The Vancouver Canucks are widely expected to be among the NHL’s worst teams for a third consecutive year. But with a bunch of new faces on the roster, the playoffs seem like a possibility as well. So is winning the draft lottery or making the playoffs more feasible?
Times have changed for the Vancouver Canucks, who in the blink of an eye went from a perennial playoff team and Stanley Cup contender to among the NHL’s bottom feeders.
It’s gotten to a point where a lot of Canucks fans are seemingly routing for the team to tank in 2018 and 2019, as they try to build up a promising young core that already features Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, Olli Juolevi and Elias Pettersson.
But none of those prospects carry that Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews “franchise-changing” label, so it’s logical for fans to hold out hope that they miss the playoffs and stockpile more high draft picks.
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On the other hand, are the Canucks really going to be among the NHL’s bottom-five teams next year?
As much as some of you don’t want to hear this, Vancouver may actually have a better hope at making the playoffs than winning the draft lottery.
The reason this came across my mind? Well, Sam McCaig from The Hockey News listed his 15 teams that won’t make the playoffs in 2017-18.
He listed the Canucks second, and here’s what he had to say:
"The Canucks without the Sedins would seem like Henrik without Daniel, but everybody’s clamoring for Vancouver to trade the twins out of town – and everybody’s right. In fact, they should throw Loui Eriksson, the other member of the team’s top line, into the deal as well. Vancouver is going to be bad for a year or three, but they do have some enviable building blocks in the likes of Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser, as well as prospects Olli Juolevi (drafted fifth overall in 2016) and Elias Pettersson (drafted fifth overall in 2017)."
With all due respect to McCaig, I certainly believe the Colorado Avalanche, New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes are going to be quite worse than the Canucks in 2017-18. For what it’s worth, McCaig ranked the Vegas Golden Knights first, and it’s hard to dispute that.
Playoffs aren’t a long shot
The thing is, the Canucks have plenty of more young talent on their roster, and could certainly score a ton of goals in 2017-18.
Maybe the Sedins have a bounce-back year, but they’re at least 40-point players. Loui Eriksson has a strong track record which suggests he’ll bounce back next season. Other young players like Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, Sven Baertschi and Markus Granlund can absolutely score 20-goals. Ditto for veterans Brandon Sutter and Sam Gagner.
The Western Conference figures to be a little bit weaker in 2018. The San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings have significantly aging cores, the Chicago Blackhawks were once again hit by the salary cap and teams like the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues looked primed for regression.
Vancouver has the young talent in place to surprise in 2018. It may only take 91 points or so to make the postseason. So if you’re hoping they simply tank, don’t get your hopes up quite yet.
Due for draft lottery luck?
The Canucks have never picked first overall, but perhaps they are more than due for some luck in 2018. Remember, they have picked in the top-five over the last two years, despite finishing 28th and 29th in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
That draft lottery comes down to pure luck, and the law of averages suggests the Canucks may finally win it once and for all — should they truly finish among the bottom-five teams next season.
My whole point here is that the Canucks have the pieces in place to surprisingly make a run at the postseason. On the other half of the coin, they could not surprise us and be a terrible team that lands the first pick.
The majority of hockey prognosticators won’t expect the Canucks to make the postseason in 2018. But who knows? They could turn out to be very, very right or very, very wrong.
For the Vancouver Canucks, making the playoffs seems almost as likely as finally winning the draft lottery (or picking in the top-three), Stay tuned for an intriguing 2017-18 season.