Photo credit:© Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Patrik Allvin’s post-deadline presser reveals that the Canucks are still chasing playoffs, not championships…and even that seems like a longshot
11 months ago
When the Vancouver Canucks dealt away the first round pick they acquired in the Bo Horvat trade — plus their own 2023 second rounder — in exchange for Filip Hronek in the days leading up to the Trade Deadline, their fanbase had a visceral reaction to the news.
Many immediately condemned the trade as yet another in a long line of moves made for short-term gain at the potential cost of long-term viability as a contender. “So much for the rebuild,” they cried. “Looks like we’re right back to the days of ‘get in and anything can happen.’”
Others preached patience. The Trade Deadline, after all, had not yet passed. Maybe the Canucks still had a few moves that would result in future-based assets up their sleeve, and maybe fans were guilty of jumping to conclusions.
Alas, one Trade Deadline, no trades, and a Patrik Allvin press conference later, there’s really no doubt about it left to be found: we’re right back to the days of ‘get in and anything can happen.’”
Don’t take our word for it. Ask GM Allvin himself.
Speaking to the media following Trade Deadline Day, which saw the Canucks move Curtis Lazar and Wyatt Kalynuk for a fourth round pick, future considerations, and nothing more, Allvin made it clear that the organizational goal is to continue striving for the playoffs as soon as next season.
“My expectation is to make the playoffs with the players we have here. Especially when you have an elite goalie in Thatcher Demko, Filip Hronek, and Quinn Hughes, Pettersson, Miller, Kuzmenko. I mean, we have good players here, no doubt about it. But we need to learn how to play as a team.”
Allvin did concede that the team might need some alterations to its current state in order to get there, noting that “We have a lot of work to do in order to be a playoff team here.”
But to hear Allvin tell it, that work has as much to do with coaching and structures as it does with roster management: “I’m very confident in the coaching staff I’ve got in here now and what we’ve got to do in order to come ready next year.”
Vancouver fans know what that sound is. It’s the sound of a team convincing itself that it’s good enough when it’s plain to everyone else around them that they’re not. It’s, unfortunately, a sound that the Canucks faithful have become intimately familiar with over the past decade.
Allvin is just the latest managerial type to play the tune, and this time, the fanbase isn’t humming along.
The debate on hand should not be whether or not the Canucks can make the postseason in 2023/24. The debate should be whether or not that’s a goal worth chasing, and most supporters should realize by now that it’s not.
Every year, 16 teams make the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean that 16 teams compete for the Stanley Cup. Half of those teams go home every year having played seven postseason games or fewer. At least that many teams, if they’re being honest with themselves, go into the first round knowing that they have between a 0 and 5% chance of even getting to the final.
True contenders are a special breed. They’re almost exclusively those teams who have put in the hard work of building their rosters from the ground up, especially on the backend, and they’re almost always the end result of years of careful planning.
It doesn’t take a Laval Rocket scientist to look at the current setup of the Vancouver Canucks, and then to look at teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Colorado Avalanche, the Boston Bruins, the New York Rangers, and so on, and to see the massive gulf in competitiveness that exists there. That exists there, and that seemingly always will, so long as the Canucks are determined to try to get to that same place via shortcuts and half-baked schemes.
It doesn’t take much of a transactional historian to see how those contending teams were built and to compare it to the Canucks’ own continued trend of expensive veteran free agent signings and extensions, and to come away decidedly underwhelmed. Whereas those teams hoard away and then make great use of their draft picks, the Canucks try to shortchange the process by trading their draft picks for those players “closer to making a contribution.”
Closer to making a contribution to what, exactly? Making the playoffs, of course.
The Canucks have been convincing themselves that they’re a few players away from competing since the days of 2011, when they actually were a few players away from competing. That’s the only way that they can really justify making trades that so clearly sacrifice future competitiveness for assets like Hronek and JT Miller that are ready to compete right here, and right now. That’s why this franchise has convinced itself that it doesn’t need to wait around to draft and develop its own in-house talent, that it can skip that process and still walk away with the same structural integrity.
But we’re a long, long way from the days of 2011. And we’re well past pretending that the shortcut is an actual shortcut.
It’s a dead-end.
See, here’s the kicker. It’s almost indisputably bad news that the Canucks are going to chase the playoffs for the next few seasons. That means they won’t be bunkering down and sequestering draft picks, which means they’ll still be struggling for young players to fill out the roster, which means they’ll have to continue to supplement through short-term fixes, which has proven not to work. On and on the cycle goes until at least the end of the decade and, it seems, until at least the next front office.
All that, and the goal itself? That short-term, small picture, revenue-driven goal of “just making the playoffs and you never know what might happen?”
Even that seems like a genuine longshot at this point.
As of this writing, the Canucks are already over the cap for the 2023/24 season, and that’s without the entire roster being filled out. They’re going to have to cut cap and cut roster space just to bring back the same quality of roster that they iced in 2022/23…the same quality of roster that currently has the 27th-worst point percentage in the entire NHL. The same quality of roster that is currently much closer to last place (seven points) as it is to 22nd place (13 points). The same quality of roster that is a collective -37 on the season despite Elias Pettersson scoring more than any forward in franchise history and Quinn Hughes scoring more than any defender in franchise history.
Changes will still be made. Hronek is in, Horvat is out. The small handful of high-potential young players like Vasily Podkolzin, Vitali Kravtsov, and Nils Höglander will hopefully contribute more. The team might cut bait from a winger or two in the offseason. Maybe a Tyler Myers goes, to be replaced by another free agent defender making too much money.
Is that enough to leapfrog all of the Calgary Flames, the Edmonton Oilers, the Seattle Kraken, the Los Angeles Kings, or the Vegas Golden Knights? Is it enough to leapfrog any of them? Is it even enough to keep ahead of teams like the Anaheim Ducks, who have done the hard work and actually committed to a proper rebuild?
It’s possible to look at the volatility of the Pacific Division and convince oneself that the playoffs are in reach, sure. But anyone rational has to admit that, playoffs or not, genuine contention remains decidedly out of reach.
Admitting that should, we think, naturally lead to frustration as the team continues to make those same sorts of decisions that ensures this same short-term, wrongheaded, doomed-to-failure approach will be played out for at least another half-decade to come, guttering right through the prime years of Pettersson and Hughes and ending yet another era of Vancouver Canucks hockey in bleak what-might-have-beens.
All this, for a couple of runs at the playoffs that probably wind up falling short anyway. All this to slide down a couple more draft boards and sit through another few disappointing deadlines.
It’s perfectly natural to look at the state of this team right now and wonder what the point of it all is. And it’s perfectly natural to not come up with much of an answer.
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