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[Article] Canucks: Thatcher Demko is wired to play a lot, but less could mean more


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Canucks: Thatcher Demko is wired to play a lot, but less could mean more


Thatcher Demko has adopted a more zoned-in approach to his craft. He has a better understanding of his body and how to push and recover.


With the hype meter already in high mode, it’s easy to dream of what could be.

It’s not just the encouraging early points production by Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, J.T. Miller and Quinn Hughes after two games. A rout and then resilience in victories over the Edmonton Oilers will quicken the pulse of expectation, but nothing will accelerate all this like elite goaltending.


The Canucks know what the combination of a healthy Thatcher Demko and steady veteran backup Casey DeSmith can provide in this pivotal NHL season. And with no back-to-backs on this five-game trip, it shouldn’t mean the backup won’t get another start to keep both stoppers fresh. That would be a prudent plan.

If the starter can be limited to 55 games and remain injury-free in a position that puts tremendous strain on hips, knees and groins — and DeSmith can be more than just an occasional reliever — then it’s not a stretch to suggest that the Canucks match-up well against their Pacific Division rivals.


The key will be to manage Demko’s schedule and convince the workhorse that less can mean more.


Good luck with that.


In the 2021-22 season, he logged a career-high 64 games, posted personal bests for goals-against average (2.72), wins (33) and matched his saves percentage plateau (.915). However, in theory, cutting down Demko’s games should keep him sharper and healthier. Especially with a better sense of how to manage the physical side of his game and marry that with better mental focus.


Demko has evolved from speaking at length about every aspect of his vocation — crease movements to adjustments and his fascination with human behaviour — to adopting a more zoned-in approach. He has a better understanding of his body and how to push and recover.


Demko isn’t old, especially by goalie standards, but he’s now 27 and shifting into a portion of his career where puck-stoppers regularly reach peak performance.


Maybe that’s why he was so outspoken before last season of what he could become. Success and setbacks have only set him up for a better understanding of the journey. Especially after that career season that started the chatter that he could rank among elite NHL stoppers.


“The expectation for me now is to be a top goalie in the league,” he said. “Being a starter isn’t good enough anymore. It’s about taking that next step and continuing to prove myself to my teammates and the league as well. I’m excited to take that next step.

“It’s one thing to have an OK year last year (2021-22) — and maybe that got my foot in the door with those conversations — but I want to prove it wasn’t a one-off. I could have had a better year in a lot of ways.”


Last fall, Demko struggled early following a minor off-season knee procedure. He then missed 35 games after suffering a groin injury Dec. 1 while moving across the crease to stop a point shot against the Florida Panthers. 

His six weeks of rehab turned into nearly a dozen and produced plenty of frustration and even a rumour that he somehow wanted out of the organization. 


Cue the laugh track.


Demko is under contract for three more seasons of a backloaded deal that has an annual salary-cap hit of $US5 million and pays US$7 million in total salary this season, followed by US$6 million and US$5 million to close out the pact.


Demko’s devotion to his craft was evident by the manner in which he made a triumphant return to the cage on Feb. 27 in a gutsy 5-4 overtime victory over the Stars in Dallas. He faced four breakaways in the first period. He made 34 saves. He cleared a mental hurdle.

“Pretty crazy day, just leading up to it,” he admitted. “A little bit of nerves and anxiety and you just want to make sure you’re ready to go. It took everything I’ve learned over my entire career — both mentally and physically — to kind of get ready.”


Fast-forward and Demko looked good in the season-opener on Oct. 11 at Rogers Arena. He allowed one goal on 22 shots during an 8-1 romp over the Oilers but had to give way to DeSmith after 48:05 because of dehydration that resulted in vomiting. A flu bug had hit the locker-room during the pre-season.


For Demko, it was a minor setback but another indication of what can occur outside the net to affect his effectiveness in it. On Tuesday, he will embrace the opportunity to spoil the home-opener for the Flyers.


“It’s a John Tortorella team,” Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet warned after practice Monday. “They’re going to work their butts off. They have good forwards and (Travis) Konecny is one of the best players in the league.

“They’re going through a retool. I like what they’re doing.”


Tocchet also likes that he has a key element to counter that by playing Pettersson in situations to either shut down the opposition or go on the offensive. Pettersson is the NHL’s second star of the week with six points (1-5) in two games.


“Petey has been awesome of knowing when to do it (play situational hockey) and knows the best time to make the plays,” lauded Tocchet.





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Bear in mind Demko didn't play as many games in the US college system vs somebody in the (Canadian) juniors so it might've taken him a bit of time getting used the increased workload.  I'm guessing there's a big difference playing 40-50 games a year vs 60.  In the case of Markstrom, I think it wore out his body after a time.


Though I'm reminded of the time Gary "Suitcase" Smith played a *TON* of games every year (back when travel was *ALOT* worse) at a pretty high level for us.

Edited by NewbieCanuckFan
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