Vancouver Canucks: Rating Play-Off Chances


Some careful maintenance has been made to the Vancouver Canucks roster in the off-season and hopes seem high of a solid regular season. The real question for Willie Desjardins team will be not only making the playoffs but also aiming to avoid another early exit. Last season there were signs during regular season play of a more organized and attack-minded team.

The Canucks ranked 7th overall in the league in terms of wins with 48, also their goal-to-game ratio was an impressive 2.88. Desjardins transformed Vancouver into an effectively penalty kill team and ranked second overall with an impressive 85.7% kill rate.

Despite decent form, the postseason journey would be a short one as Vancouver lost against rivals Calgary in the first round. This series demonstrated that the Vancouver Canucks are by no means a perfectly balanced side yet. GM Jim Benning has been working in the off-season to correct this issue and it has resulted in a large exodus of players.

In a debated move, Eddie Lack was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes during the NHL Draft in Florida. Veteran Canuck Kevin Bieksa was traded to Anaheim after 11 years while Zack Kassian was traded to Montreal for Brandon Prust. The most notable move was the arrival of Brandon Sutter from Pittsburgh which saw Nick Bonino and Adam Clendening going the other way.

The new arrivals are one that balances the scales in some needed areas if they are to push for playoffs. Sutter is a great two-way player and gives us more depth at both ends of the ice, also he is efficient scorer while playing short-handed. Prust is a handy acquisition along being a great fighter he is also an intelligent player and is known for reading the game well while on the ice. These two alone will add wonders to the team that is great on the penalty kill and ensures that the lower lines are stocked with higher quality.

Also, there has been an emergence of young talent in Sven Baertschi and Bo Horvat who provide a fresh injection of new blood. Each attacking line seems to have its own leader, something that was lacking last season. Now with a more focused attack and are more rounded side, Vancouver could be impressive during this season.

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Defensively the Canucks have a sound unit and last season they conceded only 222 goals in regular season play. The departure of Kevin Bieksa does deprive Vancouver of a true blue line leader. At 34 years old and the injuries beginning to mount up, a change had to be made here. Luca Sbisa despite some absent displays during the playoffs proved a reliable man at the back and Derek Dorsett had a solid first season in BC.

Vancouver re-signed both Linden Vey and Yannick Weber in the off-season which gives the Canucks good cover. What is missing in this side is an outright star on the blue line. At times last year this group looked all at sea and this prevented Vancouver from making a better run in the playoffs. With cap space now limited, the Canucks will need to tighten the ship here because leaks are sprung easily in this area.

Goaltending was an issue continually flagged last season and both Ryan Miller and Eddie Lack had their critics. Desjardin decided to go with Lack for the series against the Flames, where he proved to be inconsistent. His trade to Carolina  has divided fans because, despite some errors, Lack looked one for the future. Miller had an uneven season last year and once more the Canucks were in an awkward goalie situation again.

Although his number one status is now assured for next season, it does raise questions over the depth of quality he has behind him. New backup, Jacob Markstorm put up good numbers with Utica Comets in the AHL last season. His time playing in Vancouver has been limited to just seven appearances in two years. Based on this alone, is he really the man for Vancouver to turn should Miller become injured? Goalies seem to be a continuing issue in Vancouver and Miller will work hard to prove he was worthy of being kept on.

Currently, I would say that the Canucks have the ability to make a playoffs charge, but they are a long way from being true contenders. The wild card slot or just above it may be the best outcome for Vancouver right now. They have improved their quality and have made some needed changes, but I feel it will take perhaps another season for the pieces to all fit.

One factor lingering over this team is that in each of their last three appearances in the post-season, they have exited in the first round. Next season is going to be tough, especially since the competition in the Western Conference has increased with the arrivals of Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. Vancouver will have to be ready in order to make a splash early.

Next: Vancouver Canucks: Brandon Sutter- Worthy of High Price

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