Canucks and Beyond

Saying Goodbye to the 2006 Season in Edmonton

12/30/2006 at 11:16am EST
Tonight we'll see the last Vancouver Canucks game of 2006, so I felt it would be worth taking a more detailed look at where the team has been so far this year, and where they might be going.If anyone has anything to add, feel free. There's a lot of stuff here, but plenty I didn't cover as well.
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We keep hearing that the Northwest Division is the toughest in the NHL, but I don't believe that's exactly the best way of wording it anymore. Certainly, every other division in the league features higher points totals than this one. But of course, the NW is tough for another reason these days.While it it's no longer made up of some of the best five hockey teams in the league, it is the tightest group of teams. Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, Minnesota and Vancouver -- these five clubs are nearly a dead match for each other, and they're in a horse race for the division crown.imageI suppose the whole situation is just parity at it's finest (if you like that sort of thing), and with only 2 points separating 1st from 5th today, it makes for some abrupt and significant movement in the standings on a day-to-day basis.This past week alone, Canucks' fans experienced such a wide range of movement on the Western Conference leaderboards, they'd be forgiven for considering everything from their team landing a home-ice spot in the playoffs, to instead landing on their asses at a golf course in April.Vancouver moved from 11th spot in the WC last Tuesday, to 3rd spot on Thursday, to 8th spot this morning. Tonight could see a change that takes them as high as 3rd again, or back down into the cellar. It's enough to make a fan a little nuts.Now facing Edmonton tonight, it's obviously a critical game for both teams. What are the Canucks' chances against the Oilers? Well, maybe it's a bad news/good news sort of thing:
Of the Edmonton Oilers' three winning streaks this season that lasted more than two games, two started with a win over the Vancouver Canucks. They could definitely use that type of result now. [...]The Oilers (18-16-2) have dropped six of their last eight games, including a 7-4 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday. Edmonton held a two-goal second-period lead before allowing five unanswered en route to the defeat.
At least that last part is sorta cheery... ;)But what isn't so cheery -- and yet another oddity found in the standings this year -- is the road-team record. It's a disaster for every team in the NW division (except Colorado, who've somehow managed to make it .500, but we all know they cheat). But for the rest of the division, it's ugly. And Vancouver is the road team tonight.Now, just a random comment about goal scoring.I've always liked wide open, risky hockey. Mainly I enjoy it because players actually score, and it doesn't require some idiot idea like making the nets bigger. Sure, the playoffs are won on responsible defense (or so I'm told repeatedly... *yawn*), but for the other 82 games a year it's a hell of a lot more fun to watch players be creative with the puck while focusing on the net in front of them as much as the net behind them.A game like Thursday night's against Calgary is something I could watch any day of the week -- even with five goals hitting the back of our net. It sure beats falling in asleep in the middle of a game, and I've done that a couple times this year.Along those lines, here's a sobering thought: the Canucks have only scored 89 goals almost halfway through the season. For comparison, they scored a total of 255 in 2005-06. It's a drastic drop made worse by the fact that our goals-against right now are 101, a negative difference of 12 goals.
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So be sure to say a New Year's prayer that some players find their scoring touch again. And soon.Finally, I'm ready to end this on a brighter note, because it's not all doom-and-gloom if you ask me.This team is actually in a pretty good position right now, all things considered. When you think about all the things the Canucks have lost or changed in the last couple of years, and how disappointing some of the games have been this season, it's kind of amazing that they're holding a reasonable spot in the standings. Personally, I thought it could have been much worse (as evidenced by my upcoming tattoo) so the fact that we're only slightly behind last year's point numbers in the standings should be cause for relief.Obviously last season didn't turn out so well in the end, though, so here's hoping that this final game of 2006 sends us into 2007 with cause for optimism.The Canucks have shown they can play to win -- now it's time to see if they can make a habit of it.

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