It was right there. The Vancouver Canucks were desperately out of the playoffs, miles behind even fringe postseason teams.
Starting goaltender Thatcher Demko was injured. The defence, outside of Quinn Hughes, was a bloody mess. All but a few forwards were passengers.
And yet heading into the final game of the regular season, the Canucks find themselves with the 10th best odds for the first pick in June’s entry draft and North Vancouver prodigy Connor Bedard.
Just a 3.5% chance. A 73.3% likelihood of selecting 10th overall.
Tough luck for #Canucks on the out of town scoreboard, with Detroit and Washington losing.
Win tonight and Canucks move into 23rd place. Lose and drop to 25th. pic.twitter.com/gB8KnxSOfv
— Rob Williams (@RobTheHockeyGuy) April 12, 2023
The Canucks’ 3-2 victory over Anaheim last night propelled them ahead of Washington and Detroit, both losers Tuesday, in the overall league standings. We mentioned yesterday that they had nowhere to go but up, and sure enough, they did exactly what their fans dreaded: they won the game.
All the prophets who predicted a new-coach bump under Rick Tocchet, just enough to spoil any real hope of Bedard were proven right. And once again, the narrative that the Canucks can win the meaningless ones, and enough of them to cut the franchise’s nose off despite the face.
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Too bad, because Bedard would’ve been that face.
Could you imagine Bedard beside Elias Pettersson? Is that a 120-point Petey?
Or Bedard with J.T. Miller? Serving as that hybrid forward to compliment the point-per-game man.
Or even Bedard centering his own line and being three-deep down the middle?
The Canucks are accustomed to being draft lottery losers, of course. They fell two spots in 2016, three in 2017, and one in both 2018 and 2019.
The good news, if these standings hold, is that there is less than a one-in-five chance the Canucks would fall again. There’s an 18.4% chance they pick 11th, a 0.9% chance they pick 12th.
But earlier this season they had an 8.5% chance at Bedard and every team around them were quite alright with losing to improve their odds. The Canucks chose the path less taken, fired the coach and began instilling a program for next year, a program that improved the defensive play and the penalty killing and led to wins.
They’ve gone 19-12-4 under Tocchet, slicing their 7.5% chance at first overall in half. Less than half!
They have one more chance tomorrow to make this right, and get back to a 6% chance at Bedard.
It’s a must-lose in Arizona. And hope Detroit and Washington win.