The Vancouver Canucks begin their 54th NHL season still searching for their first Stanley Cup.
Since their heartbreaking loss to Boston in game seven of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, the Canucks have got past the first round of the playoffs just once and have failed to make the postseason in seven of the last eight years.
The western Canadians are on their sixth head coach in the last 10 years, with Rick Tocchet having been appointed in January to replace Bruce Boudreau.
Ending their run of woe will be a tough task with division rivals of the caliber of Edmonton and defending Cup champions Vegas, and Tocchet's task will be to at least keep his team in the Wild Card race.
|2023/24 NHL Season
|US & Canada
|October 10, 2023 - June 2024
|How to watch
|Sportsnet, TVA, RSN & NHL Centre Ice
|TOR Maple Leafs +800, COL Avalanche +850, EDM Oilers +900, NJ Devils +1000
The Canucks ended 2022/23 with 83 points, good enough only for sixth in the Pacific Division and 12 points shy of earning a Wild Card place.
It was also nine fewer points than they had managed the previous season, and saw them miss the playoffs for the third consecutive year.
Improved defense will be a priority for Vancouver entering the new season.
The Canucks' 276 goals scored was actually four more than division winners Vegas scored, but they were a defensive disaster, letting in 298 goals - 62 more than they had allowed the previous season.
A big part of that was the injury issues suffered by goalie Thatcher Demko. The San Diego native is a clear number one for the 'Nucks, but was limited to 32 games played last year.
When he did finally return for the latter part of the season he was his usual impressive self, so if Demko can stay healthy that will be a huge plus for Vancouver.
Special teams was also an area of concern. The Canucks' penalty kill operated at a league-worst 71.6%, however they have made moves in the offseason to address that.
General manager Patrik Allvin has signed Carson Soucy from Seattle and Ian Cole from Tampa Bay, both of whom are renowned PK specialists.
Their additions should also allow Quinn Hughes more freedom. The Canucks' star D-man is second only to Colorado's Cale Makar in points per game among active defensemen.
An off-ice issue for Allvin to solve is Elias Pettersson's contract. The Swedish star scored a career-high 39 goals last season, and he will be keen to put up big numbers again to earn the biggest payday he can upon his contract's expiry after this season.
Petterson's linemate Andrei Kuzmenko had a stunning debut season in the NHL, as the former SKA St Petersburg forward also contributed 39 goals.
So the ingredients are certainly there for an improvement over the last couple of seasons, the question is whether they can make up enough ground to enter the playoff picture.
The Canucks are +5500 to lift a first Stanley Cup. Only eight teams have longer odds.
They are +130 to reach the playoffs, and -160 to miss out for the fourth season in a row.
Demko is -115 to record over 27.5 wins, a line he comfortably eclipsed in 2021/22 and could easily do so again as long as he stays healthy.
The team are +450 to reach the 100 point mark in the regular season, something they have not managed since 2015.
The Canucks begin their season on home ice on October 11th with what is likely to be a baptism of fire for their new-look defense as Conor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers travel to Rogers Arena.
They have two meetings with their cross-border 'local' rivals Seattle within the space of a week in November. The teams clash in Vancouver on the 18th before reconvening in the US on the 24th.
Their first meeting with division rivals and defending champions Vegas Golden Knights is on November 30th.
Milan Lucic and new captain Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins terrorized the Canucks during their 2011 Stanley Cup Finals battle and it is always a spicy affair when the sides meet, especially at Rogers Arena where the Bruins lifted the Cup as riots erupted outside. February 24th is the date to look forward to for that one.
Rick Tocchet was announced as the Canucks' head coach on January 22nd, 2023, the same day the franchise fired Bruce Boudreau.
Tocchet had spent four seasons in charge of the struggling Arizona Coyotes, leaving the team by mutual consent at the end of the 2020/21 season.
The Scarborough, Ontario native knows his way around the league having played for six teams between 1984 and 2002.
He has also served as head coach for the Tampa Bay Lightning between 2008 and 2010, and was an assistant coach in Pittsburgh when the Penguins won their back-to-back Cups in 2016 and 2017.
Carson Soucy (D) Seattle
Ian Cole (D) Tampa Bay
Teddy Blueger (F) Vegas
Pius Suter (F) Detroit
Oliver Ekman-Larsson (D) Florida
Ethan Bear (D) UFA
Collin Delia (G) Winnipeg
Travis Dermott (D) Arizona
Kyle Burroughs (D) San Jose
Vitali Kravtsov (F) Chelyabinsk