Tha Sports Junkies 101

Canucks heading nowhere, fast

Canucks heading nowhere, fast Ryan McLean via Flickr


The Vancouver Canucks headed into the third period with a 5-2 lead over the host Carolina Hurricanes on December 13. The Canucks were outscored 6-1 in the final 20 minutes, and lost the game 8-6.

While the rage and frustration would overtake a fan base after such a performance, those are the feelings Canucks fans have had for the past couple seasons. With the way things are going both on and off the ice in Vancouver, those emotions don’t look like they will be changing anytime soon.

Times have been tough for Vancouver’s NHL franchise since losing Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. Since that point, the Canucks have lost in the first round in each of their three playoff appearances, only winning three playoff games out of a possible 15, and have failed to make the playoffs all together in two seasons.

The franchise has been heading downhill since their series-clinching loss to the San Jose Sharks on May 7, 2013. They fired then-head coach Alain Vigneault days after the loss, who has since led the New York Rangers to a Stanley Cup Finals appearance, and replaced him with John Tortorella.

Tortorella was fired the next season after the players did not respond to him very well. The Canucks failed to win the Northwest Division for the first time in five seasons under Tortorella, and missed the playoffs for the first time in the same amount of seasons.

During the 2013 NHL Draft, the Canucks felt as though they had to choose between Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider in net. Management with went Luongo, as Schneider was sent to the New Jersey Devils for the ninth overall pick in the draft. By the time the 2014 trade deadline passed, Luongo was sent back to the Florida Panthers, the team the Canucks originally got him from. Since then, the Canucks goaltending has been in shambles.

The current front office/coaching regime of Trevor Linden (president of hockey operations), Jim Benning (General Manager), and Willie Desjardins (head coach) have been in Vancouver since the 2014 off-season. During that time, they have traded Ryan Kesler to the Ducks, where he has blossomed into one of the premier two-way centers in the league. In the Kesler trade, the Canucks received Nick Bonino, and Bonino was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins where he led the Penguins in assists during Pittsburgh’s 2016 Stanley Cup championship.

Benning also sent Jason Garrison to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a second-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, and Garrison has since become a top-four defenseman for the Lightning. The Canucks traded that second round pick to the Los Angeles Kings for Linden Vey, who has since signed with the Calgary Flames.

Also in 2014, Benning and Co. signed Ryan Miller to a three-year, $18 million contract. Miller has not been at all what he was expected to be, posting a record of 46-40-7, with a 2.63 goals against average, and a .914 save percentage in the first two seasons of the contract, and a 6-9-0 record, with a 2.89 GAA and a .909 SV% this season.

While the contract will be up this season, the Miller experiment has failed between the pipes, and the Canucks’ next best option is Jacob Markstrom, whose career numbers of 2.95 GAA and .904 SV% raise the blood pressure of Vancouver fans everywhere.

The Canucks also signed Radim Vrbata in the 2014 off-season after Vrbata had a successful stint with the Arizona Coyotes. He was brought in to be the compliment winger to the Sedin twins. While Vrbata put up 31 goals and 63 points in his first season with the Canucks, he put up a dismal 29 points in 63 games last season, and was not re-signed by Vancouver, making his way back to the desert this past summer.

The Canucks have struggled to find someone to play with the aging Sedin twins in recent years. Putting Vrbata on their line did not work out as planned. So Vancouver’s next guinea pig was Loui Eriksson, who’s Canucks debut started with an own goal on a delayed penalty when he accidentally put the puck into his team’s open net. Eriksson is currently on pace to have 33 points, production that the Canucks did not pay $6 million average annual value for.

Looking at Vancouver’s farm system will make one feel nauseous. While the 2014 draft looks nice, the results have not been great so far.

Sixth overall pick Jake Virtanen had 13 points in 55 regular season games in his rookie season, and so far this season he has one assist in ten games in the NHL, but is currently playing in the AHL, with six points in 13 games for the Utica Comets.

Thatcher Demko (2nd rd, 36th overall) is struggling in the AHL, putting up a 2.59 GAA and a .909 SV%. The best product so far out of that draft has been Nikita Tryamkin. While Tryamkin is playing on the third paring, he has played in 20 games this season, more than any other pick from that Canucks draft class.

Outside of that draft is even bleaker. Ninth overall pick in 2013 Bo Horvat has only put up 65 points in 150 games. 24th overall pick in the same draft, Hunter Shinkaruk isn’t even in the system anymore, and when he was, he was splitting time between the NHL and AHL just like he is now for the Flames.

Since the 2010 draft, all of the Canucks’ picks (45) have played a total of 429 regular season games in the NHL, with Horvat accounting for 150 of those.

The problem can be seen with the quality of picks they had when chasing the Stanley Cup at the beginning of the current decade. In the 2010 draft, the first selection Vancouver was in the fourth round, 115th overall. The management also missed big time on their first round picks since 2011, as the only first round selection to play more than 100 games for Vancouver is Horvat.

The old regime set up a bad situation for Linden and Benning. They have their work cut out for them, and their next step should be finding a way to get something valuable for the Sedin twins. While they are fan favorites and have been staples in Vancouver since they were drafted 2nd and 3rd overall in 1999, they are not putting butts in seats or adding wins to the record.

They have begun to slow down offensively. Daniel had 61 points and Henrik had 55 points last season. While those are decent numbers, it is a far cry from the days of the point-per-game production each put out on a yearly basis.

While it may be an unpopular decision among the fans, if the Canucks can get a deal to set them up for the future, or at least begin their rebuilding process, then they need to take it.

The Canucks seem to have no direction. The management is trying to find a winger to play with the Sedin twins, when really they should be trying to find assets for them. Their goaltending situation is a mess, and the prospect pipeline is looking extremely thin. The pressure to win is high for Vancouver, but at this pace, the Canucks won’t be doing much winning for a long time.