While it’s safe to say that many people in Vancouver are happy the Canucks’ season is starting up again on Wednesday, I think we can be honest with each other enough to admit the outlook isn’t pretty.
Don’t get me wrong, there will of course be highlights and storylines that thrill Canucks Nation (Elias Pettersson and the Calder race, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat having another season to improve and showcase their talents, Canucks management hair dye updates, etc), but not many people have the Canucks pencilled in as being very competitive, and rightly so.
And look, we’ve seen some pretty bad hockey over the last three seasons. We know what to expect. Low scoring games where one Troy Stecher outlet pass can end up being the highlight of the night.
“Sure, they lost 8-1, but man alive, did you see that Stecher stretch pass? More like Troy Stretcher am I right? Also, he’s from Richmond, so he’s taken the same Skytrain as I have. That makes him relatable.”
The one silver lining of course is the fact that a player like Elias Pettersson seems primed to be a top six player, if not a top line player, and the fact that Quinn Hughes is in the pipeline, and that Jack Hughes has to be drafted by Vancouver next year. The Hockey Gods owe the Canucks one, if not a hundred, favours by now, so maybe this is the year it finally happens and the Canucks land that top pick in the draft.
So while we know the coming season is going to be bleak, and while we know the future might have a silver lining, we still have to have to find a way to have some fun with this season any way we can. That’s why I’ve put together some bold, and some not so bold, predictions for the coming season so you can track how off the mark I am, and then mock me, if I am incorrect at season’s end.
Suddenly that 78-point season doesn’t seem so bad when you can send a mean spirited tweet at me online about how bloody stupid I was with my predictions while you wait for the lottery draft.
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1. Safe prediction: Baertschi will score 20 goals
Like a boy too shy to ask a girl for his first dance in grade 7, Sven Baertschi has flirted with 20 goals from afar for quite a while now. He hit 15, 18, and then 14 goals in his first three full seasons with Vancouver, coming oh so close to hitting that magical mark but never quite working up the courage to ask 20 goals to dance when the slow song came on at Rogers Arena (Can’t Help Falling in Love is the song, don’t fight it).
Why will this season be different?
One, he’s never played a full season with the Canucks (Sven has never played over 69 games in a season with Vancouver, either due to injury or Travis Green making a healthy scratch example out of him a la Tony Soprano). This year the odds have to be in his favour because if Gritty can become the world’s most popular mascot then anything has to be possible.
Two, the Sedins are gone. There is literally nobody else to give those minutes to. Unless Daniel Sedin plans on pulling out some Phantom of the Opera like scheme next season, Sven is going to be leaned on heavily to provide offence to this team. This team has like zero offence. None. The fact Baertschi has scored 18 goals in a season once is something he will tell the unbelieving rookies around the campfire for years to come.
“But Uncle Beagle said five goals is the mark of a real man Uncle Sven!” they’ll exclaim, while Daniel Sedin plays the organ in Rogers Arena, cackling maniacally in the background.
Three, Elias Pettersson is a god damn magician and he is going to play with Baertschi at times. Never doubt the Elias. Never.
2. Bold prediction: Gudbranson will score a hat trick
OK, hear me out.
Sure, Dave Babych was the last defenceman to get a hat trick for Vancouver back in 1991, in a 6-5 win over Calgary (Fun Fact: That game had 144 PIMs. These two teams truly hated each other. Glorious).
And yes, Gudbranson has only ever scored a career-high four goals in one season, back with the Panthers.
But this is the year. You can feel it in the air. Pumpkin spice lattes out. Erik Gudbranson hat tricks in. This is the new trend. Don’t Instagram your name spelt incorrectly on a coffee cup Jessyka, Instagram in front of Handsome Erik holding up three pucks instead. Guddy has a bomb on that stick, and sure, he might only get 10 points in the season, but what was the cardinal rule we just learned?
Never. Doubt. Elias.
Call me crazy, but Guddy will soon be re-named Hatty, because he’s going to score three goals and you know what I’m reading this back now and I see I’ve made a mistake-
3. Safe prediction: Pettersson will win the Calder Trophy
Sure, Rasmus Dahlin is something that exists. And sure, he oozes talent and has been seen by some as a potential generational defenceman. And yes, he is going to be on a high offence power play unit with Sam Reinhart, Jack Eichel, and Jeff Skinner, and whoever manages to win the Sabres lottery.
