Things May Need To Get Worse Before They Get Better For The Canucks

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I’d like to say that the Vancouver Canucks hit something of a rock bottom on Tuesday night in Minnesota after yet another embarrassingly listless showing. But given the way they’ve been trending of late, it’s an all too realistic possibility that a statement like that is deemed outdated the moment they step back onto the ice. 

It also implies that now that they’ve reached this point, things can only get better. I’m not sure there’s any obvious reason to believe that’s true. The situation in Vancouver may very well need to get worse in the short term before it inspires chance and gets better over the long haul. 

Much like the showing the other night, it may not be pretty at the moment, but it’s a necessarily evil for the greater good. If only, to save the Canucks from themselves. 

To say that the Canucks have fallen off of a cliff this season as the year has progressed would, well, actually be a very fitting description:

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That game mentioned above against the Wild may have been the nadir, but the reality is that this has been something that’s been festering for a while now. The season-long numbers themselves aren’t anything to write home about by any means, but the past month’s worth of data is uniformly grisly. 

In the 14 games, the Canucks have played since November 15th their 44.7% score-adjusted possession rate at five-on-five is the 2nd worst figure in the league just slightly ahead of the Colorado Avalanche. During that same segment of games only the Panthers have been generating fewer scoring chances on average, and coming back the other way no one has been surrendering a greater number of scoring chances than they have. Keying in on high-danger chances paints the same picture. To put their respective 40.2% and 39.7% regular scoring chance and high danger chance percentages into some context, the Buffalo Sabres were at 40.9% and 37.3% last season. That team wasn’t even pretending to be trying to actually win hockey games. Putting it all together, they’re now 20th in possession, 30th in scoring chances, and 29th in high danger scoring chances on the year. 

For all of the flack that Jim Benning receives – and deservedly so, given that he’s in large part responsible for shaping what this incarnation of the Canucks looks like – he finds himself in a rather unenviable situation. A steadily growing segment of the online fanbase has already voiced their frustrations with the organization. Based on a recent revelation, a team that used to be appointment television is now being cast to the side in favour of other, more entertaining viewing options. Others have been putting their money where their mouth is by skipping home games entirely. Those have to be disconcerting trends for a franchise that’s made a concerted effort in recent years to try and win back fans and rekindle some of that good will they built up during the Presidents’ Trophy seasons. 

There’s also the elephant in the room regarding the Sedins, who have been doing everything in their power to try and drag this underwhelming roster towards some sort of relevance this season. Despite the fact that they’ve been one of the few redeeming qualities, and their production has been nothing short of awe-inspiring, you have to figure they have so many more high-quality bullets in the chamber. While it’s gut wrenching to envision them finishing their careers in a different uniform as they chase that ever-elusive Stanley Cup ring, it seems equally unbecoming for players of their caliber to be playing their final games in this mess. Unfortunately, I’m not sure there’s a simple, satisfying resolution there.

With just under 30 games remaining until the February 29th trade deadline, the Canucks have some decisions to make about how they’re going to approach the rest of this season. Taking a step back and evaluating your place in the league’s hierarchy in an objective, realistic manner is an equally difficult yet important thing for a front office to be able to do. It’s easy to see how they could look around at the pathetic Pacific division they’re in – which remarkably has only one team that has won more games than its lost thus far – and figure there’s an opening there to try and squeak into the playoffs, and make a few extra bucks. 

That’d be a horrible miscalculation on their part. For a vast stretch of time now, the Canucks have far more closely resembled a team that’s in the Auston Matthews Sweepstakes discussion than one which could make some noise in the playoffs. If anything, come the deadline they should be selling off veterans (particularly the ones that will walk this summer and next, like Vrbata, Higgins, Burrows, and Prust) for any assets they can cobble together from teams that are legitimate contenders. The worst thing they could do right now is deeply entrench themselves in that late 2000s Flames level of mediocrity where you’re not good enough to win anything, but not bad enough to help yourself get better moving forward. 

More thorough beatdowns like the one they received at the hands of the Wild may prevent the team’s brass from deluding themselves and eventually reaching that conclusion. That’s ultimately a good thing, even if it won’t be pretty to watch.

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      • TrueBlue

        #1 was me and #3 was one of my fanboys that couldn’t remember my signature ellipses…

        While I may stop in from time to time, there is really nothing left to explore with the NM00 persona.

