Skip to content

THE MOJ: Trading block to building block, Canucks Garland playing key role

Conor Garland has been a huge part of the Canucks success this season PC- Vancouver Canucks

Sometimes the best move is the one you don’t make.

For the Vancouver Canucks, not trading Conor Garland is Exhibit A.

It was no secret that the Canucks were facing a salary cap issue at the start of last year and Garland’s name was always mentioned in trade rumors as someone the club would like to move.

Heading into this summer, many believed that Vancouver simply could not afford the luxury of having Garland on the roster with a cap hit of $4.95 million per season for the next three years.

There were no takers when it came to Garland but that didn’t mean that everything had settled down for him as the season approached.

Reports surfaced at the start of the year that 27-year-old forward had requested a trade (which he later denied) and that permission was given to his agent Judd Moldaver by the Canucks to find a deal.

Fortunately for the Canucks, nothing ever materialized.

While most outsiders will focus on the All-Star quintet of Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller, Brock Boeser and Thatcher Demko in terms of the team’s success, Garland’s play in anchoring a line that features Dakota Joshua and Teddy Blueger has been a major reason why the Canucks sit on top of the NHL’s overall standings with 80 points after Tuesday night’s 4-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings at Rogers Arena.

Just as he did the day prior to the season-opener when he refused to answer questions around the alleged trade demand and stated how he was just focused on playing hockey, Garland again downplayed the whole situation during the game day skate on Thursday saying that was ‘long time ago’ and ‘it’s not that big of a deal’ when the topic was broached.

But according to an earlier report, it was an extremely difficult start to the season for Garland and it was Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet who helped Garland navigate through it.

“He (Tocchet) tried to block out the noise and keep me day to day. Those first six games were pretty tough on me — especially that first road trip. Any time I was in a tough spot, I could lean on him and guys in the room to understand the situation I was in,” Garland told The Province’s Ben Kuzma.

Tocchet was effusive in his praise when asked about Garland’s contributions to the team’s success this season – especially when taking into account what happened in October.

“Just from where he has come from the beginning of the year (and his) mental state. The way he has dug in and arguably been one of our best forwards the last two months. Everyone looks at points (27) and points are great but the way he plays consistently game in and game out (and) the way he can drive a line and the way he’s kept with it. He could have easily gone the other way and he didn’t and I give him a lot of credit,” explained Tocchet.

The pair do have some history together as Tocchet coached Garland during his first three seasons in the NHL starting in 2018.

“I had him when I was a kid in Arizona. He was the major reason I was able to sign the deal that I did as I worked with him in my contract year. He helped me improve so much as a player and as a person. That year did wonders for my game. Now I’m an older player and working with again has been great,” said Garland, who scored 12 goals and added 27 assists for 39 points in 49 games in that contract year during the Covid-shortened 2020-21 season.

Garland, Blueger and Joshua have arguably been one of the NHL’s best third lines this season. The trio play in a ‘tight triangle’ as Tocchet has described in the past and read off of each other well. The trio has provided secondary scoring to the club while also playing solid defensively.

“They (Blueger and Joshua) are both responsible defensively and that gets you ice time no matter what. When the coach can trust all three of you and when you can score, now you’re getting ice time when you are down a goal too. We take a lot of pride in being a line that can be out there in both situations. If we need to score one late, we will, and if we have to get a puck out late, we will. We feel confident in our abilities on both sides. We just stick to the system. We do what works for us as a line and we don’t get too full of ourselves. We don’t start to change into being ‘skilled players’ once we get results. We just play as a line and it works even when pucks don’t go in,” said Garland.

Asked to describe why Garland has been so effective this year, Tocchet was quick to point out Garland’s work ethic and compete level.

“I think his corner work and his ability to keep plays alive. He’s not a one-and-done guy. When the puck is transferred somewhere, he’s the first guy on the puck. For a little guy – he goes into the corner with a big guy – and he comes out of it (with the puck). You’ll see a big pile and all of a sudden you’ll see this little guy come out of the corner…that’s a big possession. The more guys you have like that, the more you are going to extend offensive zone chances,” noted Tocchet.


* Joshua didn’t play against Detroit after suffering a hand injury in a fight with Chicago’s MacKenzie Entwistle on Tuesday night. “I can’t give you an exact (time) but it doesn’t look like he can play the next game either. I can’t go further than that until I sit with the doctors and find out what the plan is from there,” said Tocchet when questioned on how long Joshua may be out of the lineup.

* The Canucks got two goals from Elias Lindholm and single markers from Miller and Nikita Zadorov in the recording their straight win. J.T. Compher scored the lone Red Wings goal. Alex Lyon made 17 saves for Detroit while Demko stopped 27 shots for Vancouver.

* Demko actually tried to score late in the game when the Red Wings pulled Lyon for an extra attacker. Demko lofted a nice shot down the middle of the ice and the puck appeared to be on target but was stopped shortly after it landed near the hash marks in the Red Wing’s zone by Shayne Gostisbehere. “I’m not really the guy to try it but I figured up three (goals) it was going to be my best effort, so it’s going to be my first and last try,” Demko said afterwards.

* The hockey club celebrated Black History Month with several in-house features during the course of the game including an interview with ex-Canuck Nathan LaFayette, who was a member of the ’94 team that went to the Stanley Cup Finals.

* Winnipeg Jets General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff took in the game Thursday night. His team takes on the Canucks Saturday at Rogers Arena.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media.

READ MORE: Canucks extend winning streak to 3 games with 4-1 victory over Red Wings

READ MORE: THE MOJ: Canucks’ Kessel experiment is tossing the dice with house money

Black Press Media Staff

About the Author: Black Press Media Staff

Read more