VANCOUVER -- After celebrating Lunar New Year on Tuesday, the Vancouver Canucks will celebrate a new era when they announce Patrik Allvin as their new general manager.
The Canucks are expected to confirm Allvin’s appointment on Wednesday, and the 47-year-old from Leksand, via the Pittsburgh Penguins, will become the first Swedish general manager in the National Hockey League. He’ll take charge of a team whose strong history with players from Sweden began in the 1970s.
He’ll also inherit a team that is likely to miss the Stanley Cup playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons.
Of course, had the Canucks been more successful during that time, Allvin wouldn’t be getting this opportunity, given to him by his former mentor and boss in Pittsburgh, Jim Rutherford.
But Allvin will find quite a bit to work with in the Canucks’ young core players, and a fascinating group to work with in management.
Reports of his imminent hiring by Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman and others came one day after Rutherford, who replaced Jim Benning as head of hockey operations on Dec. 9, named Montreal-based player agent Émilie Castonguay the franchise’s first female assistant general manager.
Last week, Rachel Doerrie was added to the Canucks' analytics department and Rutherford’s first hire in Vancouver back in December was respected “hockey man” Derek Clancy as an assistant GM.
Allvin, like Clancy, rose through the scouting ranks, so the Canucks have added considerable scouting chops to their front office.
But the diverse hockey backgrounds of the new hires are interesting and fit Rutherford’s stated goal of bringing together a staff with varied experiences, different journeys, in the hopes it will spawn equally diverse ideas and maybe even some new ones.
Allvin will inherit Benning’s special advisors, Swedish icons Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
As Rutherford reiterated to Sportsnet this week, significant work on the ice is needed. But the team, at least, is displaying the same relentless work ethic that is part of the new management’s reputation.
Tuesday, the Canucks lost 3-2 in overtime to the Edmonton Oilers, playing again with five key players in COVID-19 protocol and a career minor-leaguer in net.
Starting for the second time in the NHL in five days after going five years between games, 26-year-old Spencer Martin didn’t allow a goal until Ryan McLeod rattled a shot under the goalie from a sharp angle at 6:33 of the third period to start Edmonton back from a 2-0 deficit. Martin finished with 47 saves.
Leon Draisaitl tied the game at 10:24, finishing beautifully from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ cross-ice pass at 10:24 – 20 seconds after a weak cross-checking penalty was assessed to Canuck Oliver Ekman-Larsson for a shove on Connor McDavid.
The Canucks never escaped the power-play pressure, and they couldn’t escape overtime, either, as Vancouver forward Jason Dickinson swung too deep into the Edmonton zone and couldn’t reel-in McDavid on the two-on-one counter-attack. The Oilers susperstar converted Darnell Nurse’s excellent pass with 23.4 seconds remaining.
It was Edmonton’s ninth shot of the extra session as the Oilers, who had just ended a seven-game losing streak, dominated towards the end of the game.
“We had the lead going into the third period,” Canucks winger Tyler Motte lamented. “That's one you've got to finish off. We dug ourselves a hole (in the standings), and we’ve got to find a way to get points. And that's a great example of how we didn't finish the job.”
The loss dropped Vancouver a point behind Edmonton in the Pacific Division standings and left the Canucks with just two of six points from their three-game homestand. They are 2-4-2 since Omicron arrived in the dressing room with a vengeance.
But they had the Oilers down 2-0 when Motte and Pettersson scored less than three minutes apart on maligned Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen late in the second period.
Pettersson used Cody Ceci as a screen before shooting from the top of the left-wing circle between the Oilers defenceman’s legs and into the far corner at 14:26. Motte doubled the lead shorthanded at 17:13 by firing through Koskinen’s feet on a breakaway set up by J.T. Miller, who took away a goal from McDavid by blocking his open-net shot in the Vancouver end and then relayed the puck to Motte.
Martin was brilliant in the Canucks’ net until McLeod’s weak goal changed the game early in the third period.
“He made some incredible saves, and what I like probably more than any of it was after the bad goal, the first one, he got right back up and he didn't let it affect him,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He battled hard all the way to the end. And that's the markings of a good goalie.”
The Oilers are in the market for one of those, and one of Allvin’s first duties may be trying to persuade Canucks backup Jaroslav Halak to waive his no-movement clause ahead of the trade deadline in March.
Both Halak and Canucks starter Thatcher Demko remained Tuesday in COVID-19 protocol, along with top-six forwards Bo Horvat, Conor Garland and Tanner Pearson.
It was Miller’s first game back from protocol, and his linemates, Pettersson and Brock Boeser, were both recently in Covid quarantine. Despite Pettersson’s solo goal and Miller’s outstanding play on Motte’s shorty, Boudreau said he needed more from his top line.
“Yeah, you know what? We need them to be the top line, and I thought they were overshadowed a little bit,” Boudreau said. “They didn't get the opportunities or didn't create the opportunities that I would have liked.
“We didn't win many board battles. That's what that top line has got to do better. Win the board battles, then we'll get possession. And when we get possession, then they're fine. But we didn't get enough possession.”
Boeser has just one goal and one assist in eight games since returning from a Covid absence exacerbated by border problems when he returned to Canada. Pettersson has four goals and an assist during that time.
The Canucks hope to have at least a couple of quarantined players back when they open a four-game trip Thursday in Edmonton. At the very least, they’ll have a new GM.