It turns out that when it comes to the Canucks’ playoff hopes, sighs does do matter.
This is not a playoff team. Even if they stumble into the playoffs, they are not a playoff team.
You know it. I know it. And yes, even Benning knows it. No matter how many times he has to blatantly lie about it on the radio.
Sure enough, there he was back on the radio again yesterday telling the world that he might even be looking to add players in order to just make the playoffs:
Benning: I would even look to add, if we can, to make our team better to compete for a playoff spot. We want to make the playoffs
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) February 11, 2016
So while playoff teams make trades to add the depth you need in order to go deep into the playoffs. Benning would apparently be willing to spend assets on the fleeting hope of just making the post season. While I could go on at length at how poor a strategy that is, I won’t. I won’t because even I don’t think Benning is that stupid.
When Benning made that statement Thursday afternoon, he was already likely aware of the announcement the team would be making today:
#Canucks announce injury timelines for Edler (6 wks) and Sutter (6-8 wks following successful surgery to repair a jaw fracture).
— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) February 12, 2016
That sound you just heard was the air coming out of the tires on the Canucks bandwagon. (There’s a tire pumping joke in there somewhere.)
If there was any chance of making the playoffs for this team, they needed to get back to being healthy. No matter how overpaid I think Brandon Sutter is, he’s still a serviceable NHL centre that can help on the ice. Despite Bo Horvat’s recent upsurge in offensive production, he is still getting caved in defensively every night:
Horvat is just not able to withstand the level of competition he is sent out there to face shift after shift after shift.
So yes, having Sutter back could have relieved Horvat of some of that defensive responsibility but instead, it’s going to be back to grind for him for the rest of the season.
If that wasn’t bad enough, losing Edler is going to be just as much of a blow, if not more so.
It’s not that Edler has been having a great season, but he’s been at least somewhat dependable on the blue line. No, the real issue is the minutes that he chews up every night:
Edler has taken more that 36% of the Canucks’ even strength ice time this year. Yes, Hamhuis can soak some of that up, but not all. For the most part, that is ice time that will now have to go to guys like Sbisa, Biega and Bartkowski.
So no, I don’t think Benning is serious when he claims that he might be looking to add pieces “to compete for a playoff spot.” I’m sure he and the team would happy if they limped into the post season, but to actively spend assets to try and get there, I think is beyond even Benning’s capacity to make poor long-term decisions.
So while I don’t think the Canucks will be buyers at the trade deadline, I’m afraid they probably also won’t be sellers. Holding onto assets in order to further the pretense that they’re pushing for the playoffs is this ownership group’s wheelhouse.
I touched on this back in the summer, but the Canucks continue to skate on thin ice when it comes to maintaining a sustainable season ticket base.
Look, I am one of those season ticket holders. But even though I share the tickets with three friends, we still can’t go to all the games. We rely on the secondary market to absorb those extra games. And let me tell you, that market is as soft as it has been in 15 years and it is getting softer by the year.
While the team used to have a healthy season ticket waiting list, they burned through that a couple of years ago and are now bleeding season ticket holders. Many of those that are left, are like me, trying to lessen the financial burden by selling off the games we can’t get to. Or, to be honest, sometimes don’t want to get to.
And there’s the rub.
The secondary market is awash with cheap tickets to games that aren’t fully sold out:
This playoff push isn’t just to get those two playoff home dates, it’s to try and fill the seats for the remaining games on the schedule.
But as I said back in August, that’s a dead end strategy. The team is bleeding season ticket holders and maintaining a semblance of respectability the rest of the way isn’t going to stop the exodus. Those are single game tickets they are trying to sell. Sputtering toward the playoffs with rapidly depreciating assets, that in some cases will hit zero value come the deadline, is not going to do anything to encourage existing ticket holders to renew for next season, let alone attract new ones.
The Canucks need to sell hope. But we are long past the point where they are selling hope of a Stanley Cup. They need to sell hope in a core of youth that will re-energize this team and this fanbase.
Without that, they won’t just be lying to their fans, they’ll be lying to themselves.
PS: This is a week late but I note that Brandon Prust managed to clear waivers. nobody saw that coming.
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