Before you go and bury me for this opinion, think about what a playoff appearance would mean for this year’s Canucks squad. There is a point where the current version of Vancouver’s team needs to test what they have and figure out the next step. We have all seen how this team has changed even in the last 4 months and with the Canucks definitely not sinking to a 1st overall pick, they’ve shown enough that a top 10 pick might not be realistic either.
It has been a topsy-turvy kind of year with a few decent winning streaks and a Debbie-downer 9 game debacle. Injuries have forced the Canucks hand yet again on both defense and up front which allowed us all to see Troy Stecher hit stardom and Philip Larsen fall to obscurity. Add to this Nikita Tryamkin’s progression as an everyday NHL defenseman and Markus Granlund’s seamless fit with Brandon Sutter and Loui Eriksson.
As of Tuesday morning, the Canucks are in the “in the playoffs/missing the playoffs” talk for the immediate future. A win puts them in and a loss keeps them at bay for another night. The most important game of the season talk begins to heat up and out of nowhere, we stop talking about “team tank” or “fire Willie”.
Making the playoffs is what Canucks fans know, it was all we knew for so long. Mainly, the making the playoffs phrase itself and not going very far reality. The team is getting prepared to be one of the 8 teams that make the postseason but it also has to accept that there needs to be some changes made.
Getting swept by say, the Chicago Blackhawks isn’t fun but reigniting a pretty much dead rivalry is good for business and a great measuring stick for where this team is at. It would be fitting to begin the process again with those guys and get some animosity going. There won’t be any accidental upset type matchup happening for the Canucks so it will be a steep incline to push any series past 5 or 6 games.
Drafting has been stronger in recent years, not keeping the Twitters at bay stronger, but Jim and his entourage have made some decent picks. Because of this, the current team has some expendable pieces and some pieces that are worth sticking it out for. Alex Burrows has found a second life and seeing Burr in the postseason again is worth getting there.
He has the gift of clutch and it’s something you can’t really teach, you have to experience it. Players like Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi could learn a lot by getting to the next stage. The entire defensive corps, save Edler and Tanev, really haven’t been truly battle-tested yet and the run to get to the playoffs and then to stay in them truly develops them into players that allow management to reach out for stars that can put them over the top.
Clearly, Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom aren’t in a position to allow this team to lose without some significant subtractions on the blue line (5 defenseman doesn’t help) and their gameplay this season has actually changed the team’s fortunes slightly. Goaltending wasn’t supposed to be this strong of a point for the Canucks and it has allowed the team to take a few more chances.
That includes Willie D.
The way he operates this team on the ice sure is peculiar and again pointing to the Anton Rodin mess, the Jake Virtanen episode and honestly, why isn’t Loui Eriksson on the top line? It’s not just getting to the playoffs, it’s HOW you get there that determines a lot as well. It will take scoring from everyone, ok maybe a few lines, OK, probably just the Horvat line to get even close to making the playoffs.
Expecting Henrik and Daniel to carry this team anymore is not fair, they need to start relinquishing control and Willie needs to put the statistical performers in a better position to succeed. This means getting Horvat’s line more ice even though it takes him out of the sweet spot, give Eriksson the proper opportunities to score his 30 goals and trusting that the players afforded to WD are there to stay so he needs to play them in important situations.
True leaders know when to delegate and give up some control and the Sedins aren’t too proud to know their time is expiring as impact players. It’s the circle of life and it’s time to see the next Simba take the throne. I’m not sure if that Lion King reference was warranted but it’s there now so we have to live with it. What also has to happen for this team to have a shot at the playoffs is Willie D understanding the Sedins can’t be the go-to guys anymore.
Their existence as 2 of the top 4 point getters on the team since Dec 1 doesn’t mean they should continue to be given every chance to stay at the top, it’s entirely likely that by slowly drifting to the second line that they stay as effective and actually allow the Erikssons, Horvats, Baertschis to take over this team without the abrupt official transition.
This isn’t the AHL and I get that you don’t just play the young guys to give them experience but the team is moving on it has to embrace that it might be jussst good enough to take a bigger step. Do I think this team has turned a corner and they’re going to be world beaters? Not really. Losing right now will build the team as the years go on but there are picks that magically turn into all-stars that arrive in the rounds where you are basically throwing darts at a board.
Pushing for the playoffs can turn the fan base around as well and with tickets at an all time low, the Canucks might not make it long enough to truly rebuild. How they’ve stuck around this long without just giving up is amazing. Vancouver wants to support a winner and even the fairweather fans want a championship deep down. We all believed once and it’s possible we can believe again.
Maybe the Canucks just need to huddle inside of a dead bear and ride out the storm that is the Pacific division and ultimately the Western Conference until the dust settles and find out what it will take to make it to round one. One thing is for sure and that anything is possible in the new NHL. Columbus anyone?
Take all of the crazy out of it and admit you want the Canucks in the playoffs. If it means Calgary and Edmonton don’t make it, I’m all for it.
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