It has been a steady, progressive, and miserable fall from grace for the Vancouver Canucks this season, as they’ve seen any hopes they had for a playoff run evaporate into thin air. It seems like it was ages age now, but in reality it was only 3 months ago that this team was sitting pretty with a 23-11-6 following a 2-0 victory against the Calgary Flames. They won 10 times in December, losing only once in regulation for the entirety of that month.
Here comes the “buuuttttt..” — but then, absolutely everything – and I. mean. everything. – fell apart. A rash of injuries to key players (the blueline was decimated, but Henrik Sedin’s was the most critical for my money) coincided with a drastic uptick in the difficulty of the schedule, and their inability to get any sort of puck luck was reflected by the catacylsmic dip in their PDO.
It was essentially hockey’s on-ice version of a natural disaster. That’s how we’ve gotten to this point; it’s April 2nd, and instead of figuring out the playoff path of least resistance we’re spending our time trying to grease the wheels of that tank pictured above.
It’s easy to make fun of the Toronto Maple Leafs these days (IT WAS 89.68 PERCENT!!!) for their free all, and I’m never going to try and tell you stop having fun at their expense. But we’re throwing stones, here. Take a look at the playoff odds chart for the Canucks, and the insanely spectacular turn for the worse it takes from January 28th onwards (when they were considered to have a 90.7% shot):
They hit their nadir on Tuesday night, when a loss to the Alain Vigneaults dropped their odds down to 0.011%. They’re technically still mathematically eliminated, but that’s just a formality. Even if they win out, they’ll peak at 89 points on the season, which is a mark that the Dallas Stars would reach by squeezing 4 measly points out of their final 7 games.
Which brings us to the readjustments of expectations and aspirations from the final 5 games on the slate — vs. LAK, vs. ANA, vs. COL, @ EDM, vs. CGY. With that new goal being losing, which is something that has come naturally to the Vancouver Canucks in 2014 thus far.
A quick look at the cumulative league standings shows that they currently sit 21st overall with 79 points in 77 games. The Senators, Jets, Hurricanes, and Predators are all nipping at their heels, though, particularly with the game or two in hand that all but the Jets have on them. I’ve gone ahead and compiled a list of the remaining schedules for all of these teams that find currently find themselves in something of a no man’s land:
Oh, man. Despite the fact that the Predators have been playing much better hockey for a while now, that schedule looks awfully brutal down the stretch. They’ll be hard-pressed to win more than one or two of those games. The Canucks can’t control what any of these teams do, though, so there’s no point in dwelling on it too much. All we can do is scoreboard watch.
[UPDATE: The Devils will be picking 30th overall, no matter what, so scratch them as a team that we’ll be tracking for these purposes in the final 2 weeks.]
What they can do, is ensure that they take care of their own business. The first two speak for themselves – the Canucks are 0-6-2 against those Californian teams – and the Avs are good. While Edmonton and Calgary are bad, the Flames aren’t as bad as you’d think, and the Oilers have proven they can win a game when their opponent doesn’t care at all.
What’s the endgame, here? If you’re unfamiliar with how the draft lottery process works, this is a good place to start reading up on it. Were they to finish the season where they are right now, the Canucks would have a 2.1% chance of winning the lottery and getting the 1st overall pick. Falling all the way down to 26th (where the Predators currently sit) would triple those odds.
While that’s still a longshot, the more important component to this is that it’s a pretty weak draft class all things considered, that markedly falls off before reaching the end of the top 10. I’m by no means some sort of prospect guru (you can clog Corey Pronman’s mentions for that) – though I do hope to familiarize myself more with the eligible players in the coming weeks/months – but from what I’ve gathered there could be quite a stark difference in talent available between picking 5th-7th, and 10th-12th.
This current incarnation of the Canucks has a lot of proud veterans that almost assuredly won’t just lay down. But it would undoubtedly behoove them to take a look at the bigger picture, play their kids, and attempt to set themselves up for salvaging a useful asset from this “lost” campaign.
One last thing..
The Canucks Army Viewing Party at The Pint
I just quickly wanted to thank each and every one of you that made it out to our event last night. The game itself was forgettable, but just like last time, it was quite cool to get to meet some of you guys and put faces to online names. I’m sure that we’ll host another one of these soon enough, so hopefully those of you that couldn’t come out for whatever reason will be able to join in on the fun next time.
Special thanks to the reader that brought some lozenges to the event, providing all of the people in attendance with a fitting replacement for a victory cigar..
.. and an even bigger thanks to the Vancouver Canucks, for doing their part in prompting me to indulge in something called a “bear f*cker*..