As Canucks fans are acutely aware, their team is in the strange position of fighting for a playoff position while simultaneously having a decent chance at winning the first-overall selection at the entry draft in the summer.
The odds of winning the Auston Matthews sweepstakes are revisited every few days by @DTMAboutHeart – an analytics blogger who forecasts where a team will finish in the standings and their subsequent chances of grabbing an early pick.
xG Projections – Top 3 Pick Projection pic.twitter.com/LPhQuN5YIf
— DTM About Heart (@DTMAboutHeart) January 28, 2016
As you can see, the Canucks have a 25.5 per cent chance of drafting Matthews, Jesse Puljujärvi, or Patrik Laine (the predicted top three picks in the 2016 draft) given how they’ve performed so far this season.
While many fans’ mouths are watering at the thought of Vancouver being a deadline seller – the draft picks and prospects they stand to gain – GM Jim Benning isn’t going there yet.
“Our goal is to make the playoffs and if we can get our young players games (in the playoffs) that trumps everything,” Benning said as he addressed the media Tuesday.
Asked more directly what his plans for Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata are, Benning replied: “If they’re playing well we want to give ourselves every opportunity to be a playoff team.”
While you may hope Benning is posturing, hiding all the cunning moves he’s planning behind the scenes, he has rarely hid the truth when asked direct questions during his time in Vancouver.
This is the same GM who made zero effort to hide his desire to trade Zack Kassian last season, and has been open about the potential trade discussions he’s had on Chris Higgins and Brandon Prust this year (reminder – no one wants them).
Asked directly if he’s at least felt out the market on what the two could be worth, Benning said, “We haven’t got to that point yet.”
So… the push for the playoffs is real.
Listening to Benning’s words, it certainly feels as if he believes making the post-season is the holy grail, though there have been suggestions the direction is coming from above.
Ownership faces a tough choice, though on the surface it doesn’t seem so hard – playoffs this season would mean money now, while long playoff runs later would mean even more money down the road… if they can be patient.
The one thing the public may not be considering are the rumours we’ve heard the past two seasons that they may shopping the team.
This would better explain the drive to the post-season, as not only would the owners gain from playoff revenue, the overall franchise value would increase as well.
All this is to say Canucks fans hoping for a big splash at the deadline might want to lower expectations.
With Henrik Sedin, Brandon Sutter, and Dan Hamhuis returning this week, the team’s on-ice performance should improve enough to keep them in the race. Meaning they’ll fall out of the race for a high-end draft pick, and of all the treasures they could reap through trades.
Those playoff games should be a ball, though.