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.