VANCOUVER — Bo Horvat refuted the idea the Vancouver Canucks are playing badly because players are upset they lost some key teammates this offseason.
“I don’t believe that,” the Canucks captain said Wednesday. “Obviously it is tough to see guys go, but at the same time you’ve got to move on and play for the team you are playing for. You can’t dwell on anything, and we have a great group of guys here and a lot of good hockey players and because we lost guys doesn’t mean we are trying to play bad.
“We all want to win here, and we all want to do well, so I don’t think that’s a theory at all.”
Vancouver (6-10-0) has lost five straight games. The Canucks are sixth in the Scotia North Division, 30th in the NHL in goals against per game (3.94), last in shots against per game (34.7), and look nothing like the team that lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in seven games in the Western Conference Second Round last season, one game from advancing to the conference final.
Goalie Jacob Markstrom (Calgary Flames), defensemen Christopher Tanev (Flames) and Troy Stecher (Detroit Red Wings), and forward Tyler Toffoli (Montreal Canadiens) each left Vancouver as a free agent this offseason.
“We lost some pretty good players last year, so we’re trying to figure it out together,” Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes said after a 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday.
Hughes’ comment, combined with Markstrom defeating the Canucks twice this season and Toffoli scoring eight of his nine goals in five games against Vancouver, has some wondering if the players remain upset about those departures.
“I can shut that down,” Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko said. “I don’t think anyone is holding that against management or coaches. Guys know that the business side of things is going to happen sometimes and guys are going to leave, get traded, sign somewhere else, what have you, and guys are well aware of that and they know you’ve got to move on and focus on the task at hand.”
Vancouver signed goalie Braden Holtby to a two-year contract Oct. 9, acquired defenseman Nate Schmidt in a trade with Vegas on Oct. 12, and signed defenseman Travis Hamonic to a one-year contact on the eve of the season.
Hughes has scored 17 points (one goal, 16 assists) this season, tied for fifth in the NHL and five more than all but one other defenseman (Jeff Petry, Montreal Canadiens, 14 points).
“For Quinn, he was really tight with [Tanev] off the ice and stuff, so I can see why that one hit a little bit harder,” Horvat said. “But the guys that we brought in and the guys in this room are great hockey players, and it takes a little time with new guys in a regular year, and we have to remember this is not a regular year. It’s going to take some time.”
The Canucks played 16 games in 27 days after opening the season Jan. 13. Three of their six wins are against the Ottawa Senators, who are 2-11-1.
Coach Travis Green’s contract expires after this season (his fourth), and Horvat also pushed back against the idea that Green not having an extension in place is a cause for their poor play.
“That makes no difference to us,” Horvat said. “We all really like ‘Greener’ as a coach, and he’s done a heck of a job with our group. Obviously we’d love to see him stay and be a part of the Vancouver Canucks, but at the same time [we] have to worry about winning hockey games.”