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Canucks Roll Call: How Elite is Thatcher Demko

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Vancouver Canucks, Thatcher Demko
Vancouver Canucks goalie Thatcher Demko against the the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul on April 21st.

Canucks Roll Call is assessing every player who held a significant place in the fortunes of the 2021-22 Vancouver Canucks season. We’ll be looking at the highs and lows they experienced during the recent campaign, as well as what the future holds for them in Vancouver. We’ve moved on to those players under contract. Today we feature number-one netminder Thatcher Demko

Position: Goalie

2021-22 totals (GS-W-L-OT/SOL-GAA-Save%): 61-33-22-7-2.72-.915%

Contract Status: The Vancouver Canucks are in a happy place because they have their high-end, number-one goalie with upside for four more years at an average of $5-million per season.

That’s under the assumption that a major injury doesn’t occur or that things don’t somehow go south, always a bizarre possibility in the wild and wacky world of NHL netminding.

I’ve mentioned examples on earlier occasions while sharing cautionary tales. (5/2/2022 and 7/28/2021)

Cynicism aside, the Vancouver Canucks have an outstanding, large (6-foot-4, 192-pound), 26-year-old goaltender.

Season Synopsis

We’ve said it many times before and will say it again and again as long as the sport is played at the highest levels: The name of the game is ‘goalie’ and Vancouver Canucks netminder Demko epitomized the concept this past season. Like he’s supposed to do, like the other elite NHL goaltenders do on a regular basis, he often saved his team’s bacon.

Until he tired and suffered a bothersome injury during the final two weeks of the season, Demko was consistently excellent and at times spectacular.

HIghlights

Symbolic of his team’s season, his only shut-out of the campaign came in head coach Bruce Boudreau’s first appearance behind the bench, a 4-0 win on December 6th, 2021 at Rogers Arena. It started the team’s seven-game winning streak with Demko winning six of them.

After the streak was snapped with a 2-1 shoot-out loss to the LA Kings with Jaroslav Halak in net on December 30th, Demko would extend his personal winning streak to seven games with a win in Seattle on January 1st.

(It’s easy to forget that after six of those wins, the season was interrupted by an extended league-wide holiday/Covid break between Canucks games on December 16th and 29th. A bit of a buzz/momentum kill for Vancouver.)

Demko won six consecutive starts beginning in late-February. Later, while fatigued and quietly ailing, he reeled off five more wins in a row during the month of April with the Canucks desperately trying to reach the playoffs.

His behaviour matched his words; he always put the team first.

Lowlights

The bad goals were rare enough to be forgettable and the fatigue didn’t really start to show up until the end of the stretch drive dash. The workload would have contributed to the injury.

What the future holds

One would think without the desperation of having to dig out of an early season hole, the Vancouver Canucks will be able to better manage Demko’s starts in 2022-’23. He wants to be the workhorse, but logic and pragmatism must reign supreme when scheduling starts for the likely back-up goalie Spencer Martin.

There’s no point in making the playoffs if your top netminder is going to be exhausted and easily dinged.

Demko has an excellent work ethic and a great relationship with goaltending coach Ian Clark, so things look rosie between the pipes for the Canucks moving forward.

Other Roll Calls:

JT Miller

Alex Chiasson

Brock Boeser

VHN Managing Editor Rob Simpson has been covering the NHL for three decades on live TV, radio, and as a journalist. He worked his first ever game getting postgame sound as a teenager; it was Vancouver vs. Detroit.

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