Sure they are just 5-5 in their last 10 games and yes they are coming off a 4-1 loss last night (Thursday) to the Vegas Golden Knights but after 24 games the Vancouver Canucks are one of the most improved teams in the NHL.
In the 2022-23 season, the (38-37-7) Canucks missed the playoffs by 12 points with a minus-22 goal differential, finishing sixth among Canadian teams, only ahead of the (31-45-6) Montreal Canadiens.
Through two dozen of their 82 games in the 2023-24 season, the (15-8-1) Canucks have the most points of the seven Canadian teams, and they lead the entire NHL with a plus-31 goal differential.
Vancouver is just three points behind Western Conference-leading Vegas and they have a seven-point cushion over the 9th place team which gives them some wiggle room as the top eight make the playoffs.
Have you noticed the Canucks have scored a whopping 92 goals, (nearly four a game) the most in the NHL?
Vancouver has two of the top three scorers in the league, three of the top seven and four of the top 16.
It remains too early to discuss the Canucks in the same breath as the Stanley Cup but they look like a contender unlike most of the other Canadian teams.
Toronto is decent (12-6-3), Winnipeg is okay (12-8-2), Calgary is ordinary (10-10-2), Montreal (10-11-2) is foundering, Ottawa is struggling again (8-9) and Edmonton is coming on a bit with a four-game win streak but overall (9-12-1) got off to such an awful start they fired its coach.
Head Coach Rick Tocchet deserves credit for the job he has done behind the Vancouver bench.
“They’re Stanley Cup Champions for a reason. They were strong on the puck tonight. We had a few pushes but not enough.”
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) December 1, 2023
Arguably the biggest reason for the Canucks noticeable improvement is in the net.
Thatcher Demko is better than the goalie he replaced (Jacob Markstrom is now in his fourth season and struggling again in Calgary with a 2.93 GAA and .901 save percentage) and with his health back the soon-to-be 28-year-old Demko has been among the league’s best.
He is also tied for 2nd in shutouts with two.
Vancouver has a strong power play, third in the league at 29.8 %, although its penalty kill is a concern, ranked 22nd at 76.4 %.
Strong goaltending and plenty of firepower have overshadowed some of the defensive deficiencies on the Vancouver back end.
The Canucks are 8-2-1 at home, including the 4-1 Thursday loss to Vegas while they are 7-6 on the road.
“They were better than us tonight and we got the next 55-60 games to measure ourselves up against the rest of the league.”
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) December 1, 2023
The December schedule favours Vancouver with eight of its next 13 on home ice.
Earlier this week ESPN graded all 32 NHL teams and gave Vancouver an A on its report card.
While that might be a bit high, there is little argument that the Canucks have been one of the NHL’s early-season success stories.
Can they keep up the pace of a .646 winning percentage?
Likely not but every indication is they will be one of the 16 playoff teams.
Considering they have missed the post-season in each of the last three seasons, that is reason for optimism for the long-starved Canucks hockey fan in B.C.
Cat Scan podcast:
This is season six of Hartley’s Cat Scan, a weekly podcast show that predominately features the PG Cougars.
This week my guest is former PG Cougars play-by-play broadcaster Dan O’Connor.
A former voice of the @PGCougars “Dapper” @DanOConnor_PG is this week’s guest on the Cat Scan #podcast. Dan has insight from his years with the Cougars, he talks about a lengthy broadcast career, the #WHL, working for UBC, Northern Health and now @UNBCATHLETICS. #sports #hockey https://t.co/jcucYSfxZm
— Hartley Miller (@Hartley_Miller) November 27, 2023
FROM THE QUOTE RACK:
The Rolling Stones have announced their 2024 Stadium Tour. They said they wanted to kick it off where it all began for them, but the Roman Coliseum was already booked.
*Contributor Marc Ragovin of New York
Once again, the SF Giants are linked to signing a superstar. This time Shohei Ohtain. If this turns out to be another “close but no signing” deal, maybe SF Giants fans should show up on opening day in bridesmaids’ dresses.
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, sitting at home on suspension for his part in the University of Michigan cheating scandal, earned a $500,000 bonus for his team’s win over Ohio State. He also received congratulations from Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, and the Houston Astros.
*Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California
A Florida octogenarian pleaded no contest to battery and assault with a weapon in a shuffleboard fight after charges were reduced to misdemeanours. Turns out his gums weren’t loaded.
Hartley Miller is the news and sports director/supervisor plus morning news anchor for 94.3 the GOAT and Country 97fm. After growing up in Winnipeg, he has lived in Prince George for the last 44 years and is in his 11th season as the radio colour commentator on the Prince George Cougars home games. Hartley is the author of You Don’t Say (sports quotes).