Vancouver Canucks Could Become Next Oilers


The Vancouver Canucks are a bubble team competing for the playoffs, which is generally nothing bad. However, everything that’s next will be quite bad.

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Stanley Cup winning teams are always a good mix between “oldies” (30+ years old), young guns (in their early 20s) and everything in between. Skaters are said to hit their primes around the age of 28, and Cup winning teams usually have star players around that age. For example, the Los Angeles Kings’ 2014 Championship roster had Anze Kopitar (26), Jonathan Quick (28) and Jeff Carter (29), along with veterans like Justin Williams (32) and Willie Mitchell (36), and young guns like Drew Doughty (24) and Tyler Toffoli (21).

Rebuilding teams, on the other hand, tend to have much younger teams that have young players in leadership roles. Let’s take the 2013-14 Edmonton Oilers as an example, as they finished 28th in the NHL in the Kings’ Championship season. Their best player around the age of 28 was probably Jeff Petry (26), who was neither 28 nor an outstanding player. Instead, the Oilers’ best players were 20-year-old Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 22-year-old Taylor Hall and 23-year-old Jordan Eberle. They also had veterans like Ryan Smyth and Andrew Ference on their roster, but no one who could lead the team to anything that remotely looks like success.

Now, let’s take a look at the 2015-16 Vancouver Canucks, who seem to be somewhere in between quality-wise.

The biggest thing that stands out is the fact that the Canucks have an incredible amount of “oldies”, including Henrik and Daniel Sedin (35), Alex Burrows (34), Chris Higgins (32) and Dan Hamhuis (33). Many of the club’s veterans were with the team in 2011, when Vancouver lost to the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals. Not surprisingly, most of them have regressed and are no longer the team’s best players — except for the Sedins.

For this season, that is totally okay. Henrik and Daniel are still the Canucks’ best scorers and the others provide leadership on and off the ice as well. But what will happen in a few years? Will GM Jim Benning be able to avoid a full-on rebuild? If not, how long would that rebuild be?

Right now, the club’s oldest 12 regulars have an average age of 32.17. The youngest 13 come in at 24.08. Unfortunately, there is little in between.

The following players will likely be gone in three to five years:

There are a few players on the list above that might still be around at that time, e.g. Jannik Hansen and Alex Edler, but many of them will be gone. With that in mind, who will be left — and who will be the team’s leaders?

Let’s take a look at players that could hit their prime in the next three to five years, as well as some youngsters who are with the big club already, with their ages in three and in five years in brackets:

Now, out of those players, only Baertschi and Kenins will hit the age of 28, and none of those players will be in their prime age of 28 three years from now. So, who is supposed to lead this team?

It will be up to Horvat, McCann, Hutton, Shinkaruk and probably even prospects Brock Boeser and Thatcher Demko, who are still in the NCAA.

Next up, a look at skaters who are hovering around their primes right now:

Three to five years from now, the players above will not be the leaders that are in their respective primes, but rather the veterans who should fill the bottom lines and pairings.

Obviously, new players will be drafted by then — perhaps even Auston Matthews or someone with similar talent — but that will not help the age structure. Toffoli was the Kings’ youngest player in 2014, at the age of 21. Having many rookies in the lineup usually shows how bad a club’s roster quality is, not that they have many outstanding prospects.

So, unless anything really surprising happens, the Canucks will not have any stars in their prime on their roster five years from now. Their current and former stars will be gone, the players who are currently in their primes will be past those, and it will be up to the youth to get the club back on track.

Next: Cole Cassels Struggling Mightily

A lineup made up of guys like Horvat, McCann, Boeser, Virtanen, Shinkaruk, Demko and Hutton, along with new prospects and veterans Sutter and Tanev could be very good if the Canucks find the right free agents to add. But it will take some time for the team to become a Stanley Cup contender again.

As sad as it is, the upcoming five years or so might turn out to look a lot like what we have been able to witness in Edmonton.