The Vancouver Canucks have been hit hard by the injury bug, and are slowly falling out of the playoff race. But that doesn’t give general manager Jim Benning any reason to start making panic moves.
A promising start to the 2017-18 season is slowly becoming a forgotten memory for the Vancouver Canucks, as key injuries to their four best players are starting to add up to yet another very frustrating campaign.
Brandon Sutter has been out of action for a month, and isn’t expected to return until next week. That was only the beginning, though. Bo Horvat was ruled out to six weeks with a fractured foot. Then Sven Baertschi suffered a broken jaw which will keep him out four-to-six weeks.
Chris Tanev has been ruled out two-to-three weeks with a groin injury. Things just couldn’t get much worse, but then Brock Boeser left Sunday’s game after blocking a shot. He was seen on crutches after the game, according to Dan Murphy of Sportsnet.
It’s very, very rare for a team to lose its entire first line and No. 1 defenceman in less than two weeks, but it’s happened to the Canucks. Predictably, the team simply cannot generate enough offence, and the already leaky blue line looks lost without Tanev.
This could give general manager Jim Benning the temptation to make a big trade, also considering they’re just four points out of the playoffs.
Pierre LeBrun reported last week (via Mark Easson of My NHL Trade Rumors) that Benning was looking to add a top-nine forward with Horvat and Baertschi out. But if Benning were to play it right, he would let the season play out and not make a panic move.
Limited trade chips
Sometimes, a rebuilding team has enough young talent in place that they can afford to part with some prospects and draft picks. The Canucks aren’t one of those teams, since they didn’t decide to actually rebuild until this past offseason.
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Vancouver only has a handful in top prospects — including Elias Pettersson, Olli Juolevi, Jonathan Dahlen, Thatcher Demko and Adam Gaudette, among others. Benning definitely wouldn’t consider shopping any of those, at least I hope.
A rebuilding team should also never give away its draft picks for a quick fix, so forget about Vancouver dealing away first or second rounders — usually a price you have to pay for a quality top-nine forward.
Who can the Canucks trade from their main roster? They have no intentions to shop Tanev, Alexander Edler or the Sedin twins. Nobody is taking on Loui Eriksson‘s bad contract, and trading away Thomas Vanek only adds another hole on the wing.
Benning just isn’t in a position to make a trade right now. The prospect pool has some great talent, but not much depth. What are the odds he’s going to land a suitable top-nine forward without sacrificing a key part of this team’s roster? It’s just not worth it.
Rebuilding time, not playoff time
The Canucks know this is a rebuilding year, and they look committed to it for once. But everything goes to waste if they decide they have to aim for the playoffs. And let’s be honest, what are the odds Vancouver squeaks in?
Powerhouse teams like the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild started out slow, but all three are getting hot again. Can a battered and inferior Canucks team really jump over those three teams and get in? There’s a very small chance of it happening.
The front office has to be realistic with themselves. The Canucks just don’t have the all-around skill or depth right now to compete for the playoffs. There aren’t any players available in the trade market that will fix this team instantly.
Sometimes, the best move to make is not moving at all. Benning has to let the season play out as is, and hope for the very best. But deciding to sacrifice future assets in a desperate move will just ruin the Vancouver Canucks rebuilding plan.