January 21, 2020

Can Canucks Make The Playoffs in 2020?

Will the Vancouver Canucks make the playoffs?

Well things look decent at mid-season. The Canucks entered their All Star break in first place in the Pacific Division and on pace for 95 points. 95 points should leave them knocking on the wild card door if they don't make it in based on divisional standing.

At the beginning of the season I was skeptical that the Canucks could make the playoffs. I was on record as saying that an awful lot of things would have to go right for the team to make it. 

Now at the All Star break I'm more optimistic that they can, and it is because an awful of those things that had go to right have done exactly that.

The Pacific Division has proven to be weaker than thought. San Jose has completely bottomed out. Calgary and Las Vegas have had rough patches. Edmonton seems not quite ready to emerge despite the amazing play of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Arizona has been a mild surprise but they are very dependent on goaltender Darcy Kuemper.

The revamped defense is improved. Tyler Myers and Oscar Fantenberg have provided solid minutes, while Jordie Benn, surprisingly to me anyway, has not. But bottom line the Canucks defense comes down to healthy (more or less) play from Alex Edler and Chris Tanev (who looks the best he has in years) and Quinn Hughes.

I had said Hughes would have to have near the rookie impact this season that Elias Pettersson had last season. Hughes has done exactly that which bodes very well for the Canucks for the next decade.

Let's get back to Pettersson in a second. The blue line is improved yes, but time and time again the Canucks have been bailed out by MVP goaltender Jakob Markstrom. The Canucks have a very interesting decision to make soon given that Markstrom is a soon to be UFA and will cash in nicely. Rookies Thatcher Demko and Michael Dipietro (on the farm team) have been fantastic but neither are ready to take over. Can the Canucks afford Markstrom given their tight salary cap situation? And the Seattle expansion draft further complicates things.

Now on to Pettersson. He has not regressed at all in is second season. I don't think he has wowed offensively in quite the same way this year, but his output is strong. And more importantly his overall game is rounding into shape very nicely.

The importance of JT Miller's addition can not be understated, and same can be said for Tanner Pearson, too. Both have really aided the Canucks young scoring stars. Brock Boeser and, surprise, surprise, Jake Virtanen and, at times, Adam Gaudette, are proving to be exciting young pieces. 

Bo Horvat is the jack of all trades who continues to be hampered only by the continued absence of veterans like Brandon Sutter and Michael Ferland. One of these years Captain Bo will finally get his chance to shine rather than having to do all the heavy work.

The team can score, though defensively they can only go as far as Markstrom will take them. Maybe they can get guys like Sutter and Ferland and Antoine Roussel rolling for the stretch drive. Their heavy games will be needed to make the playoffs and certainly in the playoffs.

Will the Canucks make the playoffs? I am certainly more cautiously optimistic at this point of the season compared to any other point in the past number of years.  Hopefully they can do it before a summer of interesting decisions forced upon them by their salary cap mishandlings. 

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