Last season the Vancouver Canucks reached their lowest point in more than fifteen years. They finished with 75 points, better than only the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers, and missed the playoffs by a mile. As many believed that Daniel and Henrik Sedin were slowing down (as people do when they turn 35), the team looked like they should start a rebuild around some young forwards, and sell off assets for this season. After all, they were likely to get a top-three draft pick and already had Bo Horvat as a potential superstar.
Instead, they dropped to fifth in the draft and missed out on the big forwards, and then had an extremely confusing offseason period. First they traded one of their young prospects, Jared McCann for Erik Gudbranson, a still-young but much more expensive player who many in the analytics community believed was steady but mostly ineffective. McCann is off to a slow start in Florida (no points in eleven games), but still looks like he’ll eventually be a solid NHL centerman.
Next they signed Loui Eriksson, one of the summer’s biggest free agents to a huge six year, $36MM deal that will pay him through his age-36 season. Eriksson is a solid player, but hasn’t found any amount of success in Vancouver; he hasn’t scored a goal in 11 games after notching 30 last year.
Making a financial commitment of that level is usually reserved for teams looking to compete for a Stanley Cup in the near future, but Vancouver doesn’t seem like they’re poised to do that. They’re 4-6-1 this season, and are currently down 2-1 and being out-shot by those same Maple Leafs who finished lower than them last year. While Ryan Miller is having a solid year splitting time with the younger Jacob Markstrom, he’s a free agent next year (and 37 years old).
So what do the Canucks do now? Tearing down a team a few months after committing tens of millions in free agency isn’t a strong plan, but it may be what they have to do. Unfortunately for him, we’ll probably see the ousting of head coach Willie Desjardins, as is usually the case when things go downhill.