Just how good are the Vancouver Canucks actually?
It's been a dismal decade of hockey in Vancouver. The Canucks have qualified just once for the playoffs in the past eight seasons, exchanging momentary flashes of competence punctuated by the inevitable collapse, all while refusing to bite the bullet on a rebuild.
This trajectory has constantly tested the patience and faith of a passionate fanbase, leading many to doubt if the franchise could seriously contend for a Stanley Cup in the foreseeable future, never mind the immediate one.
Still, there was an air of cautious optimism that surrounded this team going into October after the flurry of offseason activity at Rogers Arena. General manager Patrik Allvin made the difficult decision to buy out Oliver Ekman Larsson and then used that salary flexibility to sign Ian Cole, Teodors Blugers, Carson Soucy, and Pius Suter to address team defence and the penalty kill.
On a macro-level, these acquisitions indicated that Allvin saw depth as more of a priority than top-of-the-lineup talent. In a vacuum, this made some sense given the high-end players on the roster, but among skeptics – particularly those who see this era of Canucks hockey as a dead end – this was a thoroughly underwhelming summer.
Fast-forward to today and the Canucks sit atop the Pacific Division, sporting a sparkling 12-3-1 record that has them one point out of first place in the entire NHL. Their three leading scorers, Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller, and Quinn Hughes, also lead the NHL. If you polled voters today, I'm willing to bet the Canucks would sweep the Art Ross, Hart, Norris, Vezina, and Jack Adams trophies.
Canucks fans aren't stupid, though. They know this team is not going to keep up this pace and put up 128 points in the standings while their top players end up with 130-plus points apiece. But determining just how good the Canucks, where they can be realistically expected to end up at the end of the season, and whether this group can actually compete in the postseason remains an open question. One we'll try to answer today.
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