Canucks reeling: how realistic is a 29th place finish?

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Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin – USA TODAY Sports

With four wins in their past 14 games following Saturday’s 4-1 home ice loss to San Jose, the Vancouver Canucks are in a free-fall. The question now – with 21 games remaining on their schedule – is how far can the Canucks drop before the season mercifully concludes on April 9th? The Canucks are currently part of a four-way logjam with Dallas, Carolina and the Detroit Red Wings all with 58 points, however based on games played and tie-breakers, the Canucks awoke this morning as the 28th place team in the overall standings.

Could they possibly fall as far as 29th before all is said in done? Is it conceivable that the Arizona Coyotes gain nine points to overtake the Canucks over the final five weeks of the season?  On the surface, it seems like a remarkable long-shot. The Canucks are currently nine points back of second Wild Card team St. Louis and no one thinks they’re closing that gap. So is it foolish to think that Arizona could make up the nine points needed to pass the Canucks over the final quarter of the schedule? Before you dismiss the notion entirely, look a little a closer, and it may not be so far-fetched to see the Canucks wind up with the second-best odds in April’s draft lottery.

On January 21st, the Canucks were 22-19-6 (50 points) while the Coyotes were 13-26-6 (32 points). In the five weeks since then, the Canucks have gone into a 4-10 tailspin (8 points) while the ‘Yotes have strung together one of their best stretches of the season going 8-6-1 (17 points). In just over one month, Arizona has gained nine points on the Canucks in the standings. So, it can be done. Whether it can be done again is another matter, but it’s certainly one worth monitoring.

With 58 points through 61 games, the Canucks are on pace for 78 points. But with a beastly schedule and a broken spirit now that the playoffs are simply a pipedream, it’s highly unlikely the Canucks remain on their projected path. So how many more wins does this team have in it the rest of the way? Do the Canucks get to 70 points? Can they reach 75? To finish with the same 75 points they did a year ago, the Canucks need 17 points in their final 21 games. If they accumulate that many, then Arizona isn’t catching them.

But if they continue to scuffle and wind up with 70 points, is it out of the realm of possibility that Arizona – with a game in hand – finishes 10-10-2 to wind up with 71 points? Again, it’s a long-shot, and the likelihood of such a surge by the Coyotes is likely to take a hit if they peddle Martin Hanzal, Radim Vrbata and possibly others ahead of Wednesday’s trade deadline. If the Coyotes go into full sell mode, then it’s hard to imagine a late season push. Then again, perhaps the Yotes won’t be the sellers they are expected to be, and maybe the Canucks will off-load a veteran or two.

The biggest factor in all of this — the Coyotes overtaking the Canucks – is likely the schedules of the two teams. The Canucks still face San Jose and Edmonton three more times, Anaheim and Los Angeles twice and have games remaining against Pittsburgh, Chicago, Minnesota, St. Louis and Montreal. Arizona, on the other hand, plays Carolina and Buffalo twice in its next five games and still has very winnable games against Colorado, Ottawa, New Jersey and Dallas on its schedule.

Oh, and the Coyotes host the Canucks in Glendale on April 6th. Wrap your mind around the possibility of a game in the final week of the regular season being for a better chance at Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier. Who would have thought the Canucks may still have one big game left to play this season? Ladies and gentlemen, start your tank engines.

The Colorado Avalanche is in a league of its own when it comes to locking up the best odds in this year’s lottery. The disastrous Avs will have a 17.9% chance at landing the first overall selection. The 29th place team will have a 12.1% chance while the team finishing 28th will not only have lower odds of securing the top pick (10.3%), that team will also have company with expansion Las Vegas guaranteed the same lottery odds as the 28th place finisher. Of course, last year the Canucks learned first-hand that finishing 28th was no guarantee of draft lottery success when they fell two spots at the whim of the ping-pong balls.

