As the Canucks prepare for the start of their 47th NHL season Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers, let’s talk about a taboo topic in Vancouver: the playoffs.
I know I know I know…
The playoffs aren’t likely for the rebuilding Canucks this season. Last year, they finished 25 points back of the Nashville Predators for eighth in the Western Conference.
But as unlikely as it may seem – it is possible.
They just need a lot to go right. Close your eyes for a second and imagine everything going Vancouver’s way for once.
Here are nine things that have to happen for the Canucks to make a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
1. A leap forward for Boeser, Virtanen
Not only are Brock Boeser and Jake Virtanen in the lineup, they’re difference makers. Brock Boeser wins the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year, and Virtanen becomes a physical force, potting 20 goals.
2. A surprise from the farm
Somebody that starts the season in Utica comes out of nowhere to make a difference.
Maybe that’s Nikolay Goldobin, who has a boatload of skill. Maybe it’s gritty winger Darren Archibald, who nearly made the team out of training camp. Or maybe it’s Swedish defenceman Philip Holm, who gets accustomed to the North American game.
3. The other young guys take a step forward
The 25 and under crowd continues to improve.
Bo Horvat (22), leads the team in scoring again and develops the defensive side of his game. Sven Baertschi matches his age and scores 25 goals. Markus Granlund (24) nets 20.
On defence, Troy Stecher (23) and Ben Hutton (24) become a formidable two-way second pairing.
4. Sedins hang on
The Sedins bounce back from a dreadful season and prove they’ve got plenty of gas left in the tank. They slide nicely into roles on the second line and regain their form on the power play.
5. Stay healthy
No serious injuries to anyone important. Nobody gets the mumps.
6. Swedish giants stand tall in net
Not only does Jacob Markstrom prove himself to be a legit No. 1 goalie, Anders Nilsson gives them a 1A/1B situation. They get good goaltending every night.
7. Travis Green turns out to be one hell of a coach
Travis Green steps in as a first year head coach and pushes all the right buttons.
He plays the right goalies, he pairs the right defencemen together. He find the right line combinations and proves to be a great motivator.
8. The power play is good
Power play problems are a thing of the past. Assistant coach Newell Brown works his magic, finding innovative ways to create offence with the man advantage.
9. Somebody else drops off
A couple of teams that made the playoffs in the West last year drop off this season. Maybe that’s the Anaheim Ducks, who start the season with some injury concerns and are getting older. Maybe it’s the San Jose Sharks given Joe Thornton is 38 years old and Patrick Marleau has left town. Or maybe Calgary doesn’t get goaltending again and implodes.
Whether the Canucks make the playoffs or not, here’s hoping this year’s edition is at least more entertaining.