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NHL Hot Seat Radar: Vancouver Canucks

All hands will be on deck to start the season for the Canucks, and both Allvin and Boudreau will be in their first full regular season in their roles with Vancouver. There will be pressure on Boudreau, in particular, to perform in a big way.

Welcome to the latest edition of the THN Hot Seat, an ongoing series of THN.com files where we point out one member of every NHL team who will face big-time pressure in the 2022-23 season. The pick for the Hot Seat can be an NHL player, head coach, GM, or franchise owner. Today, we’ll be focusing on the Vancouver Canucks.

CANUCKS HOT SEAT: BRUCE BOUDREAU, HEAD COACH

WHY: The Canucks surprised more than a few people this past week by agreeing to terms with No. 1 center J.T. Miller on a lucrative, eight-year contract extension that will begin in 2023-24. That puts all of their key players under contract for this coming year. Although Vancouver is currently more than $2.7 million over the salary cap upper limit, GM Patrik Allvin may be able to pare salary if defenseman Tucker Poolman begins the season on the injured reserve. A subsequent move would likely involve a bit player being demoted to the American League.

Otherwise, all hands will be on deck to start the season for the Canucks, and both Allvin and Boudreau will be in their first full regular season in their roles with Vancouver, the moves that have been made point them out to be intending on vying for a playoff berth in the relatively weak Pacific Division. The way the Canucks played after cleaning house on the management side during the 2021-22 campaign has given fans and media reason for optimism, but it’s limited optimism at this stage; yes, they’re likely to challenge for a post-season spot, but their defense corps is lacking in quality depth.

This is the challenge for Boudreau, who has established himself as a players’ coach, but not one who can effectively squeeze the defense to make life hard on opponents in his team’s own zone. It’s true that, with new acquisition Ilya Mikheyev, the Canucks probably will be more potent on offense than they were last year. If center Jason Dickinson can improve on an underwhelming 2021-22 performance, Vancouver will have three above-average forward lines, and though the fourth line may require some tinkering, that’s a positive for the Canucks.

That said, it’s now on Boudreau to make it work. He’s had success in Washington, Anaheim and Minnesota, but he hasn’t been able to steer a team to the Stanley Cup. Now that he’s in Vancouver, it’s still going to be a process to get the Canucks to the ultimate level of the sport, but at the very least, Boudreau needs to push his group into the playoffs this year. Vancouver fans saw up close how it’s virtually impossible to dig yourself out of a deep hole at the start of the season, and if the Canucks stumble out of the gate once again, it’s possible Allvin dismisses Boudreau and chooses a coach of his own; remember, Boudreau was hired before Allvin last season, and we all know GMs prefer installing their bench boss after they’ve been brought on board, so there’s no thick attachment between Boudreau and Allvin.

Boudreau is one of the most affable figures in the game today. He quickly endeared himself to Canucks fans after Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford hired him, and people in Vancouver want to see him succeed. But if there’s an injury to a key player, or if one or two stars hit a dry patch early on, Allvin could take matters into his own hands and put a different voice in the dressing room. As we’ve seen this summer, teams are not averse to changing coaches, even after only a couple of seasons behind the bench. The pressure is extreme, and the Canucks are no different than other teams insofar as missing the playoffs isn’t an option. Boudreau has to produce wins regularly. 

His cheerful demeanor and rapport with fans won’t save him from the firing line if that doesn't happen.

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