The Vancouver Canucks have lost more games than any other team in the National Hockey League over the past four years. Let’s take a look at their performance by month, in each of the past four seasons.
Despite the fact that I just said about the team losing more games than any other team in the league in the past four years, the Vancouver Canucks always seem to be in the playoff conversation at some point in each of these years. That’s why I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how the team has fared in each month since they last made the playoffs in 2014-15 — Bo Horvat’s rookie season. The numbers show you that the team is far too inconsistent to be a real threat to make the playoffs.
Overall Record and Winning Percentage by Season :
2015-16: 31-38-13, .378%
2016-17: 30-43-9, .365%
2017-18: 31-40-11, .378%
2018-19: 35-36-11, .426%
It’s safe to say that 2016-17 was rock bottom for the Canucks in their rebuild. It was the year that they said goodbye to veterans such as Alex Burrows and Jannik Hansen, and really embraced the rebuild. It was also the season that they drafted Elias Pettersson — and we know how much of an impact he had on the team this past season.
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Now let’s take a look at how the teams got to this point, and look for patterns to see if there are any signs of history repeating itself in how the Canucks play in each month of the season.
Ah, the month that begins the season. It’s every hockey fans favourite time of the year. The long offseason finally comes to an end, and everyone is excited to see their teams compete again. Let’s see how the Canucks have fared in the past four opening months of the season.
Those numbers show that the Canucks have had a winning record in all of the past four months of October except for October of 2016-17. That shows that the team tends to start out on hot, getting fans engaged and hopeful early in the season.
That’s right folks, in the past four years, the Canucks have not once had a winning record in the month of November. This tends to be where the team drops off every year, and take a look at this year, that month of November is the result of poor play by the players, and injuries to some key guys.
The record in December of the 2018-19 season tells a different story than it does in years past. That is mostly thanks to the elevated play of Jacob Markstrom. Markstrom was stealing games for the Canucks and maintained that level of play the rest of the season to really solidify himself as the Canucks starting goaltender. This last season, the Canucks clawed their way back into the playoff conversation with a good month of December to follow up their atrocious month of November.
January tends to be a good month for the Canucks. They usually don’t play a ton of games, and have a pretty friendly schedule. This has helped them get players back from injury, and lower the risk of more getting injured, as well. In 2018-19, the team needed to be better in January. They lost games they should have won against weaker teams like the Coyotes and Oilers. They will need to beat the weaker teams if they want any shot at a playoff berth next season.
February is the month where the Canucks schedule tends to pick up. This past season, the team’s busy month was derailed because of Thatcher Demko going down with a knee injury. As a result, the team was forced to rely on Markstrom far too much. The injury to Demko was also why we saw a 19-year-old Michael DiPietro make his debut and get seven goals scored on him against the San Jose Sharks on February 11th.
As you can see, March has been a month of horrors for the Canucks. It’s the month that they usually fall completely out of the playoff race, if they weren’t out of it already. This season, the team put up a good fight to stay relevant but were unable to claw their way back into the race after losing so many games in the months prior.
What can you say about April, the past two seasons, it felt like the Canucks won more games than the record shows, but that’s likely because April was the last games of Henrik and Daniel Sedin‘s decorated careers last year. In 2018-19, we got to see Quinn Hughes change the way the Canucks exited their own zone, among other things.
Here is a graph I created, courtesy of onlinecharttool.com, that showcases my findings, just to provide you all with a visual to this data. The graph shows the winning percentage of the Canucks the past four seasons. The green bar represents this year’s team.
Here’s what we can learn from these numbers. The team needs to be far more consistent than they have been in years past. They need to figure out how they can continue to play with the same energy and passion that we see in October from them. They find ways to win games in October and need to continue doing that in November.
They can’t be a streaky team if they want to make the playoffs. Not having a winning month of November once in the four past seasons just isn’t good enough — especially after having such a solid start to the year in October each year. Despite exceeding expectations, November and February really killed this year’s team’s playoff chances.
Another thing I noticed was how from January to February — and in the case of this year’s team, December to February — the winning decreases mightily. The team this year made a late push in March, but by that time, it was too late. They need to find out how they can avoid losing so many games when players go down with injuries, and need to find a level of consistency.
The truth is, it’s up to the players to buckle down and find ways to win hockey games when it really matters. They can’t afford to have multiple bad months where their winning percentage is below .400 if they expect to make the playoffs. The team is obviously trending upwards, and in my opinion, they have the right guys in place to break the trend of inconsistency — a busy offseason should add a few more pieces to the puzzle.
*Stats Courtesy of Hockey Reference and ESPN*