Vancouver Canucks season preview
It was somewhat of an ugly season last year in Vancouver, but the team had some improvements toward the back end of the season that they can build on going into 2023-24. It will be Rick Tocchet’s first full season behind the bench for the Canucks after finishing 20-12-4 last season when he replaced Bruce Boudreau. This team has the potential to sneak into the playoffs, but consistency will be their biggest task.
Scoring goals wasn’t one of the main concerns for the Canucks last season. Elias Petterson, J.T. Miller, Quinn Hughes, and Andrei Kuzmenko can all be relied upon to post at least 70+ points, but one guy who is going to need more of a boost this season is Brock Boeser. Vancouver finished 13th in goals per game last season (3.29), but 19th in creating high-danger chances per 60 minutes. Their power play was crucial and kept them in games, but there is still room to improve on their man-advantage.
The Canucks defense absolutely killed them last season and one of their main focuses this offseason was to make their blue line stronger. They brought in some veteran presences on the backend like Ian Cole and Carson Soucy, so they are hopeful that will strengthen this team’s play in their own end. The Canucks finished in the bottom 10 for goals against per game (3.61), and their penalty kill was last in the league, skating to a 71.6% success rate. They need their man-down unit to step it up if they want to compete for a playoff spot.
Thatcher Demko’s numbers from last season shouldn’t be judged too critically. If you look at the season he had in 2021-22, Demko has the ability to take over a game in the National Hockey League, and I could see him being a guy that’s in the conversation for the Vezina Trophy if he can stay healthy. Spencer Martin will back him up, and he struggled in his first full NHL season, but that experience could help him going into this year. Goaltending isn’t an issue for the Canucks, but Demko and Martin will most likely have nights where they need to bail out the team’s defense.
Player To Watch – G Thatcher Demko
Due to injury, Demko only appeared in 32 games last season, which hurt this team. If Demko can remain fully healthy in 2023-24, he can keep this team in games on nights they fail to defend well. In 2021-22, Demko skated to a .915 save percentage while earning 33 wins. He is easily one of the better goaltenders in the league when he’s at the top of his game. His ceiling is very high, and if the Canucks are going to make the postseason, Demko will most likely be the main reason.
DraftKings currently has the Canucks at +145 to make the postseason, and I love the value on that. With Tocchet behind the bench and Hughes as the new captain, this group can take a very positive leap. Hughes is a top defenseman in the league and quietly put up 76 points last season. I think he can make a run for the Norris Trophy. To me, the Canucks are a fringe playoff team and I think that they are worth investing in to make the postseason at +145.