Bo Horvat Has No Time For Sophomore Slump

Many waited for it, many expected it and it almost came, but Bo Horvat was determined to shed the label of “sophomore slump.” It sure looked like it might happen early on; 2 goals and 4 assists through 20 games had the critics out for blood. He was dazzling on the ice but the results weren’t showing up on the scoreboard and he was on the ice a -9 wasn’t too flattering. A very real possibility was that Horvat would regress back to just another guy on the team.

But something happened that we didn’t expect – he got a new line mate. Willie Desjardins was fighting another battle with Sven Baertschi; he was trying to keep him relevant. Through November and into December, Baertschi was struggling to stay in the lineup but for whatever reason Bo and Bae connected and that was it.

On December 18th, Baertschi was set up by Bo and would later add an assist himself. Bo put up an assist the next game against the Panthers and then appeared to go into hiding; the slump was lifted though as Horvat had 8 goals and 7 assists from Jan 4 to Feb 9.

Statistics aside, because quite frankly this season is the wrong one to quantify, Bo has brought a ton to this team that maybe we have taken for granted. Second line centre Brandon Sutter has been gone for most of the season and has really robbed Horvat of a gradual learning curve up the ranks.

Ryan Kesler got to where he did because he had time to perfect his craft; Bo was asked to deliver above his rookie season success without the training wheels of a supporting cast. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t pretty and somewhere along the line, a tank arrived.

Horvat has one game left this season but his 16G 24A 40 point season will not be forgotten. There have been some absolute beauty goals, some even better assists and imagine if he scored even half of the dipsy doodles that were robbed on the goal line. Bo is a special player and many are already calling him the heir apparent to Henrik Sedin’s stitched C.

He has the wisdom and maturity of a guy 15 years his senior and knows he could have always given more. Bo’s a big body that drives to the net not unlike a former Canuck favourite, Todd Bertuzzi.

Despite his abismal statistics this year both normal and advanced, ( -31, CF% 45.7, PDO 97.3, both 5v5 and his faceoffs….well actually 50.6% is pretty freaking good) Horvat’s drive is the reason we will continue to believe in him and the people around him. When it comes to the captaincy, there really isn’t any other choice right now, he’s the guy.

As the team around him matures and he’s given a stable line to play on, Bo will only get better. It may take a coaching change to allow him to be more free or maybe Anton Rodin is the final piece beside both himself and Baertschi? Bo Horvat will always be criticized for what he does or doesn’t do after being essentially traded for Cory Schneider (he was a pick yet to be made).

Vancouver is a tough market and Bo must not crumble in the spotlight. The greatest players on this team have deflected the finger pointing and have risen to the challenge. Bo may not even get to a Stanley Cup and that’s not entirely his fault but if he does what he’s capable of doing, the parts will assemble around him and he can be a part of the next wave.

The sophomore slump comes to many players and it would be easy to slide back into the fold but the ones that make a name for themselves find ways to get better.

I’ve looked for gif’s and I’m terrible in that respect, thank you to Ryan Biech for the hookups, but the moves this kid makes and DOESN’T score are worthy of their own Top 10, kinda like Hansen not scoring on breakaways.

What Horvat has been asked to do and has actually accomplished despite the tire fire that surrounds him and his team is nothing short of stunning. The Canucks have something special in Bo and they need to nurture his growth. Free agency, the Draft and a savvy trade can all bolster his progress as it would many of his young team mates.

Bo Horvat has been the Canucks best player this year not named Sedin and a 40 point year for a guy that has been surrounded by mediocrity at best, is pretty amazing.

In the coming years, Brock Boeser, Thatcher Demko, Cole Cassels, Jake Virtanen and obviously Ben Hutton, will all be key parts of the machine and because the Canucks stuck by Horvat and groomed him properly…well almost properly, there is much to be excited about.

 

photo – leaderpost.ca

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