But you need to ask yourself, are you going to walk with Elias? Because you should.
Look, the kid has so many dangles, he sometimes dangles his own dangles. It’s like dangleception at times, where we’re not quite sure what layer of his dangles we’re stuck in, all we’re hoping is that we don’t get stuck in limbo, washing up on a beach, wondering where we are and how to get out of there.
At one point during pre-season he passed the puck to himself, because he adroitly realized he himself was his best option to give the puck to. He’s doing Sedin tricks without having a twin brother on the ice. The kid hasn’t even played a regular season NHL game yet and already you know he’s the maestro of the Canucks power play (no offence to offensive wizard Chris Tanev who was praying this was finally his breakout year on the power play).
After seeing a pre-season that Travis Green wished he could have PVR’d the games so he could experience the same thrill of deleting them off of his hard drive like I did, one of the few highlights was constantly Pettersson.
Walk with Elias, all the way to the Calder Trophy.
4. Bold prediction: Tanev and Edler will be caught smiling during the same game
OK, look, it’s tough to follow up on calling for a Guddy hat trick. But I am not holding back. You don’t get into the Prediction Hall of Fame without calling your shots in epic fashion once in a while.
So yes, Chris “Dead Eyes” Tanev and Alex “Please let me leave now, don’t ask me questions, don’t even look my way” Edler have not exactly been bastions of charisma for the Canucks. And that is perfectly fine. Not everyone can as charming Eddie Lack or have question deflecting abs like Chris Higgins.
But that being said, this is the year I feel it’s finally going to happen. Scientists said it’s not possible, but I say what has science done for us lately? This season, Tanev and Edler will both, at one point, during the same game, be caught on camera smiling.
5. Safe prediction: Eriksson will hit 40 points
We all know Eriksson’s struggles in Vancouver. We also have his contract seared into our brains right beside our first telephone number. At this point someone probably has it tattooed on their ankle, a bleak reminder of why homerism doesn’t belong in your fantasy leagues. Every time you think about drafting Jake Virtanen early, you pull up a pant leg and see “6,000,000” scrawled just above your ankle and then you quietly draft Ryan Nugent-Hopkins instead.
Fun fact: If I got paid $10,000 per word in this article, I would still make $16,000,000 less than Loui Eriksson on his Canucks contract.
But let’s push that aside for a moment. Let’s not live in the negative. In the immortal words of Jarvis Landry, “all that weak **** don’t live here no more.”
Injuries, they will not be an issue for Eriksson. Yeah ok, he got banged up in pre-season, but that was showcasing how he’s learned from the past, and now he’s getting the injuries out of the way early.
He’s like that chair you see at Ikea, being tested over and over again, sat on a thousand times to show you they finally got it right, this chair will last a lifetime. That puck that hit him in pre-season would have shattered his leg last year, but this year? Merely a bone bruise. That’s solid Swedish craftsmanship right there.
We can also apply a lot of the logic we used for Baertschi in that this team lost a lot of offence last year, so it has to come from somewhere. That somewhere can be from the stick of Eriksson. Also, never doubt the ability of Pettersson to bank some pucks in off of Loui, a man who has made a lot of his points by being near the net.
6. Bold prediction: Sutter will be traded
Yes, Mr. Foundational himself, Brandon Sutter will be dealt at the trade deadline. It’s impossible to imagine such a scenario, we know Mr. Benning loves him some Sutter. And Travis Green, he’s a big fan of shutdown lines run by one Brandon Sutter.
But you can’t have bold predictions without a huge cup of bold, so let’s go for it. Let’s say he gets traded to the Kings. On trade deadline day. Three hours and 13 minutes before the trade deadline has passed. And Ashton Sautner is thrown in as well. For Kale Clague. And a fifth rounder. Pierre LeBrun will be the one to break it. Bob McKenzie will RT it minutes later with a beer emoji.
7. Safe prediction: Markstrom will hit 60+ games again
Last season felt like Markstrom vs Nilsson was going to be a big storyline. Vancouver has a proud tradition of goalie controversies, so it wasn’t much of a shock when Markstrom struggled early and Nilsson looked good in his few starts, that people began wondering if there was a race for that number one spot.