        The downfall of the franchise that Nostradamus predicted after the 2012 sweep courtesy of the Sharks has come to fruition.

        And I hope that every single sick, delusional rube that privileged sick, delusional fanboy commentary for the last two years enjoys this as much as I do…

        • TrueBlue

          i enjoy it so much. so which CA writer are you? clearly you’ve been coming here making stupid retarded comments hoping to spark more page hits.

          i for one am glad you are back. please don’t stop. i love it when people make themselves look like idiots. i love it when grown men like yourself acting like 12 year olds.

          ellipsis. ellipsis or whatever is your signature line.

          ellipsis. ya’ll

          • TrueBlue

            you leave my son alone!!!!

            its not his fault hes an idiot.

            also if my husband would ever like to come back and take custody of him well that would be nice. real f’ing nice.

            ellipsis

      • TrueBlue

        yes yes I am back. I am the same tool as I was before. I promise.

        you may ask where I was??? well ellipsis….

        i was looking for my father. hes been gone for about 15 years, went for cigarettes and bbq chips and never came back. i was 15 at the time. i have been living in my mamas basement waiting him.

        ellipsis…

  • TrueBlue

    I would much rather the Canucks stink all year and get a high draft pick than play just well enough to get my hopes up (and get a late draft pick), then crash and burn in the playoffs.

    And no, there’s very little reason to think things will get better in the short term. And if either of the Sedins is injured for any length of time, things could get very ugly indeed.

    But the silver lining may well be their draft positioning. If they finish the season where they are now – 7th from bottom – they will have a pretty good shot at landing one of the top three picks with the new draft lottery system. Austin Matthews would be a nice fit. So would Jacob Chychrun.

  • TrueBlue

    I think Dim has nailed everything in this article except Jimbo/Trev/ and Willie should be on a sled riding that hill down the fenwick chart.

    I do think we have to temper our expectations on the Canucks unloading Burrows and Higgins. They are both playing very poorly and I think the Canucks would be lucky to get a low draft pick for either one of them. They both have lost a step this year and having such young center’s have not helped them mask their mistakes. Unless Willie pulls the old Mike Gillis-Cody Hodgson trick (where they start every shift in offensive zone)I think the team we are looking at right now may be the team we are looking at on game 82.

  • TrueBlue

    Things are not going to plan, that’s for sure. What’s plan B?

    My guess is ride it out till mid January, than make changes as required. Decide whether to sell or compete for the playoffs. Looks like sell right now, but a few wins can change that.

  • JMoney

    This years team is pretty bad and we may yet get a high pick out of it which is a great silver lining (and I also think the whole thing about panicking now and sending all the young kids back to the minors is dumb — there are things they’ll still learn up here, especially if as someone else pointed out some the vets other than the Sedins can actually play or get off the IR).

    But I don’t really understand either the outrage at management for…having to rebuild (?) or the idea that a tank is the way to go. I still have yet to see any evidence that an intentional tank works. The Blackhawks missed the playoffs 9 out of 10 seasons but their drafting wasn’t particularly great — they managed to get two superstars in Toews and Kane with a #3 and #1, but missed on Skille (#7), Barker (#3), etc. And nowhere did I see that as an intentional strategy, just ineptitude. Same with the Kings, for every Doughty and Kopitar you have a Hickey, Tukonen, and Bernier.

    I think we should be ok with the fact that the team will not be great, that we might sell off some assets (though honestly I’m not sure how we’d get a lot for any of the vets), we probably won’t stay this bad, but hopefully we’ll be bad enough to get a decent pick in the top ten. We’ve had a great run at the top but I don’t know any team that stays there forever, especially as their superstars age out. The Patriots, when Brady retires, will have some very lean years, as the Lakers are currently experiencing or any number of other teams. I don’t know why this is so shocking wrt the Canucks.

    • JMoney

      I agree and I know Benning isn’t super popular here but… He has been drafting pretty well. Virtanen, McCann, Demko, and Boeser all look like good picks and they weren’t especially obvious.

      We all knew the ride wouldn’t last forever. There’s a cycle. The team didn’t do an especially good job preparing for the downslide either.

      We’re trying to bail out a sinking boat, no doubt. But lets swallow this crappy season, get what we can for Vrbata and whoever else can be unloaded, and see what the draft brings.

      It’s all we can do.

  • TrueBlue

    Agreed, fully and completely.

    Sell every ufa and Higgy and Burr.

