The Vancouver Canucks entered the new season high in optimism that they would be back in playoff contention following two seasons removed.
However, a troubled 3-6-2 start has quickly dampened those hopes and widened their odds of qualifying for the post-season and they are +7500 to win the Pacific Division.
The Canucks began last season with a disastrous 8-15-2 record which saw Travis Green fired and replaced by Bruce Boudreau.
Boudreau, 67, had an immediate impact and registered a winning record of 32-15-10 to end the 2021/22 season.
The Canucks improved in almost every measurable aspect after Boudreau became coach going from last in the NHL (64.6 per cent) to 11th (80.5 per cent) on the penalty-kill, 22nd (17.4 per cent) to second (26.7 per cent) on the powerplay, 27th (2.36 goals per game) to 12th (3.28) in goals per game, and 23rd (3.16) to fifth (2.67) in goals against per game.
Unfortunately for the Canucks those gains haven't carried over into the new season and the same mistakes which saw them unable to recover from the poor start last season have re-surfaced.
Vancouver's 2-6-2 record through the first 10 games was their worst since 1987 and while they have won three of their past four, concerns remain after giving up five goals in an 8-5 win over the lowly Anaheim Ducks on Thursday.
Despite the Canucks' improvement under Boudreau, the Canadian's future with the organisation was heavily doubted over the summer with President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford stating that he was far from impressed about the over reliance on goalie Thatcher Demko.
Therefore, it came as a surprise when it was announced that the happy-go-lucky Boudreau would return, with it since being quoted that Rutherford hadn't realised an 18-month contract was offered by General Manager Patrik Allvin and signed by Boudreau.
73-year-old Rutherford has again publicly bemoaned Vancouver's structure under Boudreau saying the team "is hard to watch" and pointed towards "bad habits" growing as early as their training camp.
Boudreau himself admitted after the win over Anaheim on Thursday that his team are giving up too many chances, but said: "We're never going to turn down a win; we don't have enough of them."
Despite Rutherford's concern, he has refused to panic and pointed towards the success Boudreau was able to have last season and his winning experience in the NHL (602-323-127) as reason for keeping him in charge.
The Canucks are also still having to pay Green and if Boudreau was fired, it would mean having to pay three coaches until at least the end of the season, something a cynic would suggest is helping to keep Boudreau in the job.
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Demko has faced the fifth-most shots against at even strength this season (219 in eight games) and has conceded the second highest of all goalies overall (32 goals).
Despite the heavy workload, the 26-year-old has managed a .913 save-percentage at even strength (10th of goalies to play more than eight games), giving the Canucks a chance to win most games, even when they are being heavily outplayed.
In a hefty 61 starts last season Demko posted a .915 save-percentage and 2.72 goals-against-average. At even strength he had a .928 save-percentage, facing the third highest amount of shots of any goalie in five-on-five play.
Rutherford is openly concerned about the over reliance on Demko's brilliance and, while a valuable commodity to have, clearly doesn't feel that the strategy is a sustainable way to build a team that can contend every season.
Undeservedly for Demko, he is stuck on just one win in eight games for the Canucks this season and has been let down by the league's worst penalty-kill which sits at a shocking 57.6 per cent.
Vancouver have conceded 14 goals on 33 penalty-kills, and even a 30.8 per cent powerplay, which ranks fourth best in the league hasn't been able to bail them out, with the goals conceded while short-handed having a severe impact on results.
More positively for the Canucks, +7000 for the Stanley Cup, is that they have been able to bolster their defence with the addition of Ethan Bear from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick.
The 25-year-old found appearances hard to come by in Carolina, who expect to challenge for the Stanley Cup this year, and so asked to be moved with the Canucks only too happy to have him.
Bear scored 14 points (five goals, nine assists) while averaging 16.05 minutes per-game in 58 contests for Carolina last season.
The Hurricanes have retained 18 per cent of Bear's $2.2-million cap hit and he is said to be relieved to be playing again, making two appearances so far for Vancouver.
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