THE MOJ: Plenty of questions as the Canucks reset after another disappointing season

Vancouver Canucks right wing Conor Garland protects Arizona Coyotes defenseman JJ Moser, 90, in overtime during an NHL hockey game in Tempe, Arizona, Thursday, April 13, 2023. ) of the puck. The Canucks won 5-4. (AP Photo/Rick Scutery)

As the Vancouver Canucks wrap up another disappointing season, their fans are wondering what the future holds.

A coaching change in late January resulted in what was called a “coach bump,” as Rick Tocchet went 20-12-4 after taking the reins from a troubled Bruce Boudreau, who led the team to an 18-25- 3 grades.

The glass half full will look at Tocchet’s improvement and believe there is something better to come from the hockey club.

The team played more structure on the defensive end and improved on its much-maligned short unit, which has been so poor under Boudreau.

The half-empty side of the glass will see it through a different lens.

They’ll think it’s nothing more than a mirage, and it’s going to hurt the team when it has the chance to land Connor Bedard in this summer’s NHL entry draft.

They’ll look at the level of their opponents and realize that the Canucks have a weaker schedule the rest of the way when Tocchet takes over, and the team is playing well when it doesn’t matter.

So where is the truth?

Schedule has clearly been a factor during Tocchet’s tenure, as the Canucks have won just six of 16 games against teams that made the playoffs, compared with teams that didn’t qualify for the playoffs. Surprise in China – 14 victories in 20 games against these teams.

As for the improved structure, the Canucks are 32-30 on average under Boudreau. They average 3.35 goals scored and 3.95 goals conceded per game.

Under Tocchet, the Canucks have averaged a 29-28 lead. The Canucks averaged 3.38 goals per game, while the average dropped to 3.19.

Penalty shootouts were horrific under Boudreau, with the team conceding just 67.2 percent of them, one of the worst records ever recorded.

That part of the game has improved under Tocchet, as he’s shooting 78.6 percent from the free-throw line, which would put them in the middle of the pack if maintained over the course of the season.

When examining stats on free throw percentage and goal average, one major variable is the return of goaltender Thatcher Demko in late February.

Demco was injured against Florida on Dec. 1 and didn’t return until Feb. 27 against Dallas.

Before the injury, Demko was inconsistent, posting a .883 save percentage.

Led by Tocchet, he has a . 915 rebound save percentage.

Unfortunately for Boudreau, he had to go through a sub-par Demko, then two months of Spencer Martin and Collin Delia — both of whom had save percentages well below the .900 threshold.

Looking at the numbers, it’s understandable why some Canuck fans remain pessimistic about the franchise’s future.

Yes, a core of players like Demko, Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, JT Miller and Andrei Kuzmenko laid a solid foundation, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

Most Canuck fans hope that Canucks President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford and General Manager Patrik Allvin will not get too obsessed with late-season success for the reasons we’ve outlined.

Remember, it was Rutherford who announced in mid-January that “major surgery” on the roster was needed if the team was going to achieve its goals.

One wonders if he still believes that after the team played under Tocchet.

The Canucks failed to address two major interrelated issues last summer — creating cap space and addressing their sub-par blue line.

The team did acquire a top-four defenseman in Filip Hronek from Detroit and signed two young and promising defensemen in NCAA free agents Akito Hirose and Cole McWard, but salary cap issues remain.

With no significant characters coming off the books, it took some magic to qualify for the cap.

According to, Vancouver has 20 players under contract for the 2023-24 season with a projected salary cap of $85,941,250 — which effectively puts them over the $83.5 million projected salary cap and will need more players to come. Fill out the roster — like RFA defenseman Ethan Bear, who provides some depth on the blueline.

Defensemen Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Tyler Myers and forward Brock Boeser and his $6.65 million deal could be traded, but the Canucks are by no means definitive, even if those moves are made.

Did we also mention that Pettersson’s upcoming renewal packs a huge punch?

Rutherford and his team appear to be on the right track, but there’s still work to be done before this team leaves what many fans and media types call the “muddy middle” of the NHL standings.

The former Canucks management team, led by general manager Jim Benning, struggled in the playoffs in 2014-15 and 2019-20, and the results watched the hockey club struggle for the next four years. and three years respectively failed to make the playoffs.

Hopefully this management team recognizes another red herring.

Veteran BC sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice a week for Black Press Media.and check out his weekly podcast every monday in bc today or your local Black Press Media website.

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