A month ago I wrote that .500 hockey was not going to get to the playoffs, and that the lead up to the All Star Game would be the key to evaluating this team, saying:
Time to have a better than .500 road trip and get a good winning streak going at home in January. If that happens (and it looks possible), the Canucks could be barely in a playoff spot to start February, four weeks before the trade deadline.
As we now know, the road trip was below .500, but 2-3-1 sounds ALMOST like .500 hockey because of the loser point. The record at home in January turned out to be 3-2-1, which is (barely) above .500 solely due to the loser point. The overall record of 5-5-2 since that assessment on the eve of Christmas eve is sort of .500 if you squint really hard, but clearly not a team that’s dominating their competition. Despite an easy schedule against bad teams on a long home stand, the Canucks did not pull away from the pack.
There’s also the small matter of the standings: The Canucks are currently 9th in the West, and the wildcard teams have games in hand.
So there you have it: This is NOT a playoff team.
This could be the shortest NM article I’ve ever written.
But it won’t be.
The problem is that although the Canucks were not able to make hay while the sun shone, neither was anyone else. As one pundit put it, the race to the playoffs is looking more like a traffic jam right now. Wild card contenders in the West include seven teams with 49 points or more, but only 52 for the Canucks and both wild card teams. In this Turtle Derby, some mediocre team might get in with less than 90 points. It’s not inconceivable for the Canucks to make that very low total. They could go 19-12, or more likely 15-8-8 (which is more losses than wins but somehow WAY over .500 in points).
And as noted before: The Canucks are fully healthy, they’ve had some time to practice, they are already well rested, and there are some other considerations.
The Canucks have a bye week and All-Star break so all the little niggling not-quite-injuires can fully heal up and the fatigue can be conquered by stepping on kids’ Lego blocks, going to wives’ friends dinner parties, and taking care of handyman chores around the house. Or binge Fortnight for the players without families. Nothing says “Get me back on the road” like having to do your own dishes and laundry.
There has been some nice incremental personnel movement too, and some snakebitten players that are due to return to form. The new backup in the crease shows more promise than the previous backup which could help the #1 stay hot with a bit more rest that doesn’t lead to a loss. Luke Schenn is a slightly better depth call up on the right side than anyone else in Utica, and when Mike McKenna gets waived again there will finally be a goalie available for injury call-up.
Players that went a little cold during this period include: Shotgun Jake, Bo and the Flow (sounds like a boy band right?). If those three return to top form that could drag the team into the playoffs. While the Penalty Kill has been very good indeed, the Power Play has massive room for improvement. The anaemic PP was often the difference between a loss and a win, if Newell Brown can work his magic again that alone could be the boost into the playoffs.
Possibly most important of all: Elias Petterson only played six and a half of those 12 games due to injury in Montreal on the 3rd of January. He was visibly rusty when he came back. It should be said that when your comeback game is a disappointing one goal and one assist the standard is very high indeed. The next game he still looked subdued except when he tallied an assist on the sweetest beauty of a feed to the back door. If Dekey-Pete gets inspired by his debut at the All Star Game (and the bonus money that comes with it) perhaps he’ll come back and be just as good as his runaway Calder performance in the first half of the season. That alone could ALSO be enough of a push to make the fourth season.
So I’m curious, what does the NM braintrust think? Will the Canucks make the playoffs?
But wait! if you order before midnight tonight I’ll throw in a bonus question: Should we the fans WANT the Canucks to make the playoffs?
That was an open ended somewhat rhetorical question at the end of the previous article, but now I’ll lay out the issue more clearly. It won’t take long.
On the “Lose for Hughes” side are the so-called Tank advocates. As I understand it the idea is that a high draft pick is very valuable, and the best chance for a fast rebuild is as many high picks as often as possible until the team is good enough to contend for the Stanley Cup. Of course, thanks to the lottery even the worst team in hockey still only has an 18.5% chance at the #1 pick, so there’s much less justification to completely bottom out.
Personally, I don’t buy the whole Tank argument. My response basically comes down to two things: Brock Boeser picked 23rd over-all; and the Edmonton Oilers (spits on ground). I’d rather be the 2014-15 Winnipeg Jets than the 2018-2019 Edmonton Oilers.
On the “Go for it” side (including our own version of President Tweeter-in-chief) you can’t ask the players to tank, and you shouldn’t. The argument is that winning culture comes from actually winning, and even a first round exit is a sign of progress that is good experience for a rebuilding team. It’s also more fun to have something to root for, and to see your team win. Rarely mentioned but certainly a fact is that a playoff team gets more revenue for hockey operations than a non-playoff team — even aside from the extra two games, by filling more seats during the end of the regular season.
What say you noble NM community? Vote anonymously if you wish, or for added bragging rights you can justify your vote in the comments. Come to think of it, I guess some of you are tuned out for the All Star break so I’ll leave the poll open long past midnight tonight: Say until after half the remaining games to the deadline have been played. Let’s call it Valentine’s morning.
My vote: The Canucks will NOT make the playoffs, but I wish they would.
Will the Canucks make the playoffs, and should they?
This poll is closed
Yes! And they should! Go Canucks Go!
Yes, but they should not. Lose for Hughes dammit
No, but I wish they would. Oh well...
No! BCR Tank Squadron all the way!