Vancouver Canucks: Playoffs are a possibility in 2018

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 06: Brock Boeser
GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 06: Brock Boeser /

The Vancouver Canucks are just beginning their plan to a full-scale rebuild, but reaching the postseason isn’t entirely out of the question in 2018.

After the Vancouver Canucks finished among the NHL’s bottom-three teams for the second consecutive season, many pundits and fans are expecting a painful rebuilding process in which they’re a few years away from making the playoffs.

The Canucks do play in the extremely difficult Pacific Division, which features the three California powerhouses plus the rising Edmonton Oilers (with Connor McDavid), and Calgary Flames.

But if you take a closer look at the division — especially the Canucks — you’ll notice that reaching the postseason isn’t that much of a pipe dream.

Pacific Division is getting weaker

Some of you may have overlooked this, but the three California teams aren’t going to be dominant much longer. While I will acknowledge that Edmonton and Calgary are set to compete for the next 10 years, the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks won’t be that scary much longer.

The Ducks are an ageing unit, as Corey Perry (32), Ryan Getzlaf (32), and Ryan Kesler (33 in August), near the end of their primes. Losing Shea Theodore in the expansion draft also hurts them.

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Are the Kings even contenders any more? This team made two questionable calls in firing general manager Dean Lombardi and head coach Darryl Sutter — the two men most responsible for leading this franchise to a pair of championships.

Jeff Carter (32), Jonathan Quick (31), Dustin Brown (32), Marian Gaborik (35), and Anze Kopitar (30 in August), are getting close to their twilight years.

Missing the playoffs twice in three years suggests this team’s championship window has closed, and their lack of depth in prospects is extremely concerning. With so many bad contracts on the team, L.A. is cap-strapped and is stuck with an ageing core.

As for the Sharks? Losing Patrick Marleau (who signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs), stings a lot. Joe Thornton showed signs of regression in 2017, and we saw the young Oilers skate circles around the Sharks in the first round of the playoffs. San Jose’s championship window is closing fast.

So yeah, the Canucks may actually be better than two (or maybe all three) of the California NHL teams next season. They’ve definitely got the advantage in youth and speed.

Young kids will take over

Under new head coach Travis Green, the Canucks figure to have much more youth, speed and skill in the lineup — something this team hasn’t had in quite some time.

The Canucks should be able to finally move Daniel and Henrik Sedin to the second or third line. Bo Horvat was their leading scorer in 2016-17, so the first line duties should go to him on opening night.

Hard not to get excited about promising prospect Brock Boeser, who scored four goals and an assist in nine games last year. It’s easy to believe he’s going to score 20-plus goals in his rookie season, especially if Horvat’s his centre.

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Olli Juolevi, the fifth pick from 2016, may also get a chance to display his potential on the blue line. He’s arguably Vancouver’s best prospect, and his smooth skating and puck-moving skills could significantly improve the team’s all-around play.

Don’t forget that youngsters Sven Baertschi and Markus Granlund scored 18 and 19 goals, respectively. Those guys could definitely score 20-plus in 2017-18. So Vancouver’s young core does look pretty good, eh?

New faces will have an impact

The Canucks knew they had to implement speed and a solid puck mover to fit Green’s system, so general manager Jim Benning signed Sam Gagner to a three-year deal. The right-handed shooter can play up and down the lineup as a forward or a centre.

Gagner is coming off an 18-goal, 50-point season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He’ll easily slot in as a top-six forward, and his blazing jets will be a huge asset to the team.Vancouver also lacked a solid puck-moving blueliner, so Benning inked Michael Del Zotto on a two-year deal.

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When healthy, Del Zotto should be able to score 30-40 points — and he gives this team another power play quarterback to complement youngster Troy Stecher.

Benning also brought in Anders Nilsson to push Jacob Markstrom for the starting job. Nilsson had a .923 save percentage with the Buffalo Sabres in 2016-17, so good on Benning to find a reliable backup on a modest two-year deal worth $5 million. These new faces should all play big parts for Vancouver in 2017-18.


At the end of the day, it does remain unlikely that the Canucks make the playoffs next season. But seeing how much more young talent in the lineup is a cause for optimism, coupled with their divisional foes looking significantly weaker for 2017-18.

It might even take this team just 90-95 points to lock down a wild card spot in the Western Conference. Their top-six looks solid, the defence has more puck-movers and the Markstrom-Nilsson tandem appears promising on paper.

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Most expect 2017-18 to be another letdown year on the west coast. But the Vancouver Canucks are capable of being a playoff team — and you shouldn’t be too surprised if they punch a postseason ticket in 2018.