Last week, this author was breaking down the Vancouver Canucks’ potential path to the playoffs. Now, on the heels of three consecutive losses, it’s probably time to start discussing their lottery odds. Such is life in the cutthroat Western Conference.
With Vancouver most likely on the outside looking in when it comes to the 2019 playoffs, any hopes of seeing the Canucks lift Lord Stanley’s Cup will have to wait until 2020 at the earliest. However, the possibility is still open for a handful of notable former Canucks. Below, we’ll take a look at the contenders, how likely they are to win, and how hard Vancouver fans should be cheering for them.
For the record, we’re only considering those who played in at least one game for the Vancouver Canucks at some point—so Kevin Connauton, you’re out of luck!
Nick Bonino, Nashville Predators (Odds: +1200)
Bonino was fairly popular during his time in Vancouver, and his Predators are one of the top contenders in the West—so he might seem like a good candidate to cheer for. However, Bonino has already won two Cups—both with Pittsburgh—since leaving Vancouver, so there are probably better reasons out there to cheer for Nashville. That includes the next name on the list.
Dan Hamhuis, Nashville Predators
If Vancouver fans are going to cheer for any former Canuck to win a Stanley Cup in 2019, it should probably be Hamhuis. He was always popular in Vancouver, he has strong BC roots, and—at 36 years old—he’s waited long enough. The confusion over his last Trade Deadline with the team may have left a sour taste in the mouths of some, but that’s no reason not to cheer for Hamhuis to take the Predators one step further than he took the Canucks in 2011.
Yannick Weber, Nashville Predators
It’s hard to believe that a player who washed out with the Canucks in 2016 has spent every season since as a top-six defender on a true Cup contender. Along with Hamhuis, Weber is a bottom-pairing defenseman on the greatest blueline in hockey. Most Vancouver fans don’t have any special affinity for Weber, but few have any reason to cheer against him.
Luca Sbisa, New York Islanders (Odds: +1600)
Vancouver fans might be surprised to learn that Sbisa is still in the league, but he is—barely. Sbisa has only played nine games for the Islanders this year after appearing in the Cup Finals for Vegas last season, but chances are good he’ll make a playoff appearance if New York goes deep enough. He didn’t have the strongest fanbase while in Vancouver, so it’s hard to imagine many Canuck fans choosing to cheer for him and the surprisingly proficient Isles.
Erik Gudbranson, Pittsburgh Penguins (Odds: +1700)
Gudbranson was far from popular by the time he departed Vancouver, but Canuck fans really don’t have any reason to cheer against him. He may not have been a competent player, but he was one that worked hard and stood up for his teammates. Seeing him win a Cup might be nice—and the Penguins are always a threat to go deep in the playoffs. The only downside to Gudbranson finding success in Pittsburgh would be further salt in the wound of Jim Benning’s questionable asset management.
Jared McCann, Pittsburgh Penguins
McCann is 22 years old and on his third NHL team, so maybe Matt Bartkowski’s mom knew what she was talking about when she said he had a bad attitude. In any case, McCann will always be representative of a trade gone wrong in Vancouver—and that makes it hard to cheer for him to succeed in Pittsburgh.
Michael Del Zotto, St. Louis Blues (Odds: +1800)
Del Zotto was swapped out for Luke Schenn and a late pick earlier in the year, and then quietly shipped to St. Louis at the Trade Deadline. He’s yet to play a game for the Blues, who have risen from the league’s basement to third place in the Central Division. Vancouver fans should be reticent to cheer for the Blues, and Del Zotto probably isn’t enough to win any of them over—if he ever does end up dressing.
Nic Dowd, Washington Capitals (Odds: +2000)
The Canucks and Capitals swapped fourth-line centers this offseason, and Dowd has somewhat surprisingly remained a regular fixture in the lineup of the reigning champs. With 17 points in 50 games, Dowd is five points away from tying his career high—and from equaling Jay Beagle’s output for Washington last season. If Dowd wins the Cup with the Caps, it will undoubtedly lead to more complaining about Beagle’s contract—and maybe that’s a fair reason to root against him.
Dale Weise, Montreal Canadiens (Odds: +2500)
The Dutch Gretzky was a pretty popular figure while in Vancouver, but the way he complained about the team after his departure may have sullied his local reputation. Montreal fans seem to appreciate his contributions more than the Canucks ever did, anyway. Cheering for Weise and the Habs would allow Vancouver fans to root for a former Canuck and a Canadian team at the same time, which is convenient—but they’re not major contenders this year.
Taylor Fedun, Dallas Stars (Odds: +4500)
Fedun played a single game for the Canucks in 2015/16, along with 63 for the Utica Comets. He’s been in and out of the NHL in the intervening seasons, but caught on with the injury-riddled Stars this year to clock in 40 games. Fedun is the kind of classic underdog that is always fun to cheer for in the playoffs—but Dallas is still a questionable contender.
Michael Grabner, Arizona Coyotes (Odds: +7500)
Grabner has been around for so long that it’s hard to remember he was originally a Canuck draft pick—way back in 2006. He’s floated around the league for a decade without winning the Cup—carving out a niche for himself based almost entirely on his speed—and it might be nice to see his perseverance rewarded. Then again, his Coyotes aren’t currently in a playoff spot—and they’re an extreme longshot even if they do end up making it.
Brad Richardson, Arizona Coyotes
Richardson was a popular Canuck and many fans wanted the team to retain him in 2015—or, at least that’s what they claimed last week when he scored four goals against Vancouver. His Coyotes are a longshot to win the Cup this year, but Richardson already won one in 2012 with the Los Angeles Kings, so there’s not much of an impetus to cheer for him in the 2019 Playoffs anyway.