Almost nobody is giving the Vancouver Canucks a chance to make the playoffs in 2019, but with so much young talent in place, this team could surprise and end the four-year drought.
The Vancouver Canucks have missed the postseason in three consecutive year, and the common belief is they are two or three years from competing again, now that the front office is actually somewhat committed rebuilding.
With the Sedin twins now retired, it’s easy to understand why some pundits and fans believe the Canucks will be a bottom-five team next season. Nobody is replacing their leadership, and it’s not easy two players who constantly produced 50-plus points.
However, there are a couple of big factors working in Vancouver’s favor heading into the 2018-19 season. Our very own Scott Rosenhek explained how the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks all carry ageing cores, trying to win now. But decline seems inevitable for all three teams in the very near future.
Now, the Canucks can’t control how their Pacific Division rivals perform next year. But head coach Travis Green has a roster that should be much better in 2018-19, with more forward depth and better all-around skill.
Obviously, a lot has to go right. But we can expect Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser to get around 60 points each, as long as they both stay healthy. Should Sven Baertschi also play an entire season, he’ll finally hit the 20-goal mark. That’s only the first line.
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We know just how talented Elias Pettersson is. The man could very well score 50-60 points in his rookie season. We have to factor in the impact Pettersson will have on his linemates (anybody’s guess who those could be). Maybe Brendan Leipsic or Jake Virtanen play with Pettersson, and maybe both enjoy breakout years. You never know.
Adam Gaudette also has the potential to be a 20-goal, 40-point player if head coach Travis Green gives him the ice time.
He didn’t win the Hobey Baker because of luck. Gaudette has the hockey IQ and all-around skill to be a star in this league. He doesn’t have to have a Boeser-like rookie season to have an impact.
And though they’re unlikely to justify their contracts, Loui Eriksson and Sam Gagner can still contribute in different ways. The former remains a standout defensively, and Gagner’s speed alone makes him a valuable asset for Green.
The defence has plenty of question marks, as usual. But the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup with a depleted blue line. John Carlson was the only legitimate top-pairing defenceman on that team. The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2017 without Kris Letang for the playoffs, their only bonafide top-four blueliner.
As for the goaltending, Jacob Markstrom has shown his ability to steal games time and time again. But what if prized goalie prospect Thatcher Demko is ready to take over as the No. 1 starter? That may not happen until mid-way through the season.
Yes, a lot has to happen right for the Canucks to make the playoffs. They need a large portion of the forwards to have career years. The blue line must perform at a half-decent level, and the goaltending will have to hold up.
Even i the Canucks surprise and finish with 90-plus points, that may not be enough to get into the postseason. But if the expansion Vegas Golden Knights can reach the Stanley Cup Final last year, why should we doubt Vancouver’s ability to lead them to the playoffs?