Vancouver Canucks in a Struggling Pacific Division is a Win-Win


The Vancouver Canucks do not deserve to be in a playoff spot. Nevertheless, being second in the Pacific, the Canucks should take this blissful reality in stride.

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The Vancouver Canucks find themselves in a rare position. A record of .500 is good enough for a tight second place in their division. Aside from the L.A. Kings, who are off on a five-game winning streak and near the top of the league, the rest of the division is practically up for grabs. Only six points separate the second-place Vancouver Canucks and the last-place Calgary Flames.

Calgary has three games in hand. That means that if the Flames manage to win those three games in hand, they are essentially tied with the Canucks. Of course, do not discount how much of a surprise the Arizona Coyotes have been. The sit just behind the Canucks and the San Jose Sharks.

The Pacific teams have been really streaky. The Canucks themselves are coming off of an extended five-game losing streak, and the Edmonton Oilers have now won four games straight. Calgary has won three straight, and Sharks have now lost five straight. Kings have, as aforementioned, won five straight.

The Vancouver Canucks can only benefit from this.

The goal of the season for this Canucks squad was to make the playoffs and add, or grow, young assets. This weird season of Pacific Division hockey will just do that for Vancouver. Only a handful of points could stand between a ticket to the playoffs and a potential top-ten draft pick, or even a top-five.

In order to benefit the most from this abnormal season, the Canucks need to act quickly.

Sell High on the pending Free Agents

The veterans are struggling, and there is no point calling Dan Hamhuis a top-four player when he is playing some of the worst hockey of his career. Yannick Weber has four assists and no goals through 21 games, and there is no point in calling him potential top-four material when you have a Ben Hutton — who is producing more than twice as much offensively, while being a hair tighter in the defensive end.

Likewise for Chris Higgins, who has three points in 16 games. No point calling him a third-line winger when you have a fourth line in Derek Dorsett, Adam Cracknell, and Brandon Prust, which is playing fantastic hockey and doing everything a checking third line should be doing. Heck, did you see Willie Desjardins put them out there on an icing call against the NY Rangers, in the final five minutes of Wednesday’s game?

Personally, I would keep unrestriced free agents Matt Bartkowski and Brandon Prust. Bartkowski in the top six keeps the pressure off of Hutton’s shoulders, and Prust is just so versatile that I will even go to call his $2 million contract a decent one.

The point being: trade away pending UFAs like Hamhuis and Weber, free up some $6 million in cap space, and get Bartkowski, Hutton, and Alex Biega playing. Not much lost there.

Related: Pacific Division Week 10 Power Rankings

Yet, it is evident that the Vancouver Canucks need some top-four help. If you could get any quality player back from giving away Hamhuis, Weber, or even Higgins, that is the first thing you want.

But still, no point in spending cash and losing serviceable assets through free agency, when you can get some quality back and free up some playing time for your kids.

So what does this have to do with a struggling Pacific Division?

The Canucks might be able to make the playoffs relying on the Kids, even after off-loading a couple of their struggling veterans. That is a true win-win situation, because you make the playoffs, and you get younger. Kids get playing time and compete in a relatively winning environment. Simply sublime.

But what if the ship sinks and the Kids struggle after trading away the veterans? A losing environment will hurt their developments, eh?

Well, if the Kids struggle, the Vancouver Canucks will be right up there on the draft lottery, perhaps even in the top-five picks. No one will call this season a failure, if we draft an Auston Matthews or a Jacob Chychrun. This would be a ‘tank’ by some metrics, but really — who calls it a ‘tank’ when you trade away a couple of UFAs and let the kids play as they were promised?

So that is also a win-win for the Canucks. Kids play, kids grow, and you have a very high draft pick.

Next: The Terrible Pacific Division a Blessing or a Curse?

Whichever way this Pacific Division plays out, if you want to make this disastrous year into a meaningful one, trade away the vets and play the kids. Time for Jim Benning to pull the trigger on some deals.