to a bad start in a short season and you can be buried early. And when you're playing only within your division, it is only tougher to gain ground. You will need a lot of clean wins later in the year when the going gets tough.
- The worst part is the Canucks biggest problems are two fold - their best players aren't their best players, and their special teams are anything but special.
- Not only have Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes not been their best players, they have been down right brutal at times. For a team lacking depth this is a kiss of death. Sometimes it's hard to remember that these two are very young NHLers and such road bumps are overdue. They will be fine long term and maybe even better for it. But a lot of this bad start is on them.
- The special teams have been bad. With Pettersson and Hughes sputtering, the fact that the powerplay is too is no surprise. The penalty kill got off to a terrible start but has shown signs of turning around. This is the where those highly overpaid bottom six veterans need to come through.
- Canucks fans love to hate the Canucks bottom six and the financial constraints that has handcuffed the organization. But the bottom six has treaded water at even strength, and that's an improvement over last season. Brandon Sutter and Tyler Motte have been quite good. Jay Beagle too in his limited way. Big Zack MacEwen is coming around. If Pettersson and Hughes get going soon things will be okay.
- I really like Adam Gaudette, but I don't think he's the right puzzle piece in Vancouver. They need a third line center badly, and they've been trying to plug him into that hole. He will be a good trade chip though.
- Moving Gaudette to the wing could be an interesting experiment. But Nils Hoglander's arrival has perhaps negated that opportunity. Hoglander's combination of speed, skill and hustle should also be a big wake up call to Jake Virtanen. I still think Virtanen could be - I didn't say will be, but could be - a great third liner. I think McEwen could excel in that role too. And of course highly touted Vasily Podkolzin will join the right wing crew by May, presumably. So add Virtanen to Gaudette as puzzle pieces that need to be re-allocated one way or the other.
- Boy the Canucks surrender a lot of shots and chances against. This isn't new. Jacob Markstrom just masked it in the past, and Pettersson and Hughes could outscore the opposition many nights. But this can't continue long term. And that is on the coaching staff. This is a systemic issue.
- Speaking of coaches, I'm still horrified that the Canucks haven't signed Travis Green to an extension. The underlying story here is how badly are the Canucks owners hurting for cash? It's no secret that the Canucks actual salary expenditure for this season has significantly been cut, even though the salary cap expenditure is at the top. The Aquillinis have a lot of money tied up in pandemic related hard hit businesses like hotels and restaurants and their cash flow is an underlying story for sure.
- The one thing I don't like about all this divisional play - I find I know the Canadian division quite well but I don't really know what is going on with the other 24 NHL teams. And that is unheard of for me. Normally it's easier to keep up because you get a lot of coverage of American teams when they face Canadian teams. I will have to do a better job of noting what's going on around the rest of the league.
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