Vancouver Canucks, Conor Garland

Canucks On Top Of The NHL With Help From An Angry Elf

Fans of the Vancouver Canucks woke up Friday morning to see their team on top of the NHL standings with 47 points and holding the tie-break over co-Pacific Division leaders, the Vegas Golden Knights.

By virtue of the point earned in the 4-3 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars on Thursday, Vancouver hopped on top of the league.

While the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins presently hold a better winning percentage than the Canucks based on fewer games played and both have back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday, Vancouver at least controls its own destiny in terms of having the most points in the Western Conference at the three-day NHL Christmas break.

If Boston loses in regulation at the Winnipeg Jets or Minnesota Wild and the Rangers lose one at home to the Edmonton Oilers or Buffalo Sabres on Friday or Saturday, then the Canucks will likely be the league’s top team enjoying the merriest of Christmases.

All Vancouver has to do is beat the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night at Rogers Arena.

One should consider that result extremely likely since the game is a mismatch and the Canucks will be seeking retribution for a 4-3 loss in San Jose back on November 25th. That was a “trap” game for Vancouver, the club’s third road game in four nights that came one night after they’d beaten the Kraken 5-1 in Seattle. That in itself had been a highly charged revenge game with the Canucks having previously lost three games in a row to their southern neighbours.

Fans should expect the Canucks to reach 49 points on Saturday night.

Canucks Angry Elf

Good on Conor Garland and his linemates for stepping it up in recent days. Fitting that the man once referred to as an “angry elf” by Philadelphia Flyers forward Travis Konecny should be having a surge just ahead of Christmas.

Garland’s almost $5-million annual salary has been a source of consternation in the Vancouver market, with trade rumours circulating since a few months after he arrived in town from Arizona with since-bought-out defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the summer of 2021.

But the undersized pesky ‘waterbug’ with the even shorter stick has been turning heads lately.

The man who wanted out of Vancouver earlier this season and who changed agents in an effort to expedite the request, has been fitting in rather nicely with centre Teddy Blueger and winger Dakota Joshua.

Garland has five points over his last five games including two in Dallas, while Blueger and Joshua both have six over the same stretch.

Irony Or Coincidental

The other NHL player besides Konecny who chirped Garland back in October of 2021 was Detroit Red Wings winger Filip Zadina, also known as that organization’s worst draft pick in recent memory.

The 6th-overall pick in 2018, since waived by the Red Wings and snagged by none-other-than the Sharks, called Garland a “midget”.

Zadina, a winger from the Quebec league, much to the joy and rapture of Canucks GM Jim Benning at the time, went one pick ahead of Quinn Hughes, four ahead of Evan Bouchard and six ahead of Noah Dobson, all D-men Detroit desperately could have used.

Coincidentally, Zadina will see Garland on Saturday night.

“They just call me Garlie,” Garland told Vancouver Hockey insider a month after the Zadina chirp. “In Arizona I was called “G” forever, I came here and one of the athletic trainer’s nickname is “G” ,,, so it’s ‘Garlie’ or ‘Gars’.”

A reader poll we ran at the time came up with some fun ideas, with ‘Gnarly’ being one of the winners.

“My mom only calls me “dawg”,” Garland laughed. “That’s it, in her Charlestown accent (adjacent to Boston) she calls me dog. When I’m in trouble it’s Conor. She’s a city girl so she calls me dog.”

This dog, ironically still a potential trade asset ahead of the deadline, and his Vancouver pack are practically on top of the world.

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Rob Simpson

Rob Simpson has covered the NHL in five different decades. He’s authored 4 books on hockey and is a veteran TV and radio play-by-play man and reporter.