Nothing stands in the way of the Canucks playoff chances. Except injuries, lack of scoring, defensive zone coverage, a tough Western Conference and unfortunately the Canucks schedule that remains. As of February 15th before the team took on the Minnesota Wild they say 5th in the Pacific Division with 56 points in 55 games played. That’s also good enough for fifth in the wild card race, sitting three spots out of the playoffs with a five point gap to recover from. Their goal differential is a -18 and they continue to struggle with injuries losing veteran skaters Brandon Sutter and Alex Edler to significant time (Sutter has already missed almost the entire season after hernia surgery).
The Canucks have 27 games left to make or break their playoff chances and that includes 15 games against divisional foes and ten more of those against conference opponents. Rough stuff doesn’t even come close to cutting it as a description of the situation in Vancouver.
it's February 15th: #Canucks have one regulation home ice win vs Western Conference this season. Beat Chicago 6-3 on November 21
— Jeff Paterson (@patersonjeff) February 15, 2016
Central Division Play is Canucks Kryptonite
Thus far this season the Canucks have won just four games against Central Division teams for a record of 4-7-2. That’s just ten points of a possible 26. The team will have to face their Central division enemies ten more times. With a win percentage under .333 thus far in that category it seems unlikely that the team will be able to overcome that issue. Especially as Nashville and Colorado fight to keep their current Wild Card playoff births.
The team has to battle through this pattern if they want even an outside shot at earning a playoff birth. Nothing would be more deadly to the team’s chances than losing more than 75% of the remaining Central Division games.
Lack of Veteran Depth During Remaining Canucks Schedule is Kiss of Death
The prolonged absence of Sutter and Edler could prove deadly in more ways than one. First off without those players on the ice the Canucks lose two of just a handful of proven NHL veterans on the roster. That has lasting impacts on both the outcomes of games and on the performances of the young players who follow the leads of veterans. It may also shift the Canucks trade deadline plans. Without those players the team can’t afford to trade veterans like Radim Vrbata or Alex Burrows and be left with less than a handful of veteran names on the ice.
The Canucks may be forced to wait until the off-season to make their moves and that stings judging that it’s unlikely Vrbata will resign meaning the Canucks lose him for nothing.
On the brightside the Canucks have a surprisingly strong record against their Pacific Division neighbors. They have gone 7-4-3 so far and have 15 divisional games to keep that going. This is the one saving grace that might earn the team a playoff shot.
Jim Benning has even said that his goal is still to make the playoffs, despite widespread belief that the Canucks are sellers not buyers at the deadline this year.
Jim Benning: "I would even look to add to make our team better so we can compete for a playoff spot. We want to make the playoffs." #Canucks
— Canucks Now (@CanucksNow) February 11, 2016
So if the team were to responsibly address veteran depth without depleting valuable youth assets in the process, it’s possible…and I mean possible that the team might make the first round of the big dance. Strong play in the division has the team earning points in 70% of their divisional matchups, earning two points 50% of the time. With 15 divisional games left the team would earn something like 18 points during the span (calculated using these numbers: 50% of the time earning two points, 21% of the time earning one point, 29% of the time earning no points).
Do you think the Canucks will make the playoffs? How do you feel about 25 conference games in the final 27?