Well, what now, Canucks fans?
Even the most stalwart among you must finally have given up that last glimmer of playoff hope now.
Heck, even real good Willie has surely realized the jig is up, right?
So where does that leave this organization? Because no matter what Meatloaf might tell you, missing the playoffs two out of three actually is bad.
And as the Canucks ride out this string of games, there is still quite a bit at stake here down the stretch.
First and foremost, these games will help to determine the final draft position, which will be determined by lottery on April 30. So while real good Willie might have to say that the priority is still to make the playoffs (and I don’t begrudge him saying this for one second, I mean what else is he supposed to say?), the cold hard reality is that at this point, the fewer wins the better.
Yes, there is a lottery in place, so yes, just because you finish last doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed the top pick. A slightly higher probability of getting a better pick is still slightly higher. I mean, just because there’s a pretty small chance of getting hit and killed by a car while crossing the street at 2:00 am doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look both ways before crossing.
Second, there are important things to learn from this washout of a season. One of them, however, is not, “they were just unlucky to get hit by so many injuries to key players.” The injuries certainly didn’t help, but this was not a playoff team, no matter what the management team said last summer. Oh, and say it they did, notwithstanding recent statements to the contrary:
But as we’ve come to expect from Canucks Sports and Entertainment’s Ministry of Good Decisions,
Anyway, the point is that there are indeed things to learn, one of them being that injuries do happen, so be prepared for them. That means maintaining versatile, flexible and capable organizational depth. You need players that can step in when and as a needed without handcuffing you due to cap issues or having to clear waivers.
Depending on what the Canucks do over the summer, they could wind up with eight waiver eligible defensemen on the roster next season. Carrying two extra defensemen on the active roster is less than ideal. Losing one for nothing, is even worse.
Another lesson to be learned is the need to maximize the value of the assets at your disposal, rather than running them into the ground until they have zero value. You didn’t really believe you’re a 100pt team over the summer? Well, why did you wait until February to trade Radim Vrbata? Why not trade him then, as he’s coming off a 30 goal season? Why not play him with the Sedins to boost his production? That is what smart teams do. Every little edge counts.
Third, and final, as the season winds down, start prepping for next year. Break this last stretch down into three game segments and try things out. Like your power play looks. Your defensive pairings. Your forward lines and line assignments. Don’t just run out the season with lines in a blender. Run controlled experiments. Set them in stone for three game segments and then look at the results. I don’t care if you don’t believe in stats like shot attempts or scoring chances. Use whatever internal evaluation system you have and actually evaluate things.
This is your chance to try things out in a real life NHL environment. Identify what works and what doesn’t. Narrow down what to focus on. Be systematic and intentional about it. The last thing you want to do is just run out the season and not actually come out better for it. Then it really will be a waste.
While their playoff hopes might be long gone, the Canucks are going to have lots of cash, and quite a few jobs to hand out.