Early in the season, the Vancouver Canucks stayed in the playoff race and showed signs of ending this painful rebuild quickly. But the recent slump suggests this team has a long way to go before they’re competitive again.
Despite very low expectations heading into the 2017-18 season, the Vancouver Canucks were among the most surprising team through November. Just 10 days ago, this team sported a 14-10-4 record, and were in the running for one of the top three seeds in the Pacific Division.
But the sky has quickly fallen, and the Canucks enter play on Friday as losers of five straight — being outscored 20-4 in those games. With Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi out long-term with injuries, Brock Boeser has been the only forward that’s been producing consistently.
You remove Horvat and Baertschi from the lineup, and the Canucks are showing their inability to produce offence. Remember, the ‘Killer B’s’ have combined for 36 of the Canucks 83 goals this year. That’s a little much, don’t you think?
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The defence — which has been shaky for most of the season — has been atrocious over the past couple of weeks.
Chris Tanev has been his usually dominant self, while Derrick Pouliot has proven to be a wonderful pickup by general manager Jim Benning. But other than that, the Canucks blue line has been incredibly inconsistent, and lacks the overall depth to take this squad to the playoffs.
Don’t blame Jacob Markstrom or Anders Nilsson –who have had virtually no support up front. Even if Carey Price, Matt Murray or Sergei Bobrovsky were in net for Vancouver, this team would not be winning many games.
So there are the flaws with this Canucks team. Now, back to the whole “why this rebuild is going to take a while” thing.
No quick fixes
Imagine this. You tell this team that they were going to have a legitimate first line in Baertschi, Boeser and Horvat — where each guy was on pace to score 20-plus goals before the injuries. Okay, now throw in the Sedins, Thomas Vanek, Sam Gagner, Brandon Sutter and an inevitable bounce-back year for Loui Eriksson.
So now the scoring depth is there, and it shouldn’t be a problem. Oh, except the Sedins continue to decline in age, with Henrik and Daniel posting just 19 and 18 points, respectively. Vanek is doing alright with seven goals and 18 points, but his 48.9 Corsi For percentage leaves a lot to be desired.
Ah, Eriksson was looking so good for a couple of weeks. But he’s pointless in his last six games. Meanwhile, Gagner has just three goals and 11 points, even though he was supposed to eat up top-six minutes and score 40-50 points.
And oh, Brandon Sutter has just two goals this season after scoring 17 last year. That’s quite the disappointment. Need I remind you that last year’s 19-goal man — Markus Granlund — has just four this year?
You see, the Canucks do have Elias Pettersson, Kole Lind and Jonathan Dahlen in the prospect system. Good. But there’s no telling if these guys will be in the NHL by next season or in three years.
With a clear lack of scoring depth all over the lineup, Vancouver is going to be struggling for a while. The Killer B’s can’t be the only ones scoring, except they kind of are.
With all the veterans underachieving, it’s clear this Canucks squad doesn’t have what it takes to make a run in the playoffs any time soon. They’ll simply have to wait longer and longer until the next wave of prospects can make it to the NHL. And so, the rebuild is far from finished.