The Canucks have been terrible so far, even by their standards

Sep 26 2018, 8:58 pm

It’s only preseason, but… they’ve been outscored 26-9.

It’s only only preseason, but… they’ve got one win in six games.

It’s only preseason, but they’d better snap out of this, or the regular season is going to be even more painful than the most pessimistic fan expects.

The post-Sedin era is off to a dreadful start, even by Canucks standards. They were 4-3-1 in preseason last year, and 3-2-2 the year before.

A great preseason record doesn’t correlate to a great regular season record, and there are plenty of examples of teams that stumble during exhibition games only to rip it up when the games matter for real. But in the Canucks’ case, their play is still troubling.

With a number of young players and plenty of competition for roles and roster spots, the Canucks shouldn’t be a team going through the motions, even in preseason. Head coach Travis Green has experimented with his lineup, but so do all teams at this time of year.

While the games don’t count for points in the standings, their play has to be classified as a disappointment so far, outside of some bright spots – most notably, the play of rookie Elias Pettersson (more on him later).

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Keeping pucks out of their net

With Vancouver expected to return with the same goaltenders and defence corps as last season, you had to wonder how they’d improve.

After watching them play through six games, we’re left with this terrifying thought: what if they’re worse?

There have been no saviours on the back end and Olli Juolevi looks like he’s going to be at least another year away from cracking the lineup.

After showing flashes of brilliance early on last season, Derrick Pouliot looks lost defensively and hasn’t produced any offence. Same goes for most of the rest of the blueliners.

Michael DiPietro is the only Canucks goaltender that has a save percentage above .900, and he only played a single period before being sent back to his junior team. It’s still early, but Anders Nilsson (.821) and Thatcher Demko (.833) have save percentages closer to .800 than .900. Jacob Markstrom is at .881. That’s concerning.

Young players failing to step up

Pettersson has been outstanding for the Canucks, but outside of him, there’s been very little push from a number of players who should be fighting tooth and nail to earn a roster spot.

“I don’t think anyone grabbed the ball, that’s for sure,” Green said following a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night.

He’s right.

Nikolay Goldobin has shown flashes, and shot the lights out during scrimmages in training camp, but has just one point in five preseason games. More concerning, perhaps, is he has just seven shots on goal despite being put in positions to succeed.

Brendan Leipsic, similarly, has had some moments of strong play. He can skate and brings skill and grit to the table. But just one point in four games isn’t going to cut it.

Jake Virtanen is without a point in four games. Adam Gaudette hasn’t looked out of place, but probably could use time in the AHL.

None of the young players who were pencilled in for Utica surprised. Kole Lind, Jonah Gadjovich, and Jonathan Dahlen were sent down early.

Old guys, old problems

Erik Gudbranson, Michael Del Zotto, Markus Granlund, and Loui Eriksson look like the same players as last year, which is to say: not good.

Eriksson missed time with an injury, so perhaps we give him a pass. Though as the highest-paid player on the team, he needs to do something to help this hockey team beyond a third-line checking role.

New guys, same problems

The Canucks’ free agent acquisitions have been plagued with the same problems that last year’s team had: injuries and poor play.

Antoine Roussel hasn’t seen a second of action, as he’s still recovering from an off-season concussion.

Jay Beagle seems to try hard, and he wins faceoffs, but does it matter if his line consistently gets buried in its own end?

And if you see Tim Schaller, let me know. I haven’t noticed him.

OMG, not Brock too

Brock Boeser’s probably going to be just fine, but a dip in production of any kind will hurt the Canucks.

So with every passing game without a goal, the teeth-grinding among fans will get more intense. He has just one assist through four games.

It’s not panic time with him… Yet.

Not all bad news

Before you give up on this season entirely, it’s not all bad news.

First, it’s a small sample size. They’re just six games in and all teams go through slumps.

Ben Hutton appears to have regained the trust of the coach, and aside from a couple of glaring errors, has been decent. Perhaps he takes a step forward this season.

Troy Stecher has been decent.

Bo Horvat leads the team with five points in four games. Tyler Motte has been the most pleasant surprise, and deserves a spot in the opening night lineup in a checking role.

But above all, there’s Pettersson, who has solidified his spot as the odds-on favourite to win the Calder Trophy with five points in four games. If the team struggles on the ice as much as most expect, at least they’ll have him.