Originally, the NHL playoff picture would have been set today, but COVID-19 paused all sports and stopped the Vancouver Canucks from proving they’re a playoff team.
COVID-19 is a very serious global issue that stretches far beyond the importance of any sport, but it still pains thousands of passionate Vancouver Canucks’ fans who feel robbed of getting the chance to watch their beloved sports team chase a season-long promise of making the playoffs.
The Canucks played their last game on March 10th in a 5-4 shootout win versus the New York Islanders and have yet to play any of their remaining 13 regular-season games since. The league shut down on March 12th and with the NHL pause firmly in place, it’s beginning to appear that the 82-game schedule the league was planning on keeping an option, its window of opportunity is actually narrowing with every passing day.
At first, the NHL pause seemed like a bit of a blessing with all the Canucks’ injuries that were piling up. The pause gave the struggling Canucks a chance to cool down, refocus and get their roster back to full health. But time passed and the coronavirus continued to spike only resulting in the sinking fact that the Canucks most-likely won’t get an opportunity to prove they were not only a playoff team but possibly a team that could do some damage once they got there.
Think about it for a minute. Well, with all the time on your hands these days, I’m sure many of you probably already have. With 13 games left to play, a healthy Brock Boeser, Jacob Markstrom (and maybe even Josh Leivo) would have been the perfect pick-me-up the Canucks needed to solidify a playoff spot and bolster the depth chart before hitting the trenches of playoff war.
Tyler Toffoli was a buffer for the Boeser injury, but with him back in the lineup sooner than expected, he absolutely creates a dangerously deep and lethal right-wing built for the playoff atmosphere. Inject Leivo into the off wing and Vancouver’s top-nine looks like a serious threat. The Canucks could have realistically entered the playoffs having seven 20-goal scorers and a top-nine of forwards all above 0.5 points per game. Talk about a high-scoring offence.
Markstrom’s MVP-calibre year was missed and he had the ability to carry the Canucks to the postseason on his own, and even steal a playoff series, possibly even two. Thatcher Demko was doing everything you can ask of in a rookie backup, but the insurance of Markstrom in the final five games was a nice cushion of support.
It all felt like it was coming together just in the knick of time, but the world had other plans and unfortunately, some things are bigger than hockey. Jim Benning built a promising young team that was determined to excite the fans, but most importantly they were driven to deliver the promise of playoff puck. As fans, it hurts not to see what the team was truly capable of when it mattered most, but the future of the Canucks is bright nonetheless.