The Vancouver Canucks have had quite the season, and there is still so much to talk about.
Sure, the 2015-16 campaign does not seem to have a happy ending planned for the Vancouver Canucks. But, that does not mean it hasn’t been exciting for us fans. In fact, we might be entering one of the most exciting times of the year.
Before we get to that, though, there are also some negative thoughts on my mind. Let’s jump right in!
1. Out of the playoff race — for real this time
The Canucks tried their best to be terrible for most of the season and it definitely seemed to work. However, for some reason, they always found a way to stay in playoff contention. Not the “hey we’re only 19 points out of a wild card spot and have 60 games to go” kind of playoff contention, but they were legitimately in the hunt.
Most of us knew around the deadline, some claim they’ve known all along: the Canucks have nothing to do with the playoffs this year.
Even though Vancouver hung on to veterans Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata, they can’t manage to win games on a consistent basis. They did go on a two-game winning streak between March 9th and March 12th, but, you know, it’s not enough.
We all know, Jim Benning does, too, and he will probably admit it eventually (eventually equals once Vancouver is mathematically eliminated from the postseason).
2. We love injuries!
…said no one ever.
Come on, Hockey God. You can’t be serious! It almost seems like you are the captain of #TeamTank!
Ever thought about what a healthy Vancouver lineup could look like?
Sedin – Sedin – Hansen
Baertschi – Horvat – Virtanen
Burrows – Sutter – Vrbata
Etem – Granlund – Dorsett
Edler – Tanev
Hamhuis – Sbisa
Hutton – Bartkowski
Biega, Pedan, Tryamkin, Weber
No matter what you think of those line combos, the roster quality is pretty good.
This team wouldn’t win the Stanley Cup. But playoffs? I say yes.
3. Line deployment and ice time
3. Prospects getting in on NHL action
Speaking of Linden Vey and his ice time, it is nice to see that coach Willie Desjardins is trying out some new stuff. You won’t win with Vey playing more minutes than Henrik Sedin and Sedin coming in at 16:12, but at least everyone’s getting a chance.
Related: Top 10 Canucks Prospect Ranking
That includes prospects from the AHL Utica Comets like Brendan Gaunce, Alex Grenier and Andrey Pedan. They would likely still be down there if it wasn’t for all of Vancouver’s injuries — but fact is, players are injured and prospects are up in Van City.
Gaunce is having a good season overall, but last night showed that he can completely disappear for a full 60 minutes. Like, did he even play against Colorado? (Yes, he did.)
4. Nikita Tryamkin is real good
Speaking of prospects, did you see Nikita Tryamkin‘s first shift? Never seen anything quite like it:
I’m still not completely sure why he went out in the first place, but that was some decent skating.
All jokes aside, Tryamkin had a decent first game — even disregarding his first career point on Vancouver’s lone goal. He’s big, moves well, uses his stick well. Promising first game.
5. Jordan Subban is having quite the season
With Hunter Shinkaruk in Calgary and Brendan Gaunce and Alex Grenier in Vancouver, Jordan Subban is currently the Comets’ top scorer. Seriously, the rookie D-man leads the team in scoring with 10 goals and 32 points in 52 games.
Looking at the Canucks’ current defensive core and then back down to Utica, I can’t help but feel excited. Jordan Subban could become that top-four scoring D-man the Montreal Canadiens have. What’s his name again? Oh right, P.K. Subban.
6. Subban getting the Shinkaruk treatment
The Subban story feels vaguely familiar. An exciting prospect leading the way in Utica who does not get called up no matter what. Sounds a lot like what happened to Hunter Shinkaruk who is now a happy little Calgary Flame.
Now, I don’t want to predict any more prospect trades here, but I’m just hoping the Subban situation is different. After all, Shinkaruk was a sophomore in the AHL while Subban is getting used to the professional game in his first pro season.
The situation is slightly different, but the fear is there nonetheless.
7. Jake Virtanen making an impact
Jake Virtanen screwed up big-time at the World Juniors this year. Just wanted to bring that up again because it was a hilarious time.
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We were all sad Canada lost, but blaming it on Virtanen was plain stupid. It was a team effort and the team lost against the home team that went on to win it all. All good.
Now, the majority of fans wanted the Canucks to send Virtanen back to his WHL Calgary Hitmen. Luckily, Jim Benning was smarter than that and kept him around.
Having played just 44 games, Virtanen is really making an impact at the NHL level. His seven goals and 13 points are less than we will expect from him a few years down the road, but especially his defensive work is impressive for a 19-year-old rookie.
According to stats.hockey-analysis.com, Virtanen ranks fifth on the Canucks in points per 60 at 1.44 while leading the team in relative Corsi-for percentage at 5.9. Is that not a great combo?
8. Bo Horvat’s sophomore slump
Bo Horvat had a rather bad start into the season. The typical sophomore slump that we get to see from various second-year NHL players year after year — totally normal.
It looked like he could turn it around for a bit later on, but the season as a whole has been up and down for him. He now sits at 11 goals and 31 points through 69 games, along with an abysmal minus-33. I know, we don’t care about that stat anymore because Corsi is great, but this is pretty bad — last in the league to be exact.
Being last in the league in plus-minus will always be bad, no matter what advanced stats we have.
9. Horvat line split up
Back when Horvat played on a line with Sven Baertschi and Radim Vrbata, he was pretty good. That was also when Baertschi emerged as a legit NHL player. So, why split it up?
The question is: did Horvat start slumping again when the line was split up or did Desjardins split up the line because he thought Horvat was slumping again? Either way, it would be nice to see the line back together again, maybe with Virtanen on the right wing instead of Vrbata.
That is a privilege newly acquired Markus Granlund has got to enjoy for a few games, but it hasn’t worked as well as it probably would with Horvat at centre.
10. Draft lottery odds
To wrap things up on a positive note, let’s take another look at this year’s draft lottery odds.
(Fewest Pts. to Most)
|New Draft Lottery Odds
|Odds Under Former Allocation
The Canucks currently sit in seventh place in the league, giving them a 6.5 percent chance at the first-overall selection. Not great, but it’s possible.
Plus, Vancouver is just three points away from 29th, though they do have multiple games in hand over the teams that follow. Either way, this year’s top 10 will be full of elite talent, and the Canucks will likely get to add an extremely promising prospect.
To give you an idea, guys like Sarnia Sting Jakob Chychrun and London Knight Olli Juolevi could drop to seventh — promising D-men that could fix the Canucks’ defensive woes sooner or later.
Reason enough to be excited.
And, let’s not forget, this year’s lottery decides about the top-three picks — not just No. 1. While that means Vancouver could drop down to 10th, it also means they could pick in the top three of the draft.