Canucks: Top 3 questions that remain to be answered in 2020

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 22: Tyler Toffoli #73 of the Vancouver Canucks skates with the puck during NHL action against the Boston Bruins at Rogers Arena on February 22, 2020 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 22: Tyler Toffoli #73 of the Vancouver Canucks skates with the puck during NHL action against the Boston Bruins at Rogers Arena on February 22, 2020 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images) /
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VANCOUVER, BC – FEBRUARY 22: Tyler Toffoli #73 of the Vancouver Canucks skates with the puck during NHL action against the Boston Bruins at Rogers Arena on February 22, 2020 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BC – FEBRUARY 22: Tyler Toffoli #73 of the Vancouver Canucks skates with the puck during NHL action against the Boston Bruins at Rogers Arena on February 22, 2020 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images) /

The 2019-20 NHL season is in peril, leaving many questions dangling for the Vancouver Canucks. Here is a breakdown of the three most prominent.

The 2019-20 NHL season may be over. There is no end in sight to the spread of COVID-19 around the globe, meaning that as far as professional sports is concerned, it may be time to start looking towards next season. If so, this is a heartbreaking end to a Vancouver Canucks season that brought blood, sweat and tears to fans and players alike.

This season carried so many storylines for the Canucks, and while some may be resolved in due time, others simply may not. Here is a breakdown of three of the most prominent questions that remain unanswered among Canucks nation here in April.

1. Will the Canucks make the playoffs?

The Canucks staked their entire season on the idea of making the postseason for the first time in half a decade, a gambit that has become the greatest source of uncertainty for a team sitting on the cusp of a playoff berth. At this point, no one knows whether the NHL will return in 2019-20.

The league appears to have three options: attempt to finish the season and play the playoffs as soon as the all-clear is given from public health officials, start the playoffs based on current standings at an appropriate time, or cancel the season altogether. Each option presents its own questions in turn.

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If the league decides to play out the season and playoffs in the summer, its apparent preferred option, then how do the Canucks fare? They would likely return to action at full health, potentially allowing them to mend the cracks that began to show throughout February and finish the season firmly in a playoff spot.

However, summer means heat and humidity for much of the continent, often a source of poor ice quality. Of all NHL cities, Vancouver probably experiences the most temperate summer weather with the lowest humidity, which, in theory, would give Rogers Arena the league’s best ice quality.

Teams that are used to good ice seldom fare as well in rinks with poor ice, meaning the Canucks could be at a disadvantage on the road. Could Mother Nature be the downfall of Vancouver’s playoff hopes?

If the playoffs were to begin without the remainder of the season, do the Canucks make it? The answer is not as cut and dry as one might think. League officials would have to decide upon a tiebreaker to allocate playoff berths without teams having played the same amount of games.

The most sensible method would be to base final standings on points percentage rather than total points. The Canucks have a PTS% of 56.5%, one ahead of the Calgary Flames at 56.4%, placing Vancouver in third place in the Pacific Division, in line to face the Edmonton Oilers in the opening round.

However, a points-based system puts them in ninth, tied in points with the Nashville Predators but a single win behind. The decision could go either way, and each possibility carries massive implications.

Finally, which system do league officials use to allocate standings if the season and playoffs are cancelled altogether? This question would be irrelevant for most teams, but the Canucks need to know whether or not they’ll have a first-round pick in the 2020 entry draft. Since their pick’s inclusion in the return for J.T. Miller was conditional upon them making the playoffs, do they still give up that pick if no playoffs happen?

And what happens with the team’s management and coaching staff, who have been under increasing pressure to deliver playoff hockey to Vancouver this season? The playoff question could affect everything for the Canucks, so how will it be handled?