Vancouver Canucks Wish List for 2023

The start of the 2022-23 season for the Vancouver Canucks got out of hand after just 31 games. They are one of the worst defensive teams in the league and recently set an NHL record for most 5-1 home losses in a season with five. The saddest thing about that record is that Vancouver has only played 15 home games this season. While her wish list for Santa is undoubtedly huge, here are four that could make the list.

2023 Draft Lottery Lucky

What Vancouver could really use is a generational perspective that’s local and grew up supporting the organization. Luckily, this year’s draft has just that prospect, as Connor Bedard is set to be the number one pick in the 2023 NHL draft. Winning the draft lottery and selecting the best prospect ever to emerge from the Western Hockey League (WHL) would be a dream come true for most fans, especially considering the Canucks are one of nine teams as a franchise who never made it an opportunity to pick first in the NHL Draft.

Connor Bedard, Regina Pats
Connor Bedard, Regina Pats (Photo: Keith Hershmiller)

The problem is that the Canucks are too good a team to finish last overall and get the best odds in the lottery. Even if they traded away their entire roster and tank, they could still lose the draft lottery, just like the Buffalo Sabers made famous in 2015. While it’s very possible that Vancouver fans will only see Bedard in a Canucks jersey once in an EA Sports video game, it’s fun to imagine what it would be like if the ping-pong balls fell just right and the draft curse the Canucks would finally be lifted.

Add Picks & Prospects at NHL Trade Deadline

While picking high in the draft is great, what the Canucks really need is volume at this point to improve their prospect pool. They currently have just six picks going into the upcoming 2023 draft and are also one second behind going into the 2024 draft. Vancouver needs to find a way to pull out players and get back picks and/or prospects in order to build a pool of prospects, most of which rank near the bottom end of the league.

Related: Canucks could trade 4 major players before 2023 close

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What the Canucks haven’t realized over the past decade is that the more picks you collect, the better your chances of hitting a late-round prospect. For example, look at the New Jersey Devils. They made nine total picks during the 2016 draft, seven of which came in the third round or later. Of the nine total picks, only two didn’t play an NHL game, with sixth-round Jesper Bratt stealing the draft. With players like Bo Horvat, Conor Garland, Brock Boeser, and Kyle Burroughs as trading figures, the Canucks should aim to add at least four picks ahead of the upcoming draft.

A compliance buyout from the NHL

During the summer of 2013 and 2014, the NHL and NHLPA allowed teams to use one compliance buyout per year to relax some salary cap restrictions. This was the league that recognized organizations were making some mistakes signing some of their stars and gave them a fresh start with all salary coming off the books as long as they paid the player two-thirds of the remaining contract. Some players who received buyouts were Rick DiPietro, Christian Ehrhoff, Scott Gomez, Ilya Bryzgalov, and Vincent Lecavalier. Vancouver took full advantage of that option as they capitalized on their two buyouts at Keith Ballard and David Booth, both of whom struggled after coming from the Florida Panthers. This concept could again help the Canucks as they have some contracts that the organization would like to part with if there were no salary cap implications.

If the NHL and NHLPA allowed any team to have a compliance buyout, it would be hard to imagine the Canucks handing it off to anyone other than Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The 31-year-old defenseman has a $7.26 million cap hit through the 2027-28 season and is virtually immobile not only because of his game but also because of his no-move clause. With so many holes in this roster and Vancouver struggling to find room for the cap, it would be a miracle for this organization to get him off the books entirely with no future repercussions.

Learn how to kill a penalty kick

After last season’s horrific penalty shoot-out, the general thought was that there was no way it could get any worse. Well, 31 games into the season, that theory has been proven wrong as the Canucks are somehow worse at penalties this season. They have had just eight games without giving up a power play goal and are currently last in the NHL with a 67 percent penalty kill rate. The penalty has cost them multiple times this season and is one of many frustrating issues surrounding this team.

Related: Canucks News & Rumors: Horvat, Schenn, Lekkerimaki & More

Whether it’s player deployment or a general scheme, the Canucks need to figure out what’s wrong with the penalty shootout. That’s easier said than done, but they’re too talented to be that bad at letting a skater down. Another level of frustration is that they don’t even take as many penalties as they are 27th with 94 shorthanded times this season. This is an organization that had the seventh place penalty shootout in the entire league from 2010-11 to 2020-21. They have finished 32nd for the last two seasons. Hopefully things will change in 2023 and Vancouver can learn how to consistently kill penalties.

Canucks expect big changes in 2023

In the end, the number one request around the Canucks is from fans who wish they would cave in and do a proper rebuild. Even with Vancouver lining up to kick off 2023, there are fundamental issues with this franchise that must be resolved before it can be considered a Stanley Cup contender. Ownership may wish for playoff earnings next year, but that may not be a wish even Santa Claus can grant.

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