Among the teams that rolled into Vancouver on the Canucks’ three game home stand that concluded Thursday night was the worst team in the NHL standings, as well as the worst team since the start of 2016 in the entire NHL. The Canucks were promptly rolled over by all their opponents, losing all three games in regulation.
Vancouver lost each of the first two games at home by 5-2 scores, coming at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who had a league-worst 47 points heading in, followed by the Minnesota Wild, who had a mere three wins since Jan. 1. The Canucks followed that up with a lackluster loss at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks, yet again by a 5-2 score.
After coming off road wins on back-to-back nights on Feb. 9 and 10, the Canucks were unable to win a third consecutive game as they have all season; only the Canucks and Jets have failed to win three straight of all NHL teams this year. With the three losses, the Canucks fell to 0-5-1 in their last six home games. The last time Vancouver won at Rogers Arena was on Jan. 11 – a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers.
Demeanor Hurts More Than Losses For Canucks
While the Canucks were outscored 15-6 in their last three losses, this wasn’t the worst outcome for the team on their home stand. Reported disagreements between ownership and management, uncertainty of a handful of players’ futures past the trade deadline and public criticism of the head coach all brought negative attention to Vancouver amidst their futile on-ice performances.
Head coach Willie Desjardins’ job may be in jeopardy at this point, and many Canucks fans have been puzzled by his in-game decisions. The same was heard from CBC’s broadcast crew on Saturday night against the Maple Leafs.
During a TV timeout in the first period, Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson were heard openly questioning the way Desjardins’ was handling his bench. In actuality, all the comments from these classy commentators were fair and warranted, and reiterated thoughts in a lot of fans’ heads. Take a listen.
— Hugo Sham (@HugoSham) February 14, 2016
Even worse for the Canucks on this night was hearing reputable Sportsnet reporter Elliotte Friedman discuss at the intermission how there may be a divide in Vancouver between what general manager Jim Benning wants and what the Aquilini ownership group wants.
— Dave (@YLWNucksFan) February 14, 2016
The speculation on this disagreement has led to rumors of Benning being denied making trades by his bosses. With none of Radim Vrbata, Dan Hamhuis, Yannick Weber or other Canucks on the trading block having been moved yet, it suggests that a negation from ownership may be a possibility.
Vrbata in particular has had a very poor go of late for the Canucks. The 34-year old has only two assists in the past 12 games, and is a gruesome minus-14 in that time. The Canucks’ MVP from a season ago, when he led with 31 goals, also hasn’t scored since Jan. 14 — a span of 14 games. The situation only beckons for Vrbata to be traded, as he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season, and despite his struggles of late he would be a valuable asset to a team in contention down the stretch.
Other Canucks who have notably performed poorly and have been rumored to be on the trade market are defensemen Yannick Weber and Matt Bartkowski.
Including Thursday night’s loss to the Ducks, Weber has been a healthy scratch in 12 of the past 13 games, and has a minus-15 rating in 34 games. Bartkowski, meanwhile, has been playing, but hasn’t been performing much better, with a minus-12 rating in the past 14 games. He’s a minus-16 on the season overall, and in his first year with Vancouver, Bartkowski has struggled to find chemistry with any defensive partners.
Corrado with a big hipcheck on Vey. Who’d you rather folks? Weber, Bartkowski or Corrado?
— Blake Price (@BlakePriceTSN) February 14, 2016
Positives to Take for Canucks
With their 0-3-0 home stand, the Canucks head into Calgary now sitting eight points back of a playoff spot at 11th in the Western Conference. The team has a mere 18 regulation or overtime wins in 57 games, which is tied for the second-fewest in the league, and the Canucks now have a 4.4 percent chance of clinching a playoff spot, according to sportsclubstats.com.
But there are some aspects that Canucks fans can cheer about.
Jannik Hansen continues to produce on the top line next to Henrik and Daniel, and scored his career-high 17th goal of the season against Anaheim. It’s easy to forget that Hansen is still only 29, and will likely be an important player and leader on the Canucks for years to come.
“It’s not up to the coach to get us ready. If you’re not ready to play in this league, someone else is” – Hansen #Canucks
— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) February 17, 2016
The Sedin twins, meanwhile, seem to be back on track after enduring a point-slump of their own during the team’s tough times. Henrik and Daniel have combined for eight points in the past four games.
And the Canucks continue to get production from the duo of youngsters Sven Baertschi and Bo Horvat. While they’ve dipped in their consistency in the last month or so, the chemistry between the pair appears to be something that could last. Baertschi scored his 12th goal of the season on Thursday night and sits third on the Canucks in goals. Don’t pay attention to this pair’s plus-minus rating, however; in the past nine games, Baertschi is a minus-six, while Horvat is a minus-nine.
The pair does deserve some slack for filling huge voids in the forward unit – something Horvat has done almost all season with Brandon Sutter being injured. And with a defense group that has been disastrous all year and now faces a crater-sized hole with Alex Edler out, there hasn’t been much room for error for Baertschi, Horvat or other hard working forwards.
And with all the tough hockey games Canucks fans have endured of late, landing a top-five draft pick this June may be a legitimate reality now – something Vancouver hasn’t had since they picked the Sedin twins second and third overall in 1999.