Vancouver Canucks look like a playoff team after hot start

OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 17: Thomas Vanek
OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 17: Thomas Vanek /

Despite an impressive start to the 2017-18 season, many pundits aren’t taking the Vancouver Canucks seriously. Here’s why you should actually believe in the team that currently sits at 6-3-1.

If history is an indication of anything, the Vancouver Canucks hot start to 2017-18 could mean a bad finish and a non-playoff year.

Vancouver started out 2016-17 4-0-0, only to finish 29th in the league standings. They also jumped out to a 3-0-1 start in 2015-16, only to finish third-worst in the NHL. But despite the obvious flaws on this team, many should start taking the Canucks as a legitimate playoff contender in 2018.

We’ll start by putting an end to the advanced stats argument early.

Thus far, the Canucks have a 48.89 Corsi For percentage, which places them 17th in the NHL. Obviously not great, but elite teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins (48.64), and Chicago Blackhawks (47.98), have managed fine despite poor puck possession stats.

In fact, the Montreal Canadiens (who are off to their worst start in over 70 years), have the fourth-best Corsi For percentage at 54.33. My point is, don’t read too much into Vancouver’s bad puck possession stats. They should get better under head coach Travis Green over time.

But the Canucks have also finally learned how to score goals. Such is life when the front office and coaching staff decide it’s time to play the young kids. A look at how the forwards have fared, and why they offer so much optimism for a fun 2017-18 campaign.

Scoring all around

Last year, Bo Horvat was Vancouver’s only 20-goal scorer. Markus Granlund (19), and Sven Baertschi (18), came close, but no cigar. Through the first three weeks, Vancouver is getting scoring from players not named Horvat or Sedin.

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Derek Dorsett leads the team in scoring thus far with six goals. Though he’s most likely not going to sustain this impressive start, he’s at least going to hit double-digit goals. Not bad for an “overpaid” fourth liner.

Vancouver’s leading scorer thus far is rookie Brock Boeser, who has nine points in just eight games.

Baertschi, Horvat and newcomer Thomas Vanek each have four goals on the season. This is called scoring by committee. This is what we’ve been waiting to see the Canucks do.

The Sedins and Jake Virtanen haven’t even been mentioned yet. Despite being demoted to the fourth line, the twins still look capable of playing on the power play and can stay in that 40-50 point range. Vancouver will happily take that.

We know how much talent the Canucks have, and there’s a strong mix of youth and proven veterans. As such, you have to believe that the offence may be legit. Green’s done a remarkable job rolling out four effective lines. The goal now is for each line to not go cold for long periods at the same time.

Parity in the Pacific

The Anaheim Ducks are shooting for a sixth consecutive Pacific Division title, but they’ve been hard by injuries and haven’t pieced together a very good start. Ryan Kesler and Cam Fowler are all out long-term, while Kevin Bieksa and Ryan Getzlaf have also battled injuries. Given the fragility and age on the roster, Anaheim may not be a serious contender anymore.

Speaking of aging teams, the San Jose Sharks are sure struggling in the post-Patrick Marleau era. They’re 4-5-0 on the season, and reigning Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns has yet to score a goal this season.

The Los Angeles Kings are 8-1-1, while the Vegas Golden Knights are 8-1-0. Those teams have had soft schedules, and everyone knows neither will sustain the hot start. Also keep in mind the Kings have really worn down and limped to the finish line in the last three seasons. That’s what happens with a physical team full of guys over the age of 30.

The Arizona Coyotes aren’t posing a threat. The Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers will surely get hot, though. Expect those two teams to be in the playoff race in April.

Next: Top prospects of week: Pettersson, Lind & Dahlen

See? The Pacific Division doesn’t look that bad for the Canucks after all. If the young guys keep scoring, this team will be fine. Seeing how the older and slower Pacific Division rivals have started, Vancouver has to feel confident in pushing for a playoff berth in 2018. It’s very early, but this is already a much better squad than the ones you saw in 2016 and 2017.