Ranking: 13th overall
Vancouver Canucks fans will have a keen eye on their team as they play out the second half of the season. At the 43 game mark last year, the Canucks went on a horrendous run, winning only five games in all of January and February of 2014, a span of 16 games. The team finished 12th in the Western Conference, and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007-2008.
At times this season, it felt like 2013-2014 was all but forgotten. The team remained steadily in playoff contention. And then there were stretches, especially leading into the halfway mark, when the Canucks couldn’t find scoring, and fears of another epic meltdown resurfaced.
The good news is that after Monday night’s 2-1 victory over former Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers, the Canucks have hit the dreaded 44 game mark on a positive note, which is one point up on last season’s total at the same time. Yet, everything hinges on what the team does in the second half, and likely without the upgrade they need.
On January 14th, the Vancouver Sun reported that Canucks general manager Jim Benning is not willing to part with any draft picks or prospects in order to get his team back into the playoffs. He is, however, committed to helping his team get there should another option come along.
“I talk to other general managers in the league and have a feel for what’s going on,” Benning told reporters. “But if we decide to do something, we’re not giving up future prospects or draft picks. We’re going to do everything we can to give this team a chance to compete for a playoff spot and once we get in, try to win. Our focus there hasn’t changed — but with an eye to the future, too.”
The team could certainly use a winger to boost scoring or a top defenseman, but what team doesn’t need either? The trade deadline has become a sucker’s bet for rental players that cost draft picks and Benning is right, and smart enough, not to bite. Canucks players will have to put continued faith in new head coach Willie Desjardins if they want a piece of the post-season.
Benning’s comments came in the wake of a three game skid that had fans on edge. Since then, the team has won three in a row, with Miller allowing one 1 goal against during that span. The win against the Panthers boosted the Canucks to 13th overall and 2nd in the Pacific Division.
Still, it’s not time to celebrate. Only 3 points separate the Canucks and the 5th place LA Kings in Division. A losing streak, at this stage, would be a considerably blow to the team’s place in the standings. Luckily, thus far, Desjardins has done a great job tinkering his lines to get scoring when necessary. If he can continue to bring the best out of his players and Miller continues to steal games here and there, then the Canucks might well find themselves back in the playoffs.
It won’t be easy. The team is back in action tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning (currently 2nd in the Eastern Conference), their last of a rigid five game road trip. The Canucks’ schedule gets even more difficult after the All Star Break when they return home for 6 games at Roger’s Arena, starting with a contest against the league leading Anaheim Ducks on January 27th.
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