The Vancouver Canucks might not play again in 2019-20. If their season is over, it was an exciting ride that we’ll remember for a long time.
With the NHL announcing their decision to suspend the regular season, the Vancouver Canucks, like every other team, can’t help but wonder if they’ve already played their final game of 2019-20.
If the NHL decides to eventually continue the campaign, it’s possible they’ll just cancel the remainder of the regular season and skip towards the playoffs. If they make that call, how will the league determine the playoff field?
They could simply decide to roll with the current standings, even though it’d be unfair to the teams below the playoff bar that have played less games.
The league could also go by winning percentage, or they could do a “play in” series, as some have suggested. Theoretically, this could see the two wild card teams play the two teams (perhaps in a best-of-three) below the playoff bar to determine the final pair of postseason clubs in each conference.
But that’s all for another day, and it could be at least a month (perhaps even longer) until the NHL makes a decision.
The point I’d like to make here is that if the Canucks don’t play another game this season, fans should remember this as a thriller of a season.
For starters, Quinn Hughes quickly cemented himself as a future superstar in this league. He’s up to 53 points on the season, with fellow rookie blueliner (and Calder Trophy challenger) Cale Makar close behind at 50 points.
Hughes will be the go-to guy on this blue line for many years to come, and he’ll give Vancouver its first bonafide Norris Trophy-caliber defenceman in franchise history.
Elsewhere, J.T. Miller made general manager Jim Benning look like a genius for acquiring him at last year’s NHL draft. Who cares if Vancouver lost a future first-round pick in the Miller trade? All he’s done is post career-highs in goals (27) and points (72) while leading Vancouver in scoring.
Miller was the final piece Vancouver needed to complete the top line — led by Elias Pettersson –and the former will be under contract for three more years. This trade, simply put, has been a huge win for Benning and company.
Tanner Pearson showed that last year’s brief magic with Bo Horvat wasn’t a mirage. The 27-year-old posted 21 goals and 45 points in 69 games, providing Vancouver with some much-needed secondary scoring. 2020-21 will mark Pearson’s contract year, and the Canucks should think about an extension now (as I wrote about here).
In his contract year, Jacob Markstrom tuned in perhaps the finest season of his career. And given the struggles of Thatcher Demko, Benning might decide to lock up Markstrom as his goalie of the future. If anything else, Vancouver could have a valuable trade chip in Demko, should they decide to move forward with Markstrom.
Meanwhile, 2014 first-round pick Jake Virtanen enjoyed a breakout season. He sits at 18 goals and 36 points in 69 games. His confidence has never been higher, and if Virtanen gets more ice time next year, it’s not crazy to think that he could push for 25-plus goals.
Vancouver’s young stars continued to take steps forward this season, and veteran players like Miller, Pearson and Markstrom contributed immensely. This team is getting closer and closer to joining the NHL’s elite, and even if we don’t see them play hockey again until October, Vancouver fans have a lot to be thankful for in 2019-20. After all, the Canucks have given them plenty of reason to be optimistic for next year.