Canucks and Beyond

Final 20: Trying to Understand the Canucks

03/03/2009 at 2:05pm EST

The Canucks are a study in perception vs reality. While it’s just one team with one set of inalienable facts (i.e. stats) about their performance, there are still many ways to interpret those facts. Thus, the varied perceptions of different fans are unique, despite the fact they’re operating from the same set of facts. So with good reason, it seems that a ton of fans are very optimistic about the Vancouver Canucks right now and many others remain quite guarded.

I think both points of view are reasonable given recent events.

Back in January, a 2-10 record led various pundits to decide the Canucks were out of the playoff race entirely. An understandable conclusion, yet here it is, March 3rd, and the team is in fifth place in the western conference standings. So now we have February’s 10-2 record to reflect on, and I ask… is it any more reliable than January’s performance?

It’s not. The only real distinction between January’s performance and February’s is that this win streak is the most recent incarnation of the Canucks. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best predictor of future performance.

Nontheless, things are currently going well so that definitely gives ‘optimism’ an edge in the debate, but I’m not sure we should relax our cynicism quite yet. What’s to say that the team can’t relive the joys of January with a 3-12 record for the month of March?

Recording an episode of The Crazy Canucks last night (I’ll link it when it’s online today; update: here it is), J.J. reminded us that last season Vancouver had the playoffs in her sight with less than a dozen games remaining, and yet—inexplicably—went into a tailspin that saw them lose 7 out of the last 8 games. Season over.

Of course, this team isn’t destined to follow the same path by any means, but looking at the months of January and February it’s hard to trust that things have changed for the better with any permanancy. And since there were few clear reasons why the team fell apart to open 2009 in the first place, my optimism will remain guarded.

That being said, I wouldn’t advocate any big changes, either. The Vancouver Canucks are a pretty impressive team on paper, and they have every chance of performing well in their final 20 games. Making any notable changes to the roster would risk crippling that potential, so why do it? To what end?

The Canucks do have plenty of concerns of course, but none of them need to be addressed by roster changes so much as by

player performance

. Presuming that everyone plays up to their potential—and the coach can hold this bewildering flock of inconsistent loonies together (looking at you, D-men)—Canucks fans already have a team they can feel good about. Potentially.

What they don’t have is a team they can ever relax about entirely and feel confident in. But what’s new about that? (I haven’t unclenched in about 20 years and I fully expect to go to my grave uttering expletives about this team.) But as long as they can somehow stumble into that big June trophy sometime before I drop dead, I’ll take it however I can get it. And with this current version of the Vancouver Canucks, my perception of reality is ‘Why not?’

Anything is possible.

So my suggestion is to Mike Gillis is—aside from a minor depth trade or two—just stand pat on Wednesday and ride the roster he has.

It’s March in the NHL and the job of the administrators is virtually over. Now it’s time for the coach and team to take over and we’ll see which version of the Canucks was the ‘real’ Canucks: the January edition or the February edition.

The next 20 games will provide that answer. Playoff hockey for (at least!) the next two months, methinks. Be afraid… ;)


*schedule graphic courtesy of

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