What NHL history says about the Vancouver Canucks’ horrible start to the season
Photo credit:© Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports
By Noah Strang27 days ago
After seven games, the Vancouver Canucks are still looking for their first win of the 2022-23 NHL season. For a team that had strong postseason aspirations after making some large commitments this past summer, the start has been nothing short of devastating.
Not only are the Canucks losing games, but they continue to invent new ways to record a loss. They managed to blow leads in five consecutive games to start the season, setting a new NHL record in the process.
As it stands right now, the Canucks are 0-5-2 and sit dead last in the entire NHL. They’re tied in points with the dreadful Arizona Coyotes despite playing two more games. It doesn’t get much worse than this.
“There’s 75 games left,” said Bruce Boudreau after the Canucks’ seventh straight loss. “We’ll think of something. We’ll build them back up and go back at them next game.”
Despite the Canucks’ playoff odds falling by every measure — The Athletic has them at 14% after starting the season above 40% — it’s clear that goal is still on the mind of the higher-ups. Staying consistent with the theme of the past decade, the Canucks will likely choose to push for the best position possible rather than go fire sale mode.
The Canucks are not as bad as their record shows. That much is clear, and it’s likely that the team sees some positive results soon and starts to win a few games. However, is it already too late after this brutal start? Here are a few other teams that suffered through putrid starts to the season in recent NHL history and how it turned out for them.
2015-16 Columbus Blue Jackets
The 2015-16 Columbus Blue Jackets were a popular breakout pick. After finishing with 92 points but missing the playoffs the year before, the Blue Jackets were expected to take another step forward and break into the postseason (sound familiar?). The Hockey News had them as a playoff team in its preseason predictions and Las Vegas set the over/under on their season point total at 99.5, firmly in playoff territory.
Despite these expectations, the Blue Jackets got out to a tough start to the season. They lost their first eight straight games to start the season, dropping them all in regulation and allowing more than three goals in each matchup. The preseason darlings, who had won 16 of their final 20 games in the previous season, had no points to show for through eight games.
Head coach Todd Richards was fired after seven games and replaced by John Tortorella. While “Torts” would finish the season with a winning record of 34-33-8, the weak start to the season was too much to overcome and the Blue Jackets finished well out of a playoff spot with 76 points, a full 23 below their preseason over/under.
2013-14 New Jersey Devils
After finishing with a 19-19-10 record during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, the New Jersey Devils entered the 2013-14 NHL season without many expectations. The team lacked dangerous offensive players but did possess a solid goaltending duo in Martin Brodeur and ex-Vancouver Canuck Cory Schneider.
The Devils were projected to finish last in the Metropolitan Division by The Hockey News and had their over/under set at just 83 points by the oddsmakers in Vegas. To start the season off, the Devils looked like they were going to struggle to meet even those low benchmarks as they lost seven straight and nine of their first ten. Included in those ten losses were two against Vancouver.
However, the Devils, led by Peter DeBoer, still managed to make something of their season. While they didn’t reach the playoffs, they finished with a 35-29-18 record, good for 88 points. This was better than most expected them to do before the season started.
2009-10 Toronto Maple Leafs
Headed into the 2009-10 NHL season, the Toronto Maple Leafs were firmly in rebuild mode. The team was not good and was projected by The Hockey News to finish 11th in the Eastern Conference. Many Vancouver natives fondly remember the good ole days when it was the Toronto NHL team that was the laughingstock of the league.
The Leafs managed to outsuck even the wildest expectations to start the year. They lost their first seven games of the year with just one making it past regulation. After mustering a 6-3 win against the Anaheim Ducks, the Leafs would drop another four consecutive games, bringing their record to 1-7-5.
By the end of the season, the Maple Leafs had recorded just 74 points. Of course, a terrible result like this results in a top pick and a chance to pick one of the finest young talents in the hockey world. However, because of the Phil Kessel trade, the Leafs did not have their own first-round pick and instead had to watch the Bruins use it on Tyler Seguin, a young star who would help Boston win the Stanley Cup the very next season. It’s a good thing the Canucks aren’t trading draft picks….
2015-16 Anaheim Ducks
The 2014-15 Anaheim Ducks were a powerhouse team, recording 109 points during the regular season before losing in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals to the Chicago Blackhawks. Heading into 2015-16, the team had similar aspirations and was projected to do very well. Led by Bruce Boudreau, the Ducks were predicted to finish first in the Pacific Division by The Hockey News and had their points over/under set at 104.5.
Despite these lofty goals, the Ducks had a difficult start to the season. They got off to a 1-6-2 start, failing to record a single goal in five of their first eight games. In two of their other games during that stretch, the Ducks managed just one goal. That means in seven of eight games, the Ducks couldn’t score more than a single goal.
While most would consider an NHL team with that bad of a record and those scoring issues to be completely out of the race, as most are doing with the Canucks right now, the Ducks did manage to turn things around. They didn’t fire Boudreau and he managed to straighten the ship, leading the Ducks to 103 points and the Pacific Division title.
It is possible for an NHL team to make the playoffs after a devastating start. Boudreau has done it before and if the Canucks give him time, he may be able to do it again. However, there are structural issues with this Canucks team that need changing before it can consider itself a true contender. If they don’t manage to create any excitement with a playoff push, that may be a blessing in disguise as the organization will be forced to do some serious self-reflection.
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