After Tuesday’s game against Detroit, the Canucks will have 20 games remaining, and instead of looking up at the teams ahead of them, perhaps it’s time to start looking over their shoulder. It seems there is still reason to scoreboard watch. The race to 29th is on — and the Vancouver Canucks are very much in the mix.

  • Steamer

    28 or 29 or 25 – still gotta play lotto with Vegas & other non-playoff teams. As we saw last year, position can plummet fast. More to the point, any chance Canucks can bury Eriksson away on LTIR for a lingering case of ‘mumps’? Say, for about 427 games?

  • TD

    It’s time to rebuild, but I hope they don’t perform as horribly down the stretch as they did last year. That type of losing is bad for the kids’ development. Close losses with the odd hard fought victory would be better than last year’s post deadline tire fire.

  • TD

    It’s time to rebuild, but I hope they don’t perform as horribly down the stretch as they did last year. That type of losing is bad for the kids’ development. Close losses with the odd hard fought victory would be better than last year’s post deadline tire fire.

  • Fred-65

    As Linden stated it’s hard to plan on the basis of where a couple of ping pong balls fall. You need a better strategy. I’m betting when the balls have finished their jobs and put back in their box Vcr. will likely be drafting around the #5 slot. I just can’t after following this team for the last 43 years, believe it can happen any different. They will NEVER get a 1st O/A pick and they will never win a SC ….not in my life span any way.

    You have to put aside the fantasy that we’ll some how get a high pick, and instead start sorting through the left overs, and waste pile

    When it comes to the NHL I have to think the NHL management has it’s fingers on the scale LOL. I’m amazed that folks actually watch in a sort of semi conscious state the balls flying around the spinning container actually believing the results.

    It doesn’t matter where they finish in the league standing they pickat #5 LOL

    • Pat Quinn Way

      I agree Fred, I also cannot see the Canucks winning a Stanley Cup in our lifetime – it’s always a bridge too far, and averaging just one Cup Final every fifteen years of our existence, the odds seem even more insurmountable with the cap parity and NHL head office ‘influence’.

      As for the top pick issue, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the draft lottery held behind closed doors?

      What’s that all about?! It seems highly suspicious to me that Bettman favourites like Toronto and Edmonton get their number one pick/s in the lotto, yet disliked and unfashionable clubs like us and Buffalo get royally stiffed behind ‘Gary’s iron curtain’… very strange indeed…

  • Bud Poile

    The youth movement has been ongoing for two years and that is about to accelerate now.

    The best thing to happen is that the veterans with trade value get moved for picks/prospects and Benning loads up with young talent.

    Bring in Boeser and Gaudette,play Subban and make room for Olli.

    As for Eriksson,he averaged 44.5 points per year over his last four years and has a career average of 47 points per year.He is on pace for 33 points on a declining club.Not really an unexpected surprise.

    • defenceman factory

      I’m always amused by your best possible spin on issues.

      But really Bud you aren’t surprised by the low production from Eriksson? Even a little bit?

    • Dirk22

      “The best thing to happen is that the veterans with trade value get moved for picks/prospects and Benning loads up with young talent” – Bud

      Don’t we want to ‘compete’, Bud? Isn’t that what’s best for the franchise?

      This is what 99% of the arguments have been about on the Canucks Army message boards. You and I have had endless discussions circling around this exact issue. I love how you’ve changed your tune now that your boy Benning is finally getting a clue (or at least he appears to be). That’s called a turncoat, no?

  • Burnabybob

    29th is doubtful. 28th is a real possibility.

    At some point, the Canucks are likely to get a break in the draft lottery. Any of this year’s top three look like solid additions to the franchise. Not sure after that.

  • Freud

    I am confused. I have been assured on these message boards as recently as this weekend that this team is competitive. But Jeff is presenting a plausible scenario in which this team finishes 29th?

    How does a management team that stated its goal was to be competitive and gave up rebuilding opportunities to try and be competitive keep our confidence in making any decisions going forward?