With four straight 5-2 losses, a coach on the hot seat and playoff hopes all but dashed, there isn’t much for Canucks fans to cheer for right now.
Vancouver is 2-7-1 in their last ten games and have a -14 goal differential over that time span. General manager Jim Benning came out of the all-star breaking talking about making a playoff push, but now he must realize that this isn’t a playoff team. Offloading some of his veterans at the trade deadline and preparing for the draft should be his two main priorities.
The turning point was last Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. There was some positivity after reeling off two straight wins on the road over the Colorado Avalanche and the Arizona Coyotes. The Canucks came back home and put up a no-show against a team that arguably couldn’t even beat their AHL affiliate. Since then, the Canucks have looked flat, feeble, and frustrated all while playing some really uninspiring hockey.
Even if you’re on team tank, no one really likes to watch their team constantly lose. However if you’re an optimist, you’re looking for a silver living amongst this foul stretch of play. Here are six positives to take away from this mediocre Canucks season.
Something positive has come from the Roberto Luongo fiasco of 2014. In that trade the Canucks received Jacob Markstrom, a slowly fading goalie prospect who had no sustained NHL success. It’s safe to say that Markstrom is back on the NHL’s radar.
He flourished during Utica’s Calder Cup run last season, and has finally arrived at the NHL level. Under the tutelage of goaltending coach Rollie Melanson, Markstrom has earned his spot in the NHL. He should earn at least a 50/50 split in playing time with Ryan Miller down the stretch.
No one expected the University of Maine product to crack the NHL this season, but that’s exactly what he did after a strong preseason. He’s made some rookie mistakes along the way but overall he has consistently been one of the Canucks four best defencemen.
Hutton leads all Canucks blueliners in even-strength points with 11. Since Alex Edler’s injury, Hutton’s ice time has jumped up to nearly 23 minutes per game. While his goal totals aren’t high, he has a high level offensive skill set and looks to be a mainstay on the Canucks blueline for years to come.
Baertschi Arrives, Develops Alongside Horvat
Many questions surrounded winger Sven Baertschi when the season began. He was virtually a lock in the Canucks top-six despite not having to earn that spot.
Baertschi had a slow offensive start, mainly due to the fact that he played too much on the perimeter. It wasn’t until about mid December where Baertschi had five goals and seven points during a seven game stretch, while playing alongside Bo Horvat. The two are virtually a lock to play together, and their chemistry bodes well for the Canucks’ future.
Horvat has struggled at times this season with increased responsibility, but he’s shown improvement since playing with Baertschi. After his slow start, he’s now fourth in team scoring behind Jannik Hansen and the Sedin twins.
#Canucks Bo Horvat has 16 points in his last 17 games. He had just 10 points in his first 39 games of the season.
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) February 18, 2016
Sedins Still Thrive
Will these guys ever slow down?
Despite both being 35-years-old, the Sedin twins are putting up another stellar offensive season. Daniel Sedin is having somewhat of a goal-scoring renaissance this season with 22 goals in 58 games. He is on track to hit the 30-goal plateau for the first time since 2011-12. Henrik Sedin is the unabashed leader of this hockey team and had five points in his last five games, even though it looks like he is still playing injured.
It’s scary to imagine where the Canucks would be without the Sedin twins leading the team, unless you’re on team tank that is. In a season full of despair, the Sedins still bring it every night and are still as entertaining to watch as ever.
Hansen As Burrows 2.0
When Alex Burrows was 29-years-old, he put up 22 goals and 48 points while playing with the twins. Hansen could end up posting very similar numbers this season as the newest triplet to ride shotgun with the Sedins.
Hansen now has more goals than Claude Giroux, Patrick Sharp, Evander Kane, Kyle Okposo, Andrew Ladd & Jeff Carter. Sell high! Sell high!
— Mike Halford (@HalfordTSN) February 19, 2016
The Danish winger has always been extremely versatile and much like Burrows, his speed and nose for the net have led to success on the top line this season. His eminence is even more impressive when you consider that Hansen spends practically no time on the powerplay. At even-strength, his 14 goals and 2.29 points/60 lead the team.
Canucks Closing in on Top Five Pick
The Canucks are six points clear of the NHL basement and they are trending downwards. Winnpeg, Buffalo and Calgary all trail the Canucks by two points or less, with Columbus, Toronto and Edmonton filling out the bottom three.
If the NHL ranked teams based on goal differential, then the Canucks would slide to 27th overall in the NHL. With the way they have played lately, falling to 27th place is a fathomable outcome. That would give the Canucks their first top five pick in 17 years, the year that they drafted Henrik and Daniel Sedin at second and third overall.
Even if the Canucks didn’t climb the standings any higher, they would still end up picking in the top seven. Currently the seven best options among the prospect leaderboard are forwards Auston Matthews, Jesse Puljujarvi, Patrik Laine, Matthew Tkachuk, Alexander Nylander, along with defencemen Olli Juolevi and Jakob Chychrun.
Although the Canucks have a more pressing need to acquire a top defenseman, any of these seven players would surely benefit the Canucks down the road.
- Featured Image was provided by Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers