Vancouver Canucks 2016-17 Season Preview & Prediction

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andrewchernoff By Andrew Chernoff

October 13, 2016

The third full season of the Canucks under the leadership of Trevor Linden, President of Hockey Operations; Jim Benning, General Manager; and Willie Desjardins, Head Coach, gets underway October 15, when they open up their 47th NHL season against the Calgary Flames.

CHANGES

Out from last season opening night roster are Brandon Prust, Matt Bartkowski, Yannick Webber, Dan Hamhuis, Radim Vrbata, Jared McCann, Adam Cracknell, Chris Higgins.

In are Jack Skille, Erik Gudbranson, Branden Gaunce, Loui Ericksson, Nikita Tryamkin, Anton Rodin, Alex Biega, Philip Larsen.

Canucks management are as steadfast this season as the last, in believing that the youth movement and promoting from within is the way to go, and are hoping that the young Canucks will inherit the future helped by the current veteran leadership.

The big problem this season over last, is that the veteran leadership that numbered seven last season has been culled to just Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Ryan Miller, and Alex Burrows.

BACKROUND

The Canucks had 101 points in the 2014-15 season and it went down to the final few days of the season before the Canucks placing in the standings was known and they made it into the playoffs.

Last season, Vancouver’s fate was determined so early that one of the three division playoff spots were too far out of reach and only a wild card playoff was all they could play for, but it was not to be.

In my 2015-16 season preview, I felt Vancouver had an unproven backup goaltender; and their inability to score, and score timely goals, was of great concern.

Also, of concern was their depth upfront to to deal with scoring issues. You can only change lines so often during a game; and you can only look to the farm team so much if you are going to make a shake up, to boost an offence that is stalling. And stall it will.

And the Canucks managed to score the least amount of goals of a Canucks team in the 21st Century.

Timely goals, and scoring in general will, as last season, continue to hold back the Canucks.

On the positive side, I became a Jacob Markstrom believer, as he played outstanding for the Canucks as the backup goalie to Ryan Miller.

Both goalies played well when healthy and would have done better statistically if they would have had better team support up front and on defense, in goal production and adequate push back.

CANUCKS 2016-17 OBJECTIVES AND THE PROBLEMS

The Vancouver Canucks are hoping to be more competitive this season over last, and earn more points at the end of it all.

They may get more points when the season is all said and done but not the success they are hoping for publicly.

Optimism is one thing but over reaching for something that is beyond the talent, experience, and the right mix of players is blind wishful thinking.

Vancouver will have a mix of youth and veterans, both up front, and in net. But no veteran leadership on defense.

They have some speed, some proven goal scorers, some toughness, some grit, some size, some proven NHL caliber goaltenders.

They just don’t have enough of the above ingredients to compete at the highest level, with the present rosters in the NHL, the way the NHL game is played these days, to make great strides over last season, for a playoff berth at the end of the season.

To make up 15 to 20 points over last season is just too unrealistic for the 2016-17 season opening roster.

I see realistically a 10-12 point improvement at best.

Many more teams, have much more of what Vancouver Canucks have, too much for the Canucks to contend with, and push back every game in a long season.

With their travel schedule, injury proneness , roster depth issues, lack of veteran leadership and managements desire to rely on youth, it will be another missed playoff season.

The Vancouver preseason demonstrated that they have a way to go to shake off last season. The problems of last season on the ice, continued with different personnel, a sign that their could be changes next Spring, if Vancouver fails to make the playoffs, especially if the Canucks have a more miserable season than the last one.

Face-offs, puck possession, shots on goal, shots against, shots attempted, power play, penalty kill, lack of team depth at the forward and defense positions; all these were problems last season that need to be improved greatly for the Canucks to be competitive at a playoff contending level this new season.

It will be a tough, bumpy ride for this team to make the playoffs.

To the point, the Canucks don’t have enough seasoned youth that have spent time in the American Hockey League; they don’t have that star quality player that has the talent and skill of a Pavel Bure to rally the team and give them respect and credibility on the ice; they don’t have enough high caliber veteran presence to bring it on every game at the level of what is expected, by themselves or as a team.

THE TIME IS NOT NOW FOR THE CANUCKS

Vancouver does not have now, what they had, when they went to the seventh game of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins.

The NHL game has changed, and so has the personnel for the Canucks since that Stanley Cup Final.

Just ask the Boston Bruins.

Canucks management need to skillfully buy time and make some shrewd decisions to radically improve this team to provide Canuck fans with the talent pool to make what happened in 2011, happen again sooner than later.

The 2010-11 Canucks had a core of youth, NHL experience, and team togetherness, NHL respect and credibility, that made them competitive every night against the rosters of the NHL teams at that time.

The Sedins are nearing an end to their NHL career. Ryan Miller is playing his last season as a Vancouver Canuck. Alex Burrows may not be a Canuck this time next year.

Where does the seasoned, veteran presence come from then? Where is that star the Canucks mold their team around? Where is that NHL respect and credibility from other teams on the ice?

Vancouver needs to build around a different core of players. A rebuild is not a short term quickie, just ask the Edmonton Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have been trying to make it work for seasons.

CANUCKS ARE A LONG TERM PROJECT

Canucks management know it is more of long term project than short term fix. They just will not admit it. And bottom line is, they may not have the best people in place at this point to get this team back to being a playoff contender.

In the short term, a team must be iced, and seasons played before what happened in 2011 happens again.

And the present Canucks management hope during that time, the team of players they ice, play better than expected but not so bad they are the doormat of the NHL.

Vancouver has much more NHL experienced players with their American Hockey League affiliate, the Utica Comets, and they are getting the playing minutes and games to prepare them to succeed at the NHL level.

If key injuries happen, they can draw on that proven NHL talent that are enriching their skill and talent level through playing every night. Something that would not happen at the NHL level.

That is actually great news.

Canucks have added some new faces to their line-up, that give rise to optimism that this team can distinguish themselves better in the upcoming season than the last one.

That is also, good news.

Vancouver may not make the playoffs this season, but if this  Canucks team can go out and prove that last season was once in a lifetime blip, and that “this 20116-17 team” writes a better chapter in the ongoing history of the Vancouver Canucks organization, than last season’s team, that is all I can ask for with this 2016-17 opening night roster.

I hope that this season will help provide a much better future down the road for this team, and this long suffering Canucks fan.

PREDICTION

I predict Vancouver will have less overtime losses, and a few more wins than last season……but Canucks to finish last in the Pacific Division.

I believe the other six teams in the Pacific Division improved themselves much more than the Canucks, especially by attracting proven NHL talent to change teams and go play for them, and not the Vancouver Canucks.

The inability of Vancouver management to properly assess NHL talent available, and acquire by trade or free-agency talent for the Canucks to properly compete with, will continue to hinder the team to compete at a level equal to, or above them.

It will also make it incredibly more difficult in the short term to surround young Canuck players with a proper core, to compete effectively against teams in their own division and in the league.

Winning can be infectious….so can losing.

Oh….And Remember….Las Vegas….2017-2018.

The next few seasons could see Vancouver in the bottom four in their division for a few years yet.

Just saying…..

 

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