What are your expectations of the Vancouver Canucks this season? What are your thoughts so far with the team this season under new president and GM Trevor Linden and Mike Gillis? I am sure that many expected the Canucks to be right where they are right now in the standings, battling for a playoff spot right until the bitter end, barely making a playoff spot or not. That was my call anyway.
This year I have the silly ability to (mostly) watch the team with lowered expectations. Call it a 2011 hangover. Stupid 82-game regular season. So many games. So many chances to watch our team kick ass and suck against a better or worse opponents. Hey, the concept of a better or worse opponent is open for discussion on any night. Always has been. The Canucks can beat the best team in the NHL and then lose to the worst teams in the NHL. That is hardly a barometer for guessing their chances in the playoffs. It's simply put like this: the best regular season teams in the NHL do not often meet in the Cup Finals. History has shown that over and over again.
Jim Benning has wisely built / altered the Canucks team to roll all 4 lines and get contributions from them. THAT IS what wins in the regular season and playoffs. In the Canucks' case this season, it has not translated into super-regular season success, as the team barely clings to a playoff spot, but it has saved management's face because they are in the running. Playing down to the likes of the Sabres or Blue Jackets is a team fail. Taking the foot off the gas against those that are clearly lesser teams is a team failure. It isn't always as simple as talking about it as a group over pancakes and BACON on game day and then executing.
The Canucks have not strung together 3 consecutive wins since January 19 and have only done so 2 other times besides that this season. It's a very strange phenom, yet a telling one, perhaps. This team can get blown out by Columbus and then, say, beat LA on Saturday. sTheir best winning streak was 4 games from October 26 to November 1 against Washington, Carolina, Montreal and Edmonton. Nick Bonino had 4 points in those games. The Sedins had a combined 2 goals and 3 assists in that streak. Higgins had 3 assists. Vey had 2 goals....yadda yadda. The point is that the Canucks as a team cannot provide a consistent work ethic to win more than 4 straight this season. During that 4-game streak they were getting performances from everybody, from Miller-out. Yet, here they are...still in the playoff picture, barely hanging on.
When a team is struggling to maintain a playoff spot at this time of the season two factors come into play:
-the team lacks the talent to kick ass
-the team has the talent to kick ass but cannot pull it together as a team
The rest is just intangibles, like red-hot goaltending to compensate for errors / lack of skater talent. Where ar ethe Canucks in this? I say somewhere in the middle.
-goal and 5 assists by Daniel Sedin in the last 6 Canucks games.
-2 goals and 1 assist by Burrows in his last 2 games. He previously had 2 assists in his last 10 games.
-Vrbata. Sure, 1 goal and no assists in his last 5 games but....NO BUTS!!!! Ugh.
-3 goals and 2 assists from Bo Horvat in his last 6 games played. Beauty. Put him in Bonino's spot ASAP, Willie.
-Higgins has no points in his last 2 games but had 4 in his previous 4 games.
-Hansen has no points in his last 2 games BUT...he had 4 goals and 8 assists in his prior 15 games.
-2 assists by Hank in his last 7 games.
-1 goal and no assists from Kassian in his last 7 games, most of it played with the Sedins 5 on 5.
-Bonino. OK, so he's good defensively...in almost every aspect, but has 1 assist in his last 5. I really want to crucify this Yank but I did some research on him and he does shut down a lot of opposition lines.
-Where are you Matthias? 1 goal and 1 assist in his last 8. He had 7 goals and 1 assist in the month of February. Can't get your hopes up too high about him. He's a bottom 6 forward. Matthias-Mania is dead for now.
HATE THE DEFENCEMEN SCORING CONTRIBUTIONS!
-Edler: 2 points against Philly on the 17th but...that's it for his last 11 games.
-Hamhuis has no goals this season! Makes me sad. How about 1 assist in his last 6 games?
-Sbisa: 3 assists in his last 17 games. A +1 in those games though. Yay?
-Tanev: 0 points in his last 6. A -5 in those 6 games.
-The rest are / or have been injured and/or demoted/scratched. A big factor here is the lack of scoring opportunities created by defencemen. The Canucks generally kick ass on the penalty kill but they really bite on the power play. That is especially where a lack of having a bonafide quarterback on the PP hurts a team.
12 games left.
Is this group gonna blow us out of the water the rest of the way? Are they going to do just what it takes to make the dance? Could this team possibly make the dance and then surprise many in the playoffs? Or do they make the playoffs and get beaten in the first round? I honestly can't get a real read on this team. I lean towards playoffs and a possible darkhorse run. What say you?