    Sad to see Sedins on such a crummy team. Even the hockey media is feeling sorry for them; haven’t heard such positive commentary about the Sedins in years as people are belatedly realizing they really aren’t, and never were, the problem.

    Welcome back NM00!

  • TrueBlue

    At this point, it’s clear that the current veterans (who are not named Sedin) are not competitive and the current prospects are not ready so whether it’s an intentional or accidental tank, the label is irrelevant…we’re tanking whether we like it or not.

  • TrueBlue

    great, so we’re all decided. the plan is to lose as much as possible in order to become winners. iron-clad…here we go….. new draft lottery rules? tank badger don’t care…there’s a teenager out there somewhere who is going to save us. that’s all we know. that’s all we want to know. no price is too high. the sedins? integrity? team culture? fan torture? put it all on black for tank and spin that wheel.

    i’m not saying this present thing is working. I’m just saying fixing it properly is going to take some thought….

  • TrueBlue

    Wonder how many of us would rather have tanked last year for a guaranteed shot at either McDavid or Eichel, instead of one and done in the playoffs to the Flames?

  • TrueBlue

    I don’t agree that Benning is in “large part” responsible for the position of the team. Their draft record from 2004 to 2012 was utterly abysmal. At least they now have some young talent in the pipeline.

  • TrueBlue

    The problem guysis this management likely keeps Burrows/Hamhuis/Higgins,lol!

    Benning really does seem to be braindead as one posters username suggests. Why else would he mandate to the coach to continue playing Baertchi?Or how about the term/money thrown like a highrollers waste on Sibisa?

    Brock Boeser seems like the only real good thing he has done, then again anyone can draft a gem in the first round top 10.

    The current squad has not effort or try as a whole. Come on Aqulini you have meddled far too often before, why not now? Can Linden/Benning/Willy

    • TrueBlue

      you don’t know that..if he wanted Hamhuis for next year he would have signed him already.

      you also don’t know if he mandated the dumb coach to play the Baer. the kid is still young and needs ice time to try and improve.

      yes brock was a great pick at 22!! not top ten as you claim.

      shows a lack of actual knowledge on your part. classic uneducated comments from a classic canucks bandwagon jumper…..oh no they are not that good!!! ya lets fire everyone every year. i am not a fan until they are awesome again…

  • TrueBlue

    PB the analogy you posted about the PATRIOTS/lAKERS lacked 1 piece of critical intel. we have never been nhl champs! Had it not been for Lui melting down all 3 games in beantown we may well have won the cup but we did not.

    So pls stop with the Brady/Kobe type comparing franchises,lol

  • TrueBlue

    Is there a team with enough free cap space for next year and which is able to take the Sedins at the deadline this year? A contending team?

    I love the Sedins, but that’s why I don’t want to see them wallow the latter part of their careers with such a bad team. They deserve better, they are fantastic players.

    I can’t believe I’m saying this but…

    #TradeTheSedins

      • andyg

        Because they are literally the only thing that is good in a big pile of steaming dung.

        We need to rebuild. Don’t do what Calgary did and wait for Iginla to be useless before trading him away.

    • TrueBlue

      In theory that makes sense and I agree that it would be nice to see the Sedins have a chance at the cup however, that would be major risky move.

      I think it would adversely affect the already low attendance at home games and not to mention the televised broadcast numbers which I think slumlord FA would have no part of.

  • JMoney

    i dont get when people freak out at Benning. if you’ve been reading between the lines for the last 2 years you knew this was a possibility. “transitioning the roster” is code for “we might lose a lot of games”. show me 1 team that loaded up with 20 year old players and won out. management knew all along this was very likely gonna happen. they’ve game planned for this. the vets arent long for this squad. the deadline is approaching. and theres lots of talented young players in the pipeline who will soon be pushing for nhl jobs. no reason to get your panties in a bunch.

    but one thing i cant support is trading the Sedins for any reason. doesnt make sense. these guys are on pace to be the first 1000 point players in franchise history – and the 2nd & 3rd to enter the HOF as Canucks. i want them on this squad until Jaromir Jagr says they are too old to play.

  • JMoney

    I know this post is a little tardy so maybe nobody is paying attention anymore, but is there any idea what happened to the Canucks around the middle of November that caused the performance to go off the cliff? Do they really miss Sutter that much? Or is it Miller succumbing to overwork? Or have there been systems changes that turned the PK into crap?

    Inquiring minds want to know.