Though the Vancouver Canucks are “rebuilding”, the veteran additions could make the team more competitive. Should fans really expect another year of tanking? Or are the Canucks going to compete for a playoff spot? Expect something in between.
Vancouver Canucks fans just haven’t had a lot to cheer about over the years. It all started with seeing this team constantly fail to bring home a Stanley Cup. Then came the slow and painful transition of a rebuild.
And though general manager Jim Benning deserves some credit for finding great value in free agency — including power play specialist Sam Gagner, veteran sniper Thomas Vanek and second-pairing blueliner Michael Del Zotto — these signings make the Canucks a lot better on paper and defeat the purpose of tanking.
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With more scoring and better depth on the blue line, the Canucks are actually going to be better next year. Throw in Brock Boeser‘s presence and the inevitable improvements form youngsters like Bo Horvat and Troy Stecher, and you can see why Vancouver will be a better team in 2017-18.
Furthermore, there are a handful of teams that look worse than the Canucks.
The Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils and Vegas Golden Knights are also rebuilding — with most of those teams lacking the overall talent that Vancouver has.
So it already looks like the Canucks will have problems finishing in the bottom-five, which means their draft lottery chances will only be well below 10 percent. But does that mean the Canucks could surprisingly challenge for a playoff spot in the Western Conference? Let’s take a look.
The wild, wild West
In case you didn’t know, the NHL’s Western Conference is pretty good. It features three perennial California powerhouses, the Chicago Blackhawks and their 2010s dynasty, the Nashville Predators, a pair of rising juggernauts from Alberta and annual playoff teams in the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues.
Though the Canucks have a strong mix of young, promising players and veteran standouts, they still lack star power and have too many questions on defence and in net. Even if they were to get 90-95 points, there’s no guarantee that would put them in the playoffs.
The Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Blackhawks, Oilers, Predators and Blues are essential postseason locks. That would leave two more spots, and the Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Winnipeg Jets and aforementioned Wild look significantly better than Vancouver on paper.
So in all honesty, the playoffs are a pipe dream right now for the Canucks. They aren’t bad enough to contend for the top pick next year, but they aren’t anywhere close to competing for a playoff spot, either.
The Canucks are clearly not built to be a playoff team just yet in 2018. But on the flip side, there are too many improvements to the roster, which means they probably won’t be among the league’s bottom-five teams next year.
So what should realistic expectations be for next season? You should expect the Canucks to get in that 78-85 point range next season. That’s not exactly where fans will want them to be, since it’s really “no man’s land”.
Taking everything into account, the Canucks should place around 24th-19th in the NHL standings next season. For fans who are hoping for the playoffs, too bad. For fans who are on Team Tank, maybe another time.