Do you remember when the Canucks played their best game of the season against the Winnipeg Jets?
While that game was a tad less than two weeks ago, it feels like two months ago.
Since then, the Canucks have lost six straight games, and their playoff hopes are close to being dashed at barely the quarter-pole. Vancouver is five points out of playoff spot, and every team ahead of them has games in hand.
I don’t care that this team played “better” during the last two games. This is no time for moral victories...but it is time for my unrequested thoughts.
1. The Vancouver Oilers
Everyone around the NHL knows the futility of Edmonton’s depth.
You might have been under the illusion that the Canucks were incapable of suffering a similar fate. Well, 17 games into this season, and it’s clear that Vancouver’s just another incarnation of the Edmonton Oilers. Both teams boast a top-heavy line-up with some amazing talents, but the drop-off is steep and painful after that.
I theorized this week on The Quickie podcast that Jim Benning, the former Boston Bruins AGM, succeeded in his goal of dismantling the Canucks. Jokes aside (if you think I’m joking...) him and Peter Chiarelli were cut from the same cloth, and they both seem to have built eerily similar teams.
2. Benning to Blame
I truly believe that Canucks Nation shouldn’t put each other down. That being said, I hope the Benning Bros have crawled back into a hole, never to be seen or heard from again.
To argue that Jim Benning has succeeded in his role as Canucks general manager is a complete and utter diversion from the truth.
This team should have been building off of a successful playoff appearance. Instead, they were hamstrung by brutal contracts handed out to middling players, and we’re seeing the result of Benning’s futility on the ice.
Look around the Canadian division. Toronto was able to rebuild their blueline despite having their top four forwards making more than $40 million dollars. Montreal has built a talented team with depth despite having their goaltenders and Shea Weber combine to take up more than a quarter of their cap space.
The Canucks became a decisively worse team because they are hamstrung by contracts handed out replaceable players in Loui Eriksson, Tyler Myers, Brandon Sutter, Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel and Sven Baertschi. You can throw healthy scratch Jake Virtanen on this list as well.
Every team has bad contracts. I challenge you to find another team that’s hamstrung by more than six bad ones.
3. Travis Green’s Protest
A common theory this season is that Travis Green is metaphorically throwing his hands up in the air to management by treating the lower-half of his line-up like a passed-around bowl of keys at a swinger’s party.
By the way, I wonder how the swingers are keeping during the COVID era?
Anyways, if you’re keeping track of this theory, you’re probably judging by line-up changes and ice time. Last night, Zack MacEwen and Jay Beagle barely played after Justin Bailey left the line-up (when the game was still tied). Also, Jordie Benn and Olli Juolevi combined for 22:41 in ice time. That combined total was lower than the minutes logged by Myers, Alex Edler and Quinn Hughes last night.
4. The Gaudette & Virtanen Illusions
Adam Gaudette and Jake Virtanen have been lumped together in trade rumours, and there is one part of their game that makes them eerily similar.
Gaudette and Virtanen respectively lead the team in individual scoring chances at even-strength. When the puck is on their stick, both players do nothing but try to score.
The problem with both of them is A) They don’t know how to pass and B) They’re irresponsible defensively.
Virtanen had a bone-headed giveaway in front of his own net against the Maple Leafs on Monday night, and he deservedly found a spot in the press box last night.
With Gaudette, his work rate on the ice is higher than Virtanen. He hustles, he tries to make plays. However, one of the things I notice with him is that he often has his head down when he gets the puck. By the time he picks his head up, he usually has a player on him, making it impossible to make a play.
It’s just another chapter in the book arguing that Virtanen and Gaudette aren’t much more than talented, yet unreliable depth players.
5. One of those Years
In five games against the Canucks, Tyler Toffoli has eight goals and three assists in 11 games. For the record, he has just a goal and an assist in his other nine games, and has a four-game point drought after his three-point night against the Canucks 10 days ago.
Manny Malhotra and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Canucks 15-5 on aggregate over three games.
Now, Jacob Markstrom is 3-0 with one shutout and a .968 save percentage against the Canucks this season. Again, just for fun, it’s interesting to note that Markstrom has a sub .900 save percentage in five his other eight starts.
As Sippin’ On a 40 host Kyle Bhawan loves to say...it is what it is.
6. The Full 40
The Canucks did put in a better effort during their last two games. However, they crumbled in the third period in both of those contests.
There is the old saying that coaches love to use...”We gotta play a full 60 minutes.” Not sure if the Canucks misheard Green or if they just tuned him out two-thirds of the way through his pre-game pep talk...but I don’t think Green was telling them to play the full 40.
For a team that showed resiliency in the playoffs last year, they look weak and feeble, and that’s highlighted by the fact that they tend to drift away in third periods.
That, among many, many other things, need to change with this team.