Vancouver Canucks: Great Playoff Chances Thanks to Schedule

Jan 19, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Vancouver Canucks left wing Alex Burrows (14) celebrates scoring a goal with teammates against the New York Rangers during the second period of an NHL hockey game at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 19, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Vancouver Canucks left wing Alex Burrows (14) celebrates scoring a goal with teammates against the New York Rangers during the second period of an NHL hockey game at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports /

The Vancouver Canucks are arguably much worse than they were last year, but they might have the best playoff chances of Canadian NHL teams nevertheless.

As just about everyone in America is starting to go crazy about Superbowl 50, sports fans North of the border are starting to realize that this might be a very sad year for Canada. What’s going on with the Vancouver Canucks and the six other NHL teams?

As of today, Canadian teams rank as follows in the NHL league standings:

17 – Montreal Canadiens
19 – Ottawa Senators
22 – Vancouver Canucks
25 – Calgary Flames
26 – Winnipeg Jets
27 – Toronto Maple Leafs
28 – Edmonton Oilers

In 2015, the Canadiens, Senators, Canucks, Flames and Jets all found their way into the playoffs. This time around, the most terrible, unimaginable scenario has become a possibility: NHL playoffs without Canadian representatives.

While one could argue that the Canadiens are still the best Canadian team, it looks like the Canucks might have the better playoff chances.

Vancouver is tied for third in the Pacific Division with the Arizona Coyotes, at 51 points. However, they lose the tiebreaker, having won only 16 games in regulation. Still, compared to all other Canadian teams, their playoff chances are surprisingly high. Let’s start at the bottom.

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The Edmonton Oilers lost their 2015 first-overall draft selection and saviour Connor McDavid early in the season, thanks to a broken clavicle suffered back in November. He is expected to return following the NHL All-Star break, but the Oilers also have to go without defencemen Oscar Klefbom (hand), Andrew Ference (hip) and Brandon Davidson (undisclosed), as well as forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (hand). It looks like another lost season and another high draft pick for a team that might be the worst in the NHL once again.

One team that can compete with the Oilers for the worst team title is the Toronto Maple Leafs. You know, the team that has sucked for many years and shipped out their best player last summer. Yeah, those guys aren’t going anywhere either.

Moving back to the Western Conference, we find the Winnipeg Jets who are probably not worse than the Flames or Canucks, but play in the tough Central Division. They are now nine points away from a wild card spot and 19 from the third and last divisional spot. Yeah, the Central is that good.

Only one spot higher in the standings are the aforementioned Flames. As said, they are likely not better than the Jets. However, their playoff chances are a little bit better. Calgary has three games in hand over Vancouver while trailing by six points — exactly three wins. Those three wins are certainly a possible achievement, but the Flames have struggled with shaky goaltending and terrible special teams — last in power play and penalty kill — all season long.

Related: Are the Vancouver Canucks Canada’s best NHL team?

Currently Canada’s best teams are the Ottawa Senators and the Montreal Canadiens who are tied at 52 points, only three away from an Eastern wild card spot. However, they have strong competition. Ottawa has the second-most goals against in the league and I’ll just say they won’t make it. Montreal certainly could, but they will have to beat the Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers and Islanders, Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning for their spot in the postseason. It will be tough.

The Vancouver Canucks, on the other hand, have it relatively easy, for the following reasons:

  1. The wild card spot will likely go to the stronger Central Division again, but all Vancouver needs to focus on is beating the Arizona Coyotes who are not exactly a great team either.
  2. The Canucks have played 28 games on the road already — much more than their competition. Therefore, they will be at home for 20 of their remaining 33 games.
  3. Out of those 33 remaining games, only four are against Eastern foes — the Canucks control their own fate.
  4. Out of those 29 games against Western Conference rivals, 17 will be against Pacific Division foes — the Canucks really do control their own fate.

As David Joun had pointed out before, the schedule makers did Vancouver a favour this season. Sure, the Canucks already had some difficult games already, but looking at it from this point forward, their schedule looks much easier than what their competitors have to deal with.

Next: NHL Trade Deadline: Proposing a New System

Is that guarantee playoff hockey in Vancouver for a second straight season?

It is definitely too early to go that far. However, it certainly looks like Vancouver has the greatest playoff chances of all Canadian teams this year.

What do you think? Will the Canucks make the playoffs? What other Canadian teams will? Let us know in the comments and via Twitter @FSTheCanuckWay!