Another week and another edition of looking inwards at the boys in blue (or is it black now?). Anyhow, onto the questions.
1. The Canucks are heading into a pretty tough schedule for the rest of December, with 6 of the 9 games against playoff teams. How are they gonna do for this stretch?
Beggsy - Despite the decent opponents, most of these games are at home. They also play five divisional games as well (San Jose, Edmonton, Calgary, Vegas x2). I’m going to guess they go .500 (something like 4-4-1) but realistically, they need to perform at least that well or better. They’re currently point points back of Calgary for third in the Pacific Division...and four points away from being the second-worst team in the Conference.
Tengeresz - the games against Carolina, San Jose, Montreal, and LA are winnable games. Pittsburgh, Edmonton, and away at Calgary are likely to be tough. The home and away against Vegas are critical swing games against another bubble team - it’s gut check time for the young guns from Vancouver. Of the nine games left in December it’s likely that the Canucks will get around nine points, but if they sweep Vegas and end up with more than 10 points this will be a good month for edging up in the standings.
jimmi - Nucks only have to string together 10 wins in the next 9 games. Something the October team could do in a month. With enough instant replays. I don’t like Beggsy’s term “second-worst” - it’s either first-worst or bust out the champagne for a 10 game win streak. We’ve earned it. The team has earned it. Not yet, but just pretend we’re going to have a holly jolly Xmas for once.
Kent- They’re gonna have to be above mediocre, basically. There’s some winnable games here for sure, but it’s the games against the quality playoff teams that we should be paying attention to, starting with the Carolina game. A win here could be a massive confidence boost for a team that deserved a far better result than they got Tuesday against Toronto. I am just not sure they’re gonna come out of this above .500.
westy99 - The 6 games against division rivals is the key. They need 4-5 wins to keep that idea of playoffs in my mind. If they can beat Vegas, then let’s talk.
2. The defence is still an issue. Is it time to maybe sit someone and give one of the Utica kids a look?
Beggsy - Unfortunately, the answer isn’t in Utica. This team just doesn’t have a plan for life without Alex Edler. They’re a mediocre unit with him in the lineup and they’re a bad group without him. Green is already giving the offensive zone starts to Quinn Hughes and Tyler Myers, while leaving the remaining four guys to handle the defensive zone starts. Maybe the just need to play Hughes for 40 minutes per night?
Tengeresz - No matter what: Do NOT rush the hot young prospects into the NHL and ruin their development. Hands off Juolevi, Rafferty, and Woo. Let them marinate well in the development leagues until they are set up for success.
jimmi - No comment. Let’s start with team D. Then work our way down to D-D. Or is that up?
Kent- I think Chatfield’s deserving of a look, but it’s not like the past where there were guys on the back end who were so glaringly bad that they screamed for replacement but the cupboards were bare. If you were to sit someone it would have to be Jordie Benn (who has been a decent bottom pairing addition) or Oscar Fantenberg, and that’s not really fair given he missed a ton of time with a concussion and is still in the process of showing them what he brings to the table. It speaks volumes about the value of Alexander Edler though that his absence really leaves them exposed. I will say Tyler Myers has looked a lot better since pairing with Quinn Hughes. It’s a tough problem though, and not one I am sure there’s a fix for without a trade.
westy99 - The defense is what it is. If they are all healthy, there is no need to change it. Injuries will come soon enough.
3. Do you think it’s possible we may have underestimated just how good Quinn Hughes is, because it’s actually starting to scare me.
Beggsy - I don’t want to say I underestimated him because I’ve been juiced about him as an NHL star since before he was a Canuck. However, his rate of production is crazy. A 40-point season wouldn’t have surprised me, the the 60+ points he’s on pace for is unreal.
Tengeresz - My favourite bagel shop prospects expert told me we’d never get Hughes because it would be insane for him to drop to us. When we did get him, the baker was ecstatic. That was the extent of my knowledge before Hughes showed up, so I couldn’t (under)estimate him. I’d say I’m pleasantly surprised at how well a small rookie stepped in to the PP, and how smart he is in his own zone. He’s good. Very good. I’m scared too. Group hug.
jimmi - Huggy Bear is a legit phenom. That I didn’t expect could take over a NHL game and make plays from nothing. His skating, edge work, play making and Icy IQ are phenomenal. We won the draft!
Kent- My hopes and expectations have already been exceeded. To see the names he’s being compared to in terms of rookie production is genuinely jaw-dropping.
westy99 - He’s good. If the Canucks could only get him a partner to be the stay at home guy, you could really let him loose.
4. The Canucks (prior to Tuesday’s game) are 9 points and 17 goals for ahead of last year’s pace. Is that enough to make you believe this is a playoff team?
Beggsy - The West is an absolute dogfight. One bad losing streak and the Canucks are only better than L.A. However one good winning streak and they could be first in the division. They’re still a bubble team and that hasn’t really changed, but I still believe they can get there if they remain healthy.
Tengeresz - It’s not the pace compared to last year, it’s the way they are playing that gives me hope. That said: this year’s Canucks are still a bubble team. They have a chance, but I’m not fully a believer yet. Anything can happen. It’s a great, entertaining time to be a fan.
jimmi - Double bubble. Sounds like fun. Need that 10 game run now. And one in February sans faeries.
Kent- So many things have changed and yet my assessment stays the same: so many things need to go right for this thing to work. Staying healthy is crucial, as we saw when they dropped 4 of their bottom 6 forwards. They’re almost back to full health (though the news on Ferland is troubling), and they need to make hay at home while they can.
westy99 - I just don’t see it yet. Too many inconsistent games. The Canucks also have the least amount of games against their division, so they have a shot to make up ground or drop like an anchor this month.
5. So let’s say something weird happens, and the Canucks make the playoffs: Who is the team to beat in the Pacific?
Beggsy - The standings would say Edmonton, the old school hockey minds would say the grinding Coyotes, but the correct answer is Vegas. That team hasn’t played to their full potential this season. It’s possible they’re already looking ahead to the playoffs. They have two first lines, one of the most balanced defensive units, and one of the best goalies in the league. They’re just saving all that pent up Vegas luck for the playoffs.
Tengeresz - Maybe not the team to beat, but the Pacific matchup that would be the most fun to win would be against Edmonton and the smarmy Oilers. Except Kassian, I like him.
jimmi - Vegas, Baby! The Yotes could be a worry too. And let’s not mention the Oil. Damn! This division is tougher than it looked from the chaise lounge coaching chair in the summer. Of ‘69.
Kent- Calgary’s probably the one that worries me the most. I think Vegas is falling back to earth, the Oilers’ goaltending is going to let them down and they just don’t have the goalscoring to get it done without their two stars, and Arizona’s likely overachieving a bit. The Flames have good goaltending, good defence, decent enough scoring and can overcome the handicap of having Milan Lucic in the lineup. That being said, a first round matchup of Calgary and the Canucks screams upset, and according to history, it’s Vancouver’s turn.
westy99 - Calgary has a chip on its shoulder from last year’s debacle. They have jettisoned Bill Peters and are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and have a 6 game winning streak. They have a heavy-hitting crew that can be dangerous on special teams.