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Where Canucks rank among 11 most surprising NHL teams

We look at preseason point projections to break down the NHL’s biggest surprises.

NHL: NOV 13 Canucks at Bruins
Boston Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark (35) stops Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat (53) during a game between the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks on November 13, 2022, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.
Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

They say sports are unpredictable.

Unfortunately for Canucks fans, there tend to be a lot more surprises that make you say “YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME” as opposed to “F***ING RIGHTS, YES!”

At this point, watching this team flounder isn’t a huge surprise...until you remember that there were realistic playoff odds entering the season.

Most outlets had the Canucks pegged as a playoff Wild Card team. But, after last season’s 106-point pace under Bruce Boudreau, a large chunk of fans believed that this team would make the playoffs. Heck, I even talked myself into it.

While I won’t break down the team’s misery, I did want to take a look at projected points during the preseason versus now to see which teams in the NHL stand out as the most surprising squads.

I’m using totals from the team over at Power Rankings Guru. Below is a list of all teams with a deviation of greater than +/- 10 points from their preseason projection.

What’s important to note about their projected point paces for the rest of the season, is that they take strength of schedule into account.

I’ll explain further as we start with the Canucks, who actually sit as only the 11th-most surprising team.

11. Vancouver Canucks: -10.7

Preseason Projection: 91.0
Pace: 80.3

The Canucks are actually on pace for an abysmal 75.9 points right now. However, because they have the 8th-easiest schedule the rest of the way (according to Power Rankings Guru), their projection from this source is 80.3 points.

Vancouver’s offence came to play...but they play defence like it’s the All-Star game on a nightly basis. They needed heroic goaltending to make a postseason push, something that seemed realistic with Demko between the pipes, but it hasn’t transpired this season.

But don’t worry, that heroic goaltending will make a return and help cement the Canucks’ status as a mushy middle champ.

This ranking is solely based on the numbers, but in actuality, I’d probably rank the Canucks as the 5th or 6th most surprising squad.

10. Dallas Stars: +12.5

Preseason Projection: 93.5
Pace: 106

Y’know what happens when you have heroic goaltending and a dangerous offence? A surprise team like the Stars.

Dallas was only projected to have 2.5 more points than Vancouver entering the season. Now? There’s a 26-point gap between their paces.

9. Chicago Blackhawks: -12.7

Preseason Projection: 70.9
Pace: 58.2

This isn’t a surprise. Hooray, the Blackhawks suck harder than we thought!

Dear God, just don’t gift this franchise Connor Bedard. No team deserves him less.

8. Colorado Avalanche: -15.8

Preseason Projection: 112.7
Pace: 96.9

Are the Avs okay? We all expect them to figure it out as they get healthy, but recent losses to the Canucks, Kings, Coyotes and Panthers aren’t inspiring a ton of confidence.

Alexander Georgiev also needs to find his form from earlier in the season instead of channelling his inner 2017-18 era Jacob Markstrom with the bad goals against and stick smashes.

7. Winnipeg Jets: +16.7

Preseason Projection: 86.7
Pace: 103.4

Here’s another team who, like the Canucks, was destined for the mushy middle. Instead, they’ve been jockeying back and forth with the Dallas Stars for first in the Central Division all season long.

6. Anaheim Ducks: -17.9

Preseason Projection: 79.1
Pace: 61.2

What I said about the Blackhawks also applies here...except that Bedard landing in Anaheim wouldn’t be as painful for Canucks fans (even if that means he plays in the division).

Bedard and Trevor Zegras could be the most talented and, for lack of a better term, swaggiest duo in NHL history.

5. New Jersey Devils: +18.2

Preseason Projection: 84.6
Pace: 102.8

Give the Devils credit, the Canucks could only dream about making moves like New Jersey to improve their blueline. The Devils carved out cap space to sign Dougie Hamilton, and also made good bets by acquiring guys like John Marino, Ryan Graves and Jonas Siegenthaler via trade.

Jack Hughes is the shining star on this team, but the Devils as a whole are a well-built squad.

4. Florida Panthers: -18.3

Preseason Projection: 107.3
Pace: 89

Defence (and goaltending) matters. We certainly know that in Vancouver, but it’s a similar problem in Sunrise for the defending President’s Trophy champions.

3. Columbus Blue Jackets: -19.6

Preseason Projection: 80.3
Pace: 60.7

This is what happens when you sign Erik Gudbranson to a four-year deal with the idea that he’ll be a rock on your blueline.

2. Seattle Kraken: +23.8

Preseason Projection: 77.5
Pace: 101.3

Oh, the pain...

Count me in as someone who thought the Kraken would be good last season, But, after that disaster of a campaign, I don’t think anyone saw them as a playoff team this year.

Sports are weird.

1. Boston Bruins: +26.5

Preseason Projection: 99.7
Pace: 126.2

Oh, the pain...

I’ll just leave this here.