It’s what all Canucks fans are wondering: what went wrong? At the start of the season, on paper, we looked like we had a contending team. Then, the puck dropped on our season and we lost and lost and lost. Thatcher Demko was hurt and we played our best games when he was healthy at the end of the season. However, that doesn’t excuse the lazy, bad playing from some of our top players. There were exceptions. Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson and Andrei Kuzmenko have had great seasons. The proof of their success comes from one simple stat: the +/-. We have 23 players with a negative +/- so far this year. Some of these players in the red are our most consistent and most beloved. However, it is inexcusable to play defence this poorly.
For those who don’t know, a +/- keeps track of how many goals a player is on the ice for. Every goal for his team that he’s on the ice for is a plus and every goal by the opposing team that he’s on the ice for is a minus. The Canucks had the sixth-most goals against in the NHL this year. At least we can find solace in the fact that we’ve scored more goals than the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2022-23 season.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson led the bad actors on the Canucks with a +/- of -24 in 54 games. That is simply atrocious for a defenceman, especially one getting paid $7.26-million per year. He was a +5 last year in 79 games. Other players in the league at -24 are Erik Gudbranson, John Klingberg and Nathan Beaulieu.
Brock Boeser is at -16 currently. My favourite Canuck but, man, does he make it hard for his fans to continue to support him. Yes, he has 54 points, but he’s on the ice for so many goals. He’s had a negative +/- for three years straight. He must improve his defensive play in the offseason if he is going to continue to be on this team.
Dakota Joshua is a new player for us this year and I’ve liked how he plays. I was surprised to see that he is -14 this year. This compares with his +6 in the 30 games he played for St. Louis in the 2021-22 season. Even if I like a guy, I can’t excuse poor defensive play. He has a big body, but he needs to tighten up how he positions himself in the defensive zone.
Tyler Myers, the city’s favourite guy to rag on, is at -13 this year. Maybe it’s his size, maybe it’s his stick, maybe it’s how he plays, but this man is very noticeable when he makes a mistake. They always seem drastic and seem to always lead to a goal. He was +15 last year.
J.T. Miller is at -7 and Conor Garland is at -6. This is unacceptable, if we are going to be a competitive team. J.T. was +15 last year. Garland was +18.
Now, I know what the fans who are reading this are screaming. It comes down to goaltending. When Demko started the season, perhaps he was already injured. His numbers would suggest as much. He had a GAA in October of 4.05 and in November of 3.56. When he returned in March, his GAA was 2.67. Two games into April and his GAA is 1.53. Spencer Martin, on the other hand, has the 51st best GAA in the NHL with 3.99. As there are only 32 teams in the league, having your starting goalie be 51st is not good enough to make the playoffs.
So, in conclusion, I believe Canucks fans may have less to worry about than they think. We just needed some solid goaltending to back up our play. However, if a healthy Demko plays next year and the team keeps these same +/- numbers, then we can kiss our playoff hopes goodbye because teams with bad +/- do not make the playoffs.