Thu. Aug 18th, 2022

After a very difficult 2021-22, can Vancouver Canucks winger Brock Boeser find new happiness on the ice in 2022-23?

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We’re looking back at the 2021-22 Vancouver Canucks with a focus on Brock Boeser. Over the past few weeks and in the weeks to come, we’re breaking down the season and taking a look at how player situations stack up going into 2022-23…

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Name: Brock Boeser

Age: 25.

Position: Right wing.

Career stats: GP: 324; G: 121; A: 135; Pts: 256.

Contract status: Needs a new contract. Last season was in the final year of a three-year “bridge” deal that carried a cap hit of US $ 5.875 million. Is due a US $ 7.5-million qualifying offer from the Canucks to at least retain his rights as a restricted free agent.

How 2021-22 went: On-ice, so-so. Off-ice, as bad as can be.

As we know now, the likeable Boeser spent the season dealing with the decline of his father, Duke. His dad was battling with early on-set dementia brought on by Parkinson’s Disease as well as cancer.

The emotional toll on Boeser was heavy. His family has always been close and to be mostly away from his dad, who had always been his No. 1 fan, was immensely difficult.

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The Canucks made a pair of late-season visits to Minnesota, both emotional for Boeser, especially the latter game as his father was no longer well enough to attend. Those close to him did say it was a blessing he was able to spend time with his dad at home after the season ended. Duke died in late May.

Remarkably, Boeser scored four goals in the final eight games of the season, a reminder of the kind of scorer he can be.

But in the end, he scored just 23 goals in 71 games, the lowest total he has put up over a full season. (He scored just 16 in 2019-20, but that campaign was shortened by the onset of the pandemic.)

Vancouver Canucks winger Brock Boeser with his father, Duke.
Vancouver Canucks winger Brock Boeser with his father, Duke. Photo by Courtesy of Ben Hankinson

His father’s health weighed on him, and there’s reason to believe the impact his struggles had on his bosses’ careers may have as well. Most hockey players at the very least know that the employment of their managers and coaches are tied to their own on-ice performance and for Boeser, known to be a caring person, seeing the only bosses he’s ever known walk the plank can not have been easy.

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When we’re in our early 20s, we’re usually in our first jobs, finding our way in the world. Boeser is still just 25 but has already been through a lot.

His camp certainly believes he can be a bigger offensive influence. In his first two seasons, he seemed destined to be a 30-goal scorer, if he could only just stay healthy.

The past two seasons, Boeser’s health has largely held up. He was the Canucks’ most consistent forward in what was a terrible 2020-21 overall for his team, scoring 23 goals in 56 games. That was a 34-goal pace.

His dip in scoring this season was mainly about a decline in five-on-five finishing. Eleven of his goals this season came on the power play, a career high, but at even strength he scored just 12 goals, the second lowest total of his career.

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Even as his production soured, he remained a useful two-way player, prone to the occasional mental mistake but overall a very tidy hockey player with or without the puck.

How the future looks: Emotionally, of course, he’ll have a lot to work through.

In the here and now, there’s a contract to be sorted out. It’s believed Boeser and his representatives are interested in a two- or three-year deal, though they would likely also sign the one-year qualifying offer the Canucks will likely put in, if only to protect him from leaving the club for nothing.

Signing a one-year deal would allow Boeser a new chance to prove himself, to try to hit the 40-goal mark he’s dreamed of, earning himself new bargaining power while also being ready to accept that if he did not perform in a way that matched his salary, he’d have to accept a smaller salary a year from now.

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The Canucks, of course, would happily lock Boeser down for a couple seasons at a number that fits better with their overall salary cap structure, one that kept Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson and perhaps even JT Miller at the top of the pecking order.

Canucks management also know that Boeser is fond of Vancouver. Are they leaning on his preference of place playing a factor in his negotiations?

Wednesday’s signing of Kevin Fiala by the Los Angeles Kings – they traded for him earlier in the day – does set an interesting comparison point in Boeser’s negotiations. Fiala is the same age as Boeser and had been a comparable performer to Boeser in previous seasons, before his breakout performance in 2021-22 where his electric play saw him score at a point-per-game pace.

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Fiala signed a seven-year deal worth just under US $ 8 million per season. Boeser’s season will not earn him a deal like that. And the general principle is the longer the term, the higher the average annual wage.

Boeser’s one-year qualifying offer would not be far off Fiala’s long-term salary. That plays in the Canucks’ favor.

Greatest strengths: Shooting. He’s a sniper, ready to fire the puck from anywhere.

Greatest weakness: Foot speed. He has to play smart all the time and usually he does, but when he has a moment where he misses it’s hard for him to make up for it.

Is he trade bait? Sure, but the Canucks aren’t the only team wary of his potential cap hit.

The big question: How much does Canucks management believe in him? He’s been a first-line winger for most of this NHL career, but does Patrik Allvin, Jim Rutherford and Bruce Boudreau think so, too?

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pjohnston@postmedia.com

twitter.com/risingaction


Read more from our Canucks Under the Microscope series

• Elias Pettersson
• Quinn Hughes
• Oliver Ekman-Larsson
• Bo Horvat
• Tyler Myers
• Luke Schenn
• Kyle Burroughs
• Jack Rathbone
• Tucker Poolman
• JT Miller
• Tanner Pearson
• Travis Dermott
• Thatcher Demko


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