There haven’t been many more times in the 46-year history of the Canucks franchise where picking them to finish in dead-last was this trendy.
And there have been some lean years for this franchise.
Everyone’s piling on.
EA Sports has them finishing last in the league with 63 points. USA Today has them slightly less terrible with 65 points. TSN has them dead last with fewer than 65 points. The Hockey News has them last in the Pacific.
Bookmakers at PlayNow.com currently have the Canucks with the longest odds of winning the Stanley Cup at 60-1.
Everyone thinks the Canucks will be bad this year – and make no mistake, I think they’ll be bad too – but they won’t be that bad.
First, let’s point out just how bad 65 points is.
That’s four points fewer than the last-place Toronto Maple Leafs – who were basically trying to lose – had last season. The Canucks, with injury troubles, had 75.
A sub-65-point season would be the worst in Vancouver for a non-shortened season since the Messier years. That was also an era without 4-on-4 overtime, shootouts, and the loser point.
Just 12 teams in the last 10 full 82-game regular seasons have finished below 65 points, and most of those teams were teams that decided to ‘blow it up’.
The Canucks haven’t blown it up, and that’s why they won’t be that bad.
In fact, if all goes well, they could even make the playoffs.
But probably not.
The Canucks have too much going for them – barring injury – to be a tire fire this year.
Let’s start in goal. The Canucks have a solid tandem in Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom.
On defence, they have a proven shutdown defence pairing in Alex Edler and Chris Tanev. If you believe that advanced stats matter – and I do – then you can’t ignore what that pair has meant to the team since Willie Desjardins took over.
Losing Dan Hamhuis hurts, but Erik Gudbranson is a legit top-four defenceman.
Up front, the Canucks are led by the Sedins once again. They’re 36 years-old, but they were also the top line for Sweden at the World Cup. How bad could they be?
The answer: they’re not bad, in fact, they’re quite good. Put whoever you want on their wing and that’s a respectable top line.
If you’ve got goaltending, a good top pairing and a good top line, you’ll do better than 65 points.
Here’s a look at how the Canucks would line-up this year, if I were in charge:
|D. Sedin||H. Sedin||Hansen|
Ask yourself, does that look like a worse team than last year?
If the Canucks get steady improvement from young players like Jake Virtanen, Bo Horvat, Ben Hutton, and Nikita Tryamkin, they could even be in the mix for a p.. pll… plllayyyo.. I can’t say it. But it’s true.
Here’s another fact: the Canucks are a better team they were last season. Loui Eriksson is a very good player and one hell of an upgrade on Radim Vrbata in all zones. Horvat, Virtanen, and Hutton should all be better, given their age.
A lot of the other cellar dwellers in the Western Conference appear to have improved with young players coming up the pipe, but we’ve said that before. It’s easy to forget that the Flames and Jets were sexy picks to make some noise last year.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not sitting here and telling you the Canucks are going to make the playoffs. They probably won’t, but they could.
For the record, these are my picks (yes I know the season started yesterday, don’t send me any letters):
|San Jose||Nashville||Washington||Tampa Bay|
|Los Angeles||Chicago||NY Islanders||Florida|
My bet: Canucks finish ahead of Arizona, Carolina, New Jersey, Toronto, and Buffalo.
Count on another draft lottery party this spring, just don’t count on having the best odds of winning it.