The Vancouver Canucks aren’t in a great state. But is it really as bad as NHL fans around the league make it out to be?
Throughout the summer, we discussed the state of the Vancouver Canucks. We mostly came to the same conclusion every time: things could be a lot better, but they could also be a lot worse. For some reason, however, it seems like the rest of the hockey world seems to think the Canucks are one of the worst teams in the league with one of the worst coaches and one of the worst management groups.
Most recently, Pension Plan Puppets, SB Nation’s Toronto Maple Leafs blog, took a swing at the Canucks. Before we dive into this, I have to point out that they are doing a “why your team sucks” series — posts on each of the NHL’s teams, discussing why the team sucks. You would think the point of the whole thing is to finish with the Leafs in a “why our team doesn’t suck” post, but it didn’t. They kicked it all off with a “Why Your Team Sucks: Toronto Maple Leafs” post, discussing how much the Leafs suck.
So, the sole purpose of this is to have a fun summer series that is perhaps half serious, but possibly not even that. It’s just meant to be entertaining.
Why would I talk about it then? Because they touch on a few things I have heard from many other NHL fans, and I have also heard many Canucks fans defend their club regarding those exact things.
With all that out of the way, let’s get to it!
The 2015-16 Season
"Missed the playoffs, finishing with 75 points. That actually sounds a lot better than it was. The loser point was quite generous to them. They were second-last in wins, and last in goal differential. Taking longer than 60 minutes to lose 13 of their games made them actually look much more respectable than they were."
More from Editorials
- Which team won the Bo Horvat trade?
- What to expect from newcomers Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Räty
- Back to the future: How the skate uniforms became a regular Canucks’ feature night
- Canucks kick off 2023 with disappointing 6-2 loss to Islanders
- 2nd period penalty trouble sinks Canucks in 4-2 loss against Winnipeg
This is the point most Canucks fans feel very strongly about. The club’s No. 1 center, Henrik Sedin, was injured for most of the season, the No. 2 center, Brandon Sutter, was basically injured for the entire year. The top-two defensemen, Dan Hamhuis and Alex Edler, missed large chunks of the season as well. It will all get better this season.
Will it really, though? Even with Loui Eriksson in place of departed free agent Radim Vrbata, I can’t see how the team would be a sure-fire playoff team this year.
Sure, they shouldn’t be as bad as they were in 2015-16, but they will be lucky if they are still in playoff reach after 70 games. It will be a long-lasting fight that could very well have a bad ending.
The Head Coach
"[Willie Desjardins] is known for great strategy such as “don’t give the Sedins a lot of ice time even though they’re all you have” and “ice the fourth line after a goal against.”"
Henrik and Daniel Sedin averaged 18:22 and 18:20 of ice time, respectively, in the 2015-16 season. That is more than any other Canucks forward, but it is far less than other teams’ top players. Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar, for example, averaged 20:52 last season, and he is pretty much LA’s Henrik.
As to the fourth line part, yeah. That’s true as well. Plus, Willie Desjardins put out Brandon Prust as the extra attacker quite a bit, which is highly questionable as well.
"I actually almost forgot it was Ryan Miller. That’s how much of a trainwreck this team is: the goaltending is the last thing I could think of because it actually did its job halfway competently last season. […] In the event Miller doesn’t pan out, you have Jacob “Not Luongo” Markstrom for three more years! He has exactly one respectable season to his name to date, so that he’s your goalie of the future should not scare you at all."
Okay, this is the first stupid point. When a goaltender plays well, that’s positive. You can’t say “your team sucks because your goaltender is a well-playing Ryan Miller.”
But, there is also the Jacob Markstrom part to this. Canucks fans seem to see Markstrom as the club’s saviour, but as I have pointed out many times before, he only has one NHL season on his resume — as a backup. Every time, I get angry comments when I say something like that. But come on, people, it’s the truth.
New Things that Suck
"It took the Canucks exactly two years and one NHL season to give up on one of their best prospects! After a decent rookie year, Jared McCann is gone, shipped away to Florida for Erik Gudbranson AND a 2nd round pick.Not to fear, though; the Canucks signed Loui Eriksson for six whole years! Loui Eriksson! […] A guy who out of nowhere had his best season in four years, and is now expected to keep up that production for six more!"
We’ve beaten the McCann for Gudbranson trade to death, so I’ll let it rest this time. Only time will tell whether this trade was good or bad.
As to the Eriksson part… Come on, Canucks Nation. They are right. But again, every time I mention this, I get angry comments.
Eriksson had his best season since 2012 this year, is now 30 years old, and we expect him to keep that up for another six years. Chemistry with the Sedins or not, that’s just unrealistic. I fully expect Eriksson to be that player we all want to get rid of as soon as possible by 2020. It might not really hurt the club cap-wise, but it’s still terrible to have and nothing more than a desperate attempt to make the playoffs.
Stuff that Still Sucks
"You may think the Canucks personnel decisions of the last couple seasons make no sense; you’re wrong. They make perfect sense, so long as you accept the truth that the Canucks simply operate in a different reality. In their reality, a full-scale rebuild is not acceptable. They need to be competing for a playoff spot for as long as possible, which they’ll fail at, but at least they’re competing."
This is probably the part I disagree with the most. The way the writer makes it sound, competing for the playoffs is the wrong way to go. In fact, that is also what many Canucks fans seem to think. However, I definitely agree with Canucks management and/or the owners that making the playoffs should be the priority for as long as possible.
As fans, we want to see good hockey and we want to see our team win. You may think you would enjoy a rebuild and enjoy some top-three draft picks. But did you really have fun watching the Canucks lose 51 of their 82 games last season? I sure as hell didn’t.
So Where Are They Really at?
Unfortunately, it seems like the half-serious post that was only written to bash the team actually holds a lot of truth. However, it could all turn out differently.
What if the Sedins get more ice time once they play with Eriksson? Or what if whatever Desjardins does simply works out? What if Eriksson actually finds that chemistry he had with the Sedins in 2013 once again, and what if he actually scores 30 goals or more this season? What if Markstrom proves to be a solid NHL starter and Gudbranson turns out to be a strong second-pairing shutdown player?
Perhaps not all of the above will come true. But that doesn’t mean everything will be bad. The Canucks have a solid roster that will definitely be able to compete for the playoffs in the weak Pacific Division.
Fans around the league don’t believe it, but the Canucks aren’t entirely terrible. Even though many of the points above are accurate.