Everyone loves the backup as they always say.
Except when Nilsson finally got a shot at running with the ball, he didn’t exactly blow the world away. Markstrom, who seemed like he had a longer leash than Nilsson, ended up playing 60 games last year, and was essentially the No. 1 guy.
Which is why it should be no surprise that Markstrom will be the top guy this year. Sure, a goalie controversy can always rear its ugly head here, but Marky will be the guy they run with, despite Nilsson winning gold with Sweden at the IIHF World Championship.
8. Bold prediction: Markstrom will get rid of the hideous ears on his mask before the season is up
At this point it feels like Markstrom will keep those ears purely out of spite, but come on. They’re gross. They look like spiders might crawl out of them at any moment. You want to be a number one goalie? Dress for the job you want.
Also, another bold prediction (and this is as bold as it gets), Markstrom’s next mask won’t just be sparkly blue and green and have a crappy skyline of Vancouver on it somewhere, and a bland orca logo on it.
He will break from the crappy Vancouver mask tradition, damn it.
9. Safe prediction: Goldobin will last the season with Vancouver
This one borders on bold, I won’t lie, but I feel confident in saying Nikolay Goldobin will last the season with Vancouver. We’ve already seen Travis Green’s coaching instill a better work ethic and defensive awareness into Goldobin. Well, now he is ready to take the next step in the Sedin’s absence and provide offence to a team in dire, dire need of it.
He can play the second unit on the power play, and he can dish sweet sweet passes to Eriksson’s march to 40 points.
Some may question the amount of chances given to Goldy, but this is a year in which the team has nothing to lose. At the very worst, you’ve played Goldy and gotten a season’s sample size and can show that he wasn’t good enough, or, he shows you he can provide offence, and then you can continue using a bunch of Austin Power’s Goldmember pictures anytime he scores, like I do. It’s win/win really.
10. Bold prediction: Gritty will beat up Fin at the All-Star Game
Gritty has taken the world by storm, and let’s be real about it, he deserves every second of his fame. Never has a mascot burst onto the scene like the Flyer’s Gritty has.
Sure, the shelf life of his viral power is a good debate to argue on Twitter, but the fact remains no mascot has entered the game quite like Gritty. Which is made all the more impressive because of the fact the hockey mascot world is a hard egg to crack.
— Gritty (@GrittyNHL) September 24, 2018
Yes, NHL mascots, despite their ostentatious appearances, are actually shockingly bland creatures, more often than not merely a dressed up arm of their corporate overlords. Sure, Harvey the Hound has an infamous tongue, but most of the time he’s using that tongue to spit out coupons to upcoming games.
You want a mascot that can beat up the other team’s fans/or possibly maim their hockey team? You won’t find that with Carlton the Bear, he’s too busy making sure you know there’s a sale on t-shirts at the team store after the game.
Fin, like most of his brethren, is cut from the same cloth. He works hard, and he bangs his drum, and yeah smoke comes out of his blowhole on occasion, but at the end of the day, he wants to make sure Team Corporate’s needs are taken care of. As a result, he comes across like someone’s dad chaperoning a high school dance, dispensing bad jokes at the punch bowl to his son’s friends.
Gritty though? Gritty changed the game.
Goodnight, internet. pic.twitter.com/gx2Pbxfcds
— Gritty (@GrittyNHL) September 25, 2018
Gritty is a mascot who at this very moment is possibly beating up Sidney Crosby at a Canadian Tire commercial shoot. You laugh, but deep down, you know you can’t say for sure he isn’t. Gritty is at that same dance as Fin, sitting in the back, getting ready to ride a flaming motorcycle through a window screaming out spoilers for next season’s Game of Thrones.
Gritty has no boundaries. He’s out there appearing on Jimmy Fallon, shooting people with t-shirt cannons, and taking out fans with body checks during in game contests. Gritty is a god damn animal. This is a mascot that will make a difference in the playoffs. This is a mascot you would hold the line with in any Lord of the Rings type battle scene.
Which is why when the NHL All-Star game roles around, and the mascots have their little get-together, watch out for Gritty. You think he’s gonna want to do a wheelbarrow race? Play leapfrog with other mascots? Do a three legged race? No no no no, Gritty is going to take everyone out.
Starting with Fin.