Canucks: The emotional case for tanking the rest of the 2021 season

Feb 6, 2020; Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes (43) looks on in the third period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 6, 2020; Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes (43) looks on in the third period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Vancouver Canucks’ playoff run from the past summer was a reminder of the revitalizing power of sports. Trapped in the middle of a pandemic that seemingly had no end, a group of plucky youngsters and veterans who had overpaid their dues took us all on a ride no one wanted to get off of. For four glorious weeks, we witnessed the heroics, villainy, and dizzying emotions that accompany a deep (for Canucks fans at least) playoff run.

The case for tanking

It’s painful for me to write this: we can’t chase that feeling again, at least not this year. In fact, we need to run far, far away from it. Give Jalen Chatfield and Olli Joulevi more run at the expense of veteran ice time; figure out what these players’ limits and possibilities are. Play Jake Virtanen, instead of banishing him away and destroying what little confidence or trade value he has left. Let Thatcher Demko run away with the starting job to see if he can handle the rigours of carrying the goaltender load.

And for now, take it easy on the core. Bo Horvat, Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and company, the same guys that gave us the most memorable month of Canucks hockey in almost a decade. Don’t forget Quinn Hughes, who looks like he’s carrying the weight of the world and orbiting moons on his shoulder.

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It’s not on them. The painful realities of the Canucks’ cap situation, from Luongo’s recapture penalty to big-time contracts handed out in different economic environments, mean that the only way for this iteration of the roster to succeed, is for the top six to play out of their minds, and all-world goaltending every night. That’s just not realistic, and the proof is what we’ve witnessed for the first month of the season.

Cap relief will be had over the next couple of years; but until then, it’s a fool’s errand to continue leveraging the future for the playoffs. On the other hand, we must face reality and find ways to add more youth and cost-effective talent, to compete with teams in a better salary and roster situation. We can’t expect to lift the Stanley Cup with one hand tied around our back, and it’s up to Jim Benning to face this reality as well.

So tank. Punt. Photo-shop Luke Hughes in a Canucks jersey, and manage your expectations for this team. What better time than this year, when there are no fans in the stadium, and a shortened season that makes prolonged losing feel more like a quick band-aid rip rather than a three-day root canal.

Next. Canucks: 3 takeaways from the disastrous 7-3 loss to the Maple Leafs. dark

I still believe the future is bright for this team, and I think we would all prefer another playoff run during a time when we can high five, hug, and celebrate, with the only thing on our minds the emotional rush of victory or defeat. That time isn’t now, but later comes sooner than you think.