In the 2021 shortened season, Canucks fans walked in with confidence high, and expectations higher. A couple of months later they stumbled out of the season in last place in Canada, bitter, angry, and calling for the heads of both coaches and management. Will the team be able to bounce back, or will the downward spiral continue after just one year back in the postseason?
In the 2019-20 season that was unexpectedly shortened by the pandemic, the Vancouver Canucks eliminated the Minnesota Wild in the playoff play in round, the defending champion St. Louis Blues in round one, and (almost exclusively Thatcher Demko) took Vegas to a game seven in round two, where they ended up losing. They did not carry this momentum into 2021’s season, finishing 23-29-4, one point behind Ottawa who were considered to be the doormat of the already weak Canadian North division.
This year, things are different once again. Back to a full 82 game season and back to the Pacific division, what does this mean for Vancouver? Well, the top two teams in the division are near unanimously considered to be Vegas and Edmonton, in that order. That realistically leaves one more division spot open, and two wildcard spots to be shared with the Central Division. The remaining six Pacific teams will have a hard battle for that final spot, and maybe at most one wildcard. Left are the three California teams: San Jose, Las Angeles, and Anaheim, Calgary, the new kids on the block Seattle, and of course the Canucks.
Despite my pessimistic tone, I actually believe the Canucks have a good chance at returning to the post-season. Not necessarily because they are much better than last year, but because their division is even worse. California dominance is dead. LA might take a step forward after a couple of trades and their young core continuing to develop, but the Sharks and Ducks both have looked dead in the water for some time now. Calgary has been spinning their tires in Alberta mud for years and only seem to be sliding backwards, no matter what they do or don’t do. Seattle are the new kids on the block, and could replicate Vegas’ success: draft well, be underrated coming into the season, have brand new stars emerge on a fairly deep team with solid goaltending, lose to the Capitals in the cup final. It could happen, let me dream.
Stacked up against these opponents, the Canucks look… okay. And honestly, okay might be all you need to snag that third or fourth place spot. For now Canucks fans, find peace in this clip.