As of this writing, the Vancouver Canucks are in first place in the Pacific Division. Honestly, it makes me happy to say that. Once upon a time, I couldn't stand this team, and that was mainly because of the Steve Moore incident. I absolutely loved seeing this team fail, especially in the 2011 Cup Final, and in the following year's playoffs, which saw them only win one game after winning the Presidents' Trophy again. Then the 2020 bubble happened, and I saw the Canucks make a surprising playoff run, ousting the Minnesota Wild in that Qualifying Round, eliminating the then-defending Cup Champion St. Louis Blues in the opening round, and taking the Vegas Golden Knights to the maximum seven games in the West Semis, but coming up just short.
The promise was there following that bubble run, but the shortened season that followed saw the Canucks in dead last in the all-Canadian North Division. After a bad start to the 2021-22 season, the Canucks fired general manager Jim Benning and head coach Travis Green, and hired Patrick Allvin and Bruce Boudreau in their respective positions, with Jim Rutherford as the president of team operations. The Canucks went on a winning tear, but still missed the playoffs, and the same thing happened last season, which was marred a bit by Boudreau's immensely controversial ousting, as well as the hiring of Rick Tocchet as his replacement.
Fans didn't know what to expect from the Canucks this season, but I don't think anyone expected this! The Canucks are 12-3-1 to start the season, going 2-2-0 in their first four games before winning 10 of their next 12 games, only losing in regulation once (against the Toronto Maple Leafs). This stretch included their 10-1 win over the lowly San Jose Sharks, which was definitely a boost to their goals average. In addition, the Canucks' 16-game start to this season is the best in franchise history, even topping 1981-82 (6-7-3), 1993-94 (10-6-0), and 2010-11 (10-4-2)--the three seasons where the Canucks reached the Cup Final.
The Canucks are led by the amazing trio of Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and J.T. Miller, who are all tied for the overall league lead in points with 26. Amazing, isn't it? Even more amazing is Hughes' Plus/Minus: +18. That used to be such a weakness for them. So those three are tied for the points lead, however, what if I told you that none of them lead the team in goals? Between the trio, Miller has the most goals with 10, Pettersson has seven, and Hughes has only six. The actual team leader is Brock Boeser, whose 13 goals actually ties him with Kyle Connor and Auston Matthews for the league lead!
As for goaltending, Thatcher Demko has been showing out this season. So far, Demko is 8-3-0 with a 2.05 GAA, a .932 SV%, and two shutouts. His eight wins ties him with Sergei Bobrovsky for second in the league, and is one behind league leader Alexandar Georgiev, while his two shutouts trails only Tristan Jarry overall. Regarding team stats, I did mention that 10 goal game helping Vancouver's goals average. They actually lead the entire NHL in that category, putting up 4.38 goals per game--one of only two teams scoring four goals per game this season (the Los Angeles Kings are the other team). The Canucks' power play has also been amazing, an even 33.3%, that's one out of every three power plays! The penalty kill may need some work, but the team has made up for it elsewhere.
The Canucks have been in the NHL since 1970, the same year that the Buffalo Sabres debuted, yet entering this season, all of the attention was directed to the Sabres. Many believed that the Sabres would finally end their long playoff drought, while the Canucks would be an afterthought. However, while the Sabres are off to an up-and-down start, it's the Canucks who are booming big time. The Canucks are actually on pace to win 62 games this season, though I don't think they'll get that many victories. The 2020 bubble run did win me over, and in addition, there are a lot of players on that team I like. Plus, it also helps that they have Adam Foote (an Avalanche legend) as their assistant coach. The way I see it, this Canucks team will be in the playoffs. It would be something if they finish first in the Pacific over the defending champion Golden Knights, and we will see how far this team goes.