At the start of the year there was a discussion about this team and playoffs. Canucks blogging sites were some of the few places this discussion took place, as most main stream media sites counted the team out. Weak defense…below average goaltending….Lack of scoring forwards, were all stated as reasons for why the Canucks would be near the bottom of the league.
Were the media wrong? Yes…..and no.
There have been pleasant surprises on this team, some disappointments and some things have come to fruition from pre-season predictions. The strong start and the team’s ability to claw back into wildcard contention after a brutal losing, brought hope and playoff talk to the masses.
In case you’ve been ignoring my comments all year, I am one of those individuals that didn’t believe this team was a playoff contender. Even when the Nucks were higher up in the standings I always had the feeling the bottom would drop out. I’m not here to say “I told you so”. I’m here to tell those who are now disappointed with this team’s play in the past month, shouldn’t be discouraged. Realistically this team is close to what we thought it would be at the start of the year, and the future looks bright.
Jacob Markstrom is better than most of us thought he would be. Elias Pettersson is a star.
But those two things can change the fact that the Nucks secondary scoring has been spotty at best and non-existent at worse. Every single player on this team needs to get better in transition and in their own end. The offence has moments of brilliance and then becomes so predictable that my daughter knows who is getting the puck before it gets passed.
The belief that each player on the Canucks can play to the potential every night is not realistic in the NHL grind. But more players need to get close to that level on more nights for this team to be competitive in its own division. This team is not big and not as fast as other teams, so skill is going to have to shine through and some nights the skill is just not there. I think GMJB has tried to address that issue through drafting, but it will still take time. It was funny to watch over this year the people abandon a realistic timeline for improvement once a winning streak occurred. “This is a playoff team!!!” These types of bold statements after 20 or 40 games are fun to talk about, but the season is 82 games and in the end, main stream media will have been close to their prediction.
The Canucks have 6 more points after 65 games than they had last year. That improvement may not seem like much, but as this young team continues to play together and pieces are brought in to help improve some weak areas, hopefully the Canucks will improve by at least 6 points again next year at this time and playoff talk continues later into March.
I have enjoyed watching this team. No Sedins was supposed to be the main problem this year, but that might be the case. Management and the coaching staff should really take these last games and try some lines for longer times. I would hope that next year there are two top lines that are set. On the defensive side I would try out all possible combinations and let Juolevi and Hughes get some serious minutes. Let Demko get 8 more games in.
I may have sounded like a naysayer because I didn’t think this team could get to the playoffs, but I really am optimistic about what this team could be in 2 to 3 years. Be patient. Don’t think that going after Erik Karlsson or any other “star” player is the key to getting prolonged success. The fact GMJB was willing to part with Gagner and Guds shows that any player he signs has to produce to some degree or else they are expendable. I would give the GM another year to draft. I would let Green have another year after this contract to see if he can keep this team moving forward.
Don’t get too down if the rest of the schedule does produce an above .500 team. Enjoy this last month and a bit because the summer is too long.