On Monday, ESPN released their NHL Power Rankings — and it doesn’t look good for the Vancouver Canucks.
The Vancouver Canucks are now officially the most underrated team in the NHL.
Not because the team is exceptionally good, mind you. Rather, it’s because most pundits are projecting exceptionally bad results.
ESPN just released their NHL power rankings for the start of the 2016-17 season. Guess who brings up the rear? That’s right, they predict the Canucks will finish dead-last in the NHL standings.
ESPN is hardly the first outlet to say this. On October 5th, USA Today predicted Vancouver would finish 30th with only 65 points. Not to be outdone, the following day, EA Sports published their season simulation and predicted only a 63-point finish.
What does a team have to do to get a little love?
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Even the most die-hard fans will not suggest that the Canucks are a Stanley Cup contender. Most will not even suggest that they are likely to make the playoffs. The team is a work in progress. They’ve missed the playoffs two of the last three years and could easily miss them again this season.
Finishing last is one thing, but finishing with 60-something points is another.
What would it take for Vancouver to be as bad as some people are predicting? Let’s try to put this in perspective.
What does 63 points look like?
In 2013-14, the Canucks endured a painful season under head coach John Tortorella.
As bad as things were, the Canucks still managed to earn 83 points.
In case you managed to forget that season, here is a reminder. Watch — if you dare:
Last season, Vancouver had a lot of the same problems they had under Torts. After starting out well, they crumbled after New Year’s. The offense dried up and the team could not escape their own zone.
Even so, the Canucks scraped up 75 points.
Finishing below 70 points is a challenge, even for a bad team. Last year, only the Toronto Maple Leafs pulled it off — and they were trying to win the Auston Matthews sweepstakes.
The season prior, four teams finished below 70 points: the Buffalo Sabres, the Arizona Coyotes, the Edmonton Oilers and the Leafs. The Carolina Hurricanes narrowly escaped with 71.
However, all these teams have one thing in common: they were rebuilding. That means they were somewhat deliberately trying to lose games.
The Vancouver Canucks are doing no such thing. Management have repeatedly stated they will try to remain competitive while acquiring more young talent.
The verdict: The Canucks aren’t bad enough
Last year, the Vancouver Canucks finished poorly. Barring major injuries, they should be better this season.
They may not improve enough to make the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean they will only earn 63 points. They’ve added more goal-scoring in Loui Eriksson, and they have solid goaltending.
Even if key players lose time, there is still enough talent on the roster to win hockey games.
Nothing is guaranteed, not even finishing last.
Take heart, Vancouver Canucks fans. The season is not over before it begins, no matter what ESPN says.