The playoffs are one of the biggest reasons why Bo Horvat was drafted ninth overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 2013.
In his draft year, Horvat had solid numbers in the regular season in the OHL, but erupted in the playoffs, scoring 16 goals in 21 games. There was something about his competitive drive and style of game that made him well-suited for the playoffs and the Canucks knew it was exactly what they needed.
Regrettably, Horvat hasn’t had many opportunities to prove himself as a playoff performer in the NHL.
Horvat played his 500th career regular season game in the NHL towards the end of this past season, but he’s seen just 23 playoff games. He made the playoffs with the Canucks in his rookie year — scoring 4 points in 6 games — then thrived in the bubble in 2020 with 10 goals in 17 games, but he’s now missed the playoffs in five of his seven seasons in the NHL.
He’s not a fan.
“I want to win,” said Horvat. “I'm getting tired of being out of the playoffs and not being able to fight for the Stanley Cup.”
Horvat, along with several other Canucks, spoke to the media on Thursday about the toll the season took on them and what needs to happen to get better for next season. While he made a point of saying that who the team signs is out of his control, he did suggest he’ll make his voice heard.
“If they ask my opinion, of course I'm going to tell them because I want to succeed here and I want to win,” he said. “I want to be on a team that is going to make the playoffs.”
Here’s one of those opinions: the team’s biggest issue this season was depth at forward.
“In order to win in this league and to win in the playoffs...not only do your top lines have to score but you have to have that depth in your lineup,” said Horvat when asked what was missing from their lineup. “I think if we can add that we're gonna be really successful.”
The Canucks’ bottom-six certainly struggled to score. The team’s top point producer outside of the top-six was Brandon Sutter, who had 12 points in 43 games, then Tyler Motte with 9 points in 23 games. After that, it’s a wasteland.
It’s not just the lack of points, however — the underlying statistics of the team’s bottom-six are equally troubling. The forwards who played on the team’s third and fourth lines this season didn’t drive puck possession and didn’t limit scoring chances against, all while several of them cost the team significantly against the salary cap.
The question is where are those additions going to come from? The team will once again be tight against the salary cap with new contracts for Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes. Improving the bottom-six while also making it cheaper will be a major challenge for this offseason.
Even if the team can’t make major changes, however, Horvat is still optimistic for next season.
“I feel like we have the right guys to make that next step, whether we add guys or not,” he said. “If we have the same roster as this year, guys just have to take the next step and we're gonna have to get better and win hockey games next year.”