Detroit Red Wings 6 at Vancouver Canucks 1 – 2023-02-13 recap

Maybe the reasons the Canucks can’t buy a goal or can’t buy a save is because they’re spending all their money on three different head coaches?

Despite the snarky lede-in up top, my intention with this blog is not to be sarcastic or pile on. I simply want to cover this team honestly, by watching the game, taking detailed notes, and reporting on what I see.

The story of the Canucks latest loss to Detroit can be told in the 60th minute of play, with just 20 or so seconds left. Nils Aman entered the zone on the right wing and dropped the puck off for Phil di Giuseppe, who got Oskar Sundqvist chasing him around the net. Di Giuseppe turned around quickly when he popped out on the other side of the net. Both Aman and Curtis Lazar drove the net and took the defencemen with them. Aman was tying up Robert Hagg, while Gustav Lindstrom cheated since Sundqvist was in danger of losing the puck carrier. This briefly freed up Lazar in front, and di Giuseppe put a pass just behind Lazar’s tape. Lazar couldn’t bury the puck despite an empty net, and just about broke his stick in frustration.

By my count, the Canucks had 10 scoring chances either whiffed on or broken up that were right in front of the net. They had a couple more in the slot area that also would have qualified as scoring chances. They set up decent looks around the net while cycling the puck (this was the only missed chance that would have counted as one off the rush) but it’s kind of indicative of just how this game went.

The Canucks are a bad enough team in the defensive zone and the neutral zone. They don’t need to also be bad around the net. That’s just kicking a team when it’s down.

Between now and the end of the season there’s going to be lots of ink and pixels spilled about structure and coaching, which probably oversells the importance of whether it’s Bruce Boudreau or Travis Green or Rick Tocchet or Scotty Bowman behind the bench for the Canucks. There’s no structural fix for “bad”. As I pointed out last recap, if your offensive leader is Sheldon Dries, the squad is in some big trouble. Dries won’t be around when this team is good again, and the rope you get while the team is bad is only present if the team’s good young players are its best players.

I’ve typed (and deleted) some long words about my thoughts on the Detroit rebuild. I followed it closely, working in the same division as the Red Wings for the better part of it. They were never really close, and show that any smart rebuild needs to have a plan beyond “lose lots of games and hope”. Despite this, general manager Steve Yzerman has gotten a lot of rope from Red Wings fans because there is at least some semblance of a plan. The team’s top players were often its younger stars, and the team had lots of prospects and picks to show for all the losses. If Vancouver fans make the jump from anger into apathy (John Shorthouse noted that the crowd was just kind of resigned to defeat late in this game) it will be because there’s no Elias Pettersson or Quinn Hughes coming up in the system. One or two players like that can buy a lot of years of support from the fanbase. Appearing to have a plan is as important as actually having a plan.

So, as the Canucks are concerned, we may coast through these final 30 or so games. I understand if people stop reading between now and April, since this team is more like a chore to follow than an entertaining escape. I’m doing a lot of work watching and tracking these games only to come up with conclusions like “the players are bad”, but the hope is that we diagnose exactly why the players are bad, and maybe we can will some appropriate fixes into existence.

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