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THE ROUNDUP- MAR 25/19: Shutout again.

As if to make sure that every last person who was holding out hope of the playoffs was addressed, the Canucks put all of that to bed last night.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Vancouver Canucks Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

CANUCKS NEWS: Much like the playoffs themselves, the Canucks never had a sniff in this one. There wasn’t a lot to look positively at last night. We had Luke Schenn hitting everything in sight. We had Sven Baertschi getting through the game uninjured. That’s literally it. What was left was a quintessential 2018/19 Canucks performance, with the added bonus of an uncharacteristically bad game from Elias Pettersson. The end result was ugly, and it really makes me wonder if we’ve been so bad for so long that any glimmer of hope isn’t being magnified into something not nearly as encouraging as it appears.

I’ll say this much for Schenn: I wouldn’t have an issue if they bring him back next season, as long as it was for a decent rate. The expectations for him were low, but if anything we can say he’s been a steadying influence back there. He plays within the limitations of where he’s at in his career, provides a physical presence that no one else on the back end can, and hasn’t been a giant liability. He’s basically been a better Erik Gudbranson for far cheaper and that’s a good thing.

The defence is a mess, and this is all on Jim Benning and John Weisbrod. They neglected it for far too long, failed to move out aging parts repeatedly when they had the chance, and it should make you angry that they felt that the defence that got exposed so frequently last season was deemed good enough for this season. If anything, it’s a testament to just how amazing Jacob Markstrom’s been. Without him to bail them out on an almost nightly basis this team would be in last place and it wouldn’t even be close.

After the defence, the other glaring issue is secondary scoring. When you look at who has produced this season and who hasn’t, it’s another sign that Benning and Weisbrod have put together a team that’s just not good enough to compete in today’s NHL. And the Canucks have decisions to make this summer with a number of free agents, meaning their cap situation will bring about massive change, rather than actually making moves to improve the team.

They have a number of RFA’s heading into next season. Brock Boeser is going to get paid, no doubt about it. Thatcher Demko will be re-signed. After that we have Josh Leivo, who while not night in, night out consistent has been a decent pickup should be back next season. Then there’s Markus Granlund, Tyler Motte and Nikolay Goldobin. As much as Goldobin has promise if he can just get some consistency in his game, we won’t see him next season, and we better not see Granlund or Motte.

On the back end it’s safe to say Derrick Pouliot is gone. Ben Hutton’s had a decent season playing with Troy Stecher, but in order to sign Alexander Edler, who is a UFA, there’s going to have to be a hard decision made back there and I fear Hutton’s gonna be the one they let go. There’s a chance they bring back Schenn for cheap, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they have Teves sign and head down to Utica. A lot of the focus will be on Olli Juolevi to see how he recovers from his surgery, and I have a feeling Jett Woo will make a push to at least get a look after a phenomenal season for the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL.

And then, there’s the elephant in the room. The Luongopocalypse could have a massive impact on this team’s free agent signings going forward, as you can see here:

So with Lu pondering the end, if that happens it means nearly $3 Million is paid out on the cap that isn’t going to help build this team for the next 3 years. It’s either going to happen now, or later and it’s probably best to do it this year, as the hit gets bigger in years 2 and 3 if he plays next year. So that means the Canucks are going to have to dump salary and you can start with Brandon Sutter. Oft injured and the poster child for underwhelming, the guy Benning brought in as a ‘foundational piece’ has not been worth what he’s been paid at any time in his tenure with the Canucks. They told us he was part of the future, but nobody knew the future would be this bleak...

I’d love to go on and on about how more than any roster move the Canucks need at the minimum a change in the brain trust that runs this team, but I am sure Francesco Aqualini isn’t even pondering this right now. At the start of the year we were feeling like progress was being made, but it was just an illusion. This team is no better than it was last season. The numbers don’t lie. Elias Pettersson helped fill the gap left by the departure of the Sedins, and we got great seasons from Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser and Jacob Markstrom. Throw in a decent campaign from Antoine Roussel and that’s it. You’ve got pretty much the same damn team that couldn’t score to save their life, spent far too much time playing defence as though they were chimps being tasked with quantum physics. Yes, there are some intriguing prospects, but not nearly enough that we can look at and say confidently that the future is bright. If nothing changes upstairs this summer, you have to think that without some kind of miracle happening next season, this should be the end of the Benning Era.

The Canucks host Anaheim tomorrow, a team that finds itself in very similar circumstances, and it will be interesting to see how they handle a number of bloated contracts to aging, broken players like Ryan Kesler. I predict we see them correct their course far sooner than the Canucks.

A couple interesting games to check out on tonight’s schedule as the playoffs draw near. The Leafs have been struggling, and they’re hoping they can get back on track tonight against Florida. Carolina is just 2 points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins, so they’ll be looking to add a little breathing room as they take on the New York Rangers. A couple clashes between teams that could be considered favorites tonight. We have Boston in Tampa to take on the Lightning, while the Golden Knights are in St Louis for a battle with the Blues. There’s also Nashville in Minnesota against the Wild, and Dallas is in Winnipeg, both of those games with big Western Conference Wild Card implications. The Calgary Flames host the Kings, and San Jose takes on Detroit in the nightcap.