It is no secret by now, the 2021 Vancouver Canucks roster just isn’t good enough to be a consistent winning team in a division like the north.
They started out slow, and still managed to slow down further after that. One of the strangest parts about this season for the team is just how different things have gone than last season, where it was hard to find a night without a positive story.
From the scoring inconsistencies to the defensive lapses that continuously affect Vancouver in the most negative ways, it has been a very difficult few months to say the least for fans of the Canucks.
Although there shall never be any excuses for a pro sports team to lack dedication, determination and heart, I don’t believe that is the case with Vancouver.
— Farhan Lalji (@FarhanLaljiTSN) March 28, 2021
Honestly, for the cards they were dealt entering this tricky, shortened campaign, Vancouver has actually managed to keep their head above water just enough to make people consider the team to be still in the playoff hunt still.
Newsflash, it’s not going to happen.
Through their most successful run of the year in early March, where the team won 7 of 8 meetings and seemed to be in great hands with Thatcher Demko between the pipes, it still felt unrealistic to pin any sort of expectations upon a squad that just doesn’t have much offensive potency whatsoever.
Their winning was unsustainable in many ways during that stretch and after the two straight embarrassing losses at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets before the teams’ week-long break in their schedule, the proof was in the pudding.
— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) March 23, 2021
On another note, even though positives may be hard to find within the games, I truly think it isn’t fair to write off this core group. Changes should be imminent following the conclusion of the season for Vancouver, but there is still reason to believe that the Canucks aren’t far away from getting back on track next year.
The first avenue to explore is the possibility of picking up (yet another) coveted draft pick. The Canucks have made a living (literally) off the high first-round draft selections they gathered over the course of the rebuild. The NHL draft is not a concern but a strength of this team.
Whether it is in the team’s best interest to possibly trade that pick for more draft capital and/or players, or make the selection and add to a thinning-crop of notable prospects, being in the lottery is a positive step forward regardless.
With young players on the way, the likes of Vasili Podkolzin or Jett Woo who will come in and hopefully make an immediate impact, there are signs of the continued growth within the future roster and many possibilities for more scoring.
— KHL (@khl_eng) March 22, 2021
Next, the salary that is hoped to come off the books for the team over the next two offseasons is immense enough to comfortably resign Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes and Thatcher Demko to new deals, and perhaps have room to spare.
Over the next two offseasons, we should expect the Canucks to lose the cap hits of their aging roster players, Brandon Sutter, Loui Eriksson & Sven Baertschi to name a few.
These topics suggest that this coming offseason is one of the more intriguing and important periods of this franchise’s recent history. They can not take another step back before the start of next year, especially with the Seattle Kraken coming in and providing another possible competitive rivalry for Vancouver.
Who should be at the forefront of these decisions and what is the direction that the team is wanting to take heading into a massive transitional offseason?
Green hasn't lost the room.
Management lost the room this offseason.#Canucks
— BoestMode (@BoestMode) February 5, 2021
These are possibly the first questions that will have to be answered before any other adjustments are made. Whether Jim Benning remains in office as the GM or coach Travis Green stays behind the bench, the team needs to understand what they want to do with a puzzle of a roster and how they want to achieve these goals.
Another reason to believe the Canucks could very well return to the playoffs and beyond next season is the fact that the current stipulations of the schedule and travel may be more lenient for the NHL as a whole.
In the scenario where things would return to normal, league-wide competition, Vancouver would be back into a much more manageable division with the rebuilding California teams, and the western Canadian sides that they actually manage to play well against for the most part.
A large contributor to this season’s struggles can be attributed to the current state of the other teams in Canada. Outside of Ottawa, every other team in the north division considers itself a high-quality, playoff contender.
This means that on a nightly basis, playing in the north division is nearly impossible to remain consistent in gaining results. Even the touted cup contender Toronto Maple Leafs drop contests to the Senators, Canucks and Jets, because of the nature of playing in this group.
With a return to normalcy, I feel a growing team like Vancouver will benefit from going back to how things were before all of this craziness.
The Leafs are back on top of the North and it has fans of all other Canadian teams pulling a Pierre Dorion, but a Jets win tonight in Calgary would make the top of division crowded again pic.twitter.com/5TJOpuevOr
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) March 26, 2021
Mixed with some important roster decisions perhaps from a new team voice, or the addition of young players like first-rounder Vasili Podkolzin, there are various reasons why the Canucks and their fans should feel more optimistic than many other teams around the league, even those that are in a better position standings-wise than the Canucks right now.
The end of this campaign will be important for this young team. The veterans around the core have to perform within their roles and maybe set the foundation for a run, once Elias Pettersson returns.
For now, it is one day at a time, but looking down the road I believe there are reasons to keep the faith around the Canucks and the possibilities of what is to still come.
Evan Power, Evolution 107.9