What are the Vancouver Canucks playoff chances? There are two ways to look at last year’s final standings. Either “They just needed five more wins,” or, “They had to leapfrog four teams”.
Getting five wins over the course of 82 games doesn’t sound all that hard. Another 10 goals put in the right places would have done the trick. Yet, the Canucks couldn’t capitalize and missed the post-season for the fourth-straight season.
This year, most of the predictions have five playoff spots going to the Central division, leaving just three for the Pacific Division to fight for. In a highly-competitive Pacific Division, the Vancouver Canucks playoff chances seem slim. With a bolstered roster from a terrific off-season, though, Vancouver could definitely win over one of these three playoff spots.
A Look at the 2019-20 Vancouver Canucks Playoff Chances
The biggest problem for Vancouver over the past few years has been their offence, and last year was no exception. They finished 22nd in the league in goals-for and their power play was solidly in the bottom third of the NHL. To make the Canucks a playoff team, they’d need to upgrade their front twelve considerably. Fortunately for their fans, that’s exactly what they did.
They targeted guys who worked in front of the net, crashed the corners, and would take exception to their potential superstar forwards being thrown to the ice. They’d have to be good enough to be on the ice with Elias Pettersson and not drag down his production, too. A bit tricky but GM Jim Benning managed it with both J.T. Miller and Micheal Ferland.
But there’s another aspect to generating offence, and that’s with their defence.
The Canucks have had atrocious luck trying to develop blue line players who can control play or lead an attack. They were helped in this when Quinn Hughes dropped into their lap at the 2018 draft. But the NHL is not kind to rookie defencemen, however talented, and relying on one is a huge risk. Free-agent Tyler Myers is going to be the man who carries the puck out of their end this year. Until Hughes earns the spot, Myers is a more than capable attacker, and best on the team.
Who They’re Chasing
Calgary traded away James Neal after a single year when he couldn’t find a spot in the Flames’ top six. In return, they got Milan Lucic, who won’t be showing up in any hockey pools that don’t include penalty minutes. They lost goalie Mike Smith for Cam Talbot, bumping the shaky David Rittich up to a likely starting role.
San Jose lost a ton of goals this year in the losses of Joe Pavelski, Gustav Nyquist, Joonas Donskoi. Those shooters were replaced with… nothing much. The offence hid starter Martin Jones‘ nightmare of a 2018-19 season. If the Sharks want to be a playoff team this upcoming year, they desperately need Jones to bounce back, as Arron Dell‘s year was no better. The team’s defence still gives opposing coaches the night sweats, but the rest of the San Jose roster is fairly tame.
Vegas has been, so to speak… magical. Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore are perfectly decent defenders, but not who you picture as a top-pair. Losing Colin Miller will put an additional dent in their power-play scoring on defence. In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury is a cornerstone, but they lose points when he’s not available.
These teams all have serious weaknesses to go with their strengths. This year, that might be enough to increase the Canucks playoff chances.
Stepping on Hands
One team directly addressed their weaknesses in the off-season, one team did what they could with a limited budget. The other two had… different approaches.
The Los Angeles Kings bottomed out last year, finishing 30th overall in the league, and their big change was coach Todd McLellan. They’re hoping for more respectability, but not much else this year. Getting bounce-back seasons from a half dozen players would be not just nice, but miraculous. Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty aren’t to be ignored.
The Anaheim Ducks cleaned house over the past couple years, accepting that their aging core was up to the task. Lots of young faces made their debuts last year, and more will follow this one. They won’t be completely abandoned, getting backed up by the excellent veteran goalie John Gibson, but it’s a year of discovery in Anaheim.
The Edmonton Oilers changed GMs, but the effects of the previous one will be felt for years. That Ken Holland managed to move the disappointing Lucic is a promising sign for the future. The present is banking on scoring depth from Neal and Markus Granlund, plus Swedish League import Joakim Nygard.
These three teams have some strengths to go with their weaknesses, and they play the games on the ice, not the internet. But odds are that these three are at the bottom of the standings seven months from now.
The Wrestling Match
Which leaves one team that is going to be dueling it out with Vancouver for fourth in the division – and maybe a playoff spot.
Like the Canucks, the Arizona Coyotes recognized their biggest weakness and moved to directly address it. Phil Kessel has 110 goals over the last four years, and the Coyotes ended last season 28th in offence. It cost them the much younger Alex Galchenyuk, but when your team fails to produce a single 20-goal scorer – and only two in the previous two years – trading a piece of the future for the present might not be a bad move. Bringing in the reliable Carl Soderberg will help their second line, too.
Sure, the Coyotes got older; they also haven’t made the playoffs since a good run in 2011-12. The Coyotes, and their fans, want that streak ended. They haven’t broken an average 14,000 attendance in ten years, though they came within a whisper of it last year.
Vancouver Canucks Playoff Chances
Two teams in the Pacific division used their summer break to successfully address specific issues. Those same two have been out of the playoffs for several years, and want back in this year. The Canucks will celebrate their 50th season in the league, and the Coyotes need to bring in long-suffering fans for their new owner.
Last year’s top three teams went pretty much the entire year without thinking of who was chasing them. This year, if any of them should stumble, there are two very hungry teams chasing them down.