Canucks Futures Odds | The Anatomy of Losing; Can the Canucks Change Their Story?
The Vancouver Canucks have been the butt of most NHL jokes for 50 years. Many have contemplated why this has happened, and what needs to change. Below is my lifelong journey with the team I love so dearly. It’s time to move past this fan’s despair, and into the light of respectability. The Vancouver Canucks owe this to me, the city of Vancouver, and more importantly themselves.
A timeline of the Vancouver Canucks
When it comes to being a Vancouver Canucks fan, we’re accustomed to losing. It’s that unwanted guest who shows up without fail. The painful feeling of losing year in and year out dulls over time. Will we ever get that Stanley Cup parade that we’ve always dreamt of?
I was born and raised in Vancouver. Watching the Vancouver Canucks lose at Pacific Coliseum with my father was a most cherished past time. Our franchise started losing before we even played our first game. The Canucks entered the league with the Buffalo Sabres in 1970. That summer the two new teams took part in a roulette wheel spin to determine who would get the first pick in the NHL entry draft. The Canucks lost the lottery and the Sabres selected Gilbert Perrault with the first pick. He finished his Hall of Fame career with 512 goals, 1326 points and played his entire career with the Sabres. With the 2nd pick the Canucks drafted defensemen Dale Tallon. He played for the Canucks for 3 years, and in the end scored 44 goals, had 93 assists, and finished a combined -82.
The First Twenty Years –
In their first two decades in the National Hockey League, Vancouver had two winning seasons. In 1982, the sub .500 Canucks were on the road at the La Colisée in Quebec City. Following an on-ice dustup between Dave ‘Tiger’ Williams and Nordique star Peter Stastny, a fan leaned over the glass and punched Williams. Punching a man who would finish his career with 3966 penalty minutes was not a wise move. Tiger went into the stands and destroyed the fan. However, he was not alone. Several players went into the stands to attack the fan, including Canucks coach Harry Neale. By the time the brouhaha ended, Neale was suspended for the rest of the season. The late Roger Neilson took over as coach and the team began their ascent. They were a special group that captured the imagination of the entire city. They were led up front by Tomas Gradin and Stan ‘The Steamer’ Smyl. They had future head coaches Marc Crawford and Collin Campbell on the roster and had ‘King’ Richard Brodeur between the pipes.
Despite having a losing record in the regular season they swept the Flames in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After dispatching the Flames, they beat the Kings in 5 games. It was at that point they faced the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals. Unfortunately for the Blackhawks they would suffer the same result the Kings did a round earlier, a loss in 5 games. A birth in the Stanley Cup Final was huge for the City, that was until they realized they ran into a juggernaut in the form of the New York Islanders. The Islanders were on their way to winning their 3rd Stanley Cup in a row and swept the Canucks 4-0, outscoring the Canucks 6-1 in the two games played at the Pacific Coliseum to end the series.
The Canucks went right back to losing. The Oilers 80’s dynasty would routinely come in and destroy us. In 1986, then general manager Jack Gordon traded away our 1983 1st round draft pick Cam Neely. Also in the trade with Neely was the Canucks first pick, and third overall pick in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft (used to take Glen Wesley) to the Bruins for Barry Pederson. It will forever be known as the worst trade in Vancouver Canucks history. Pederson collected back-to-back 70-point seasons with the Canucks but was eventually traded to the Penguins in 1989. Neely went on to have a Hall of Fame career with the Bruins, and Wesley would have a solid 20-year career.
In the summer of 1987 a resurgence began when the Canucks brought in beloved former defensemen Pat Quinn as general manager. The following year we drafted Trevor Linden with the 2nd overall pick. The 18-year-old would finish 2nd in rookie of the year voting, losing to Brian Leetch. We finished the regular season 43 points behind the Presidents Cup winning Calgary Flames. General manager Cliff Fletcher had assembled the best Flames team of all time. They had Mike Vernon between the pipes, and Al MacInnis, Gary Suter, and Brad McCrimmon on the blue line. Finally, upfront they had Doug Gilmour, Joe Nieuwendyk, Joe Mullen, Hakan Loob, Joel Otto, and Gary Roberts. They had assembled a solid leadership core in Tim Hunter, Jim Peplinski, and Lanny McDonald, and capped it off when they called up 20-year-old rookie Theoren Fleury.
The Canucks should have been swept. Jim Taylor of ‘The Province’ predicted it would be the first best-of-seven series to be settled in three. The Calgary Flames were 3/1 to hoist the Stanley Cup, while the Canucks were 100/1. The Canucks took the Flames to overtime in game 7. Stan Smyl had two breakaways to end it, and Petri Skriko missed a wide-open net. After 19 overtime minutes, Jim Peplinski sent a harmless shot towards our net that was deflected in off Joel Otto’s skate, and it was Game over. The Flames bench emptied and the celebration started in the Saddledome. The Calgary Flames would eventually win the Stanley Cup that season.
Years later referee Bill McCreary would say, “Had we had video review, I think we would have disallowed the winning goal. I think [Otto] directed the puck in the net with his skate. But the goal was allowed. I probably wish I had a better angle on the play, a better sightline. I just didn’t react well enough at the time and made the call. Of course, you don’t reverse them in those days, so it’s probably one I wished I could do-over.”
It’s all good Bill, we were used to losing.
The 1990’s through Today –
In 1992 we won our first division title in 17 years and had our first winning season since 1975-76.
In 1994, we forced game 7 in the Stanley Cup Finals. It was Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers. Down 3-1 early in the 3rd period, Trevor Linden scored his 2nd goal of the game to get us within one. With 5 minutes left in the game, Nathan Lafayette hit the post of an empty cage. I can still hear the clang. We were that close. The Rangers won their first Stanley Cup since 1940. No worries, we were used to losing. Following the game the city exploded into mayhem. That night I was tear-gassed for the only time in my life, I was 14 years old.
In 2011, we had another Stanley Cup Finals game 7, but this time it was in our backyard. The Sedin brothers were going to do for Vancouver what so many others could not. Well… The Boston Bruins had other plans. We didn’t score a single goal and the Bruins won 4-0. Again, police cars were torched and storefronts were smashed.
A New Age –
Now it’s 2020. Before Covid-19 disrupted the season, Vancouver was marching towards the playoffs. The Canucks were 4th in the Pacific Divsion and tied for the final Wild Card spot. This was indeed a team on the rise. I had no future bets on the Canucks and found myself rooting for them to lose. I wanted in on the action at long odds, and the only way that would happen was them not making the playoffs. I needed the world to not know how good this team was about to become.
The Canucks finally have something that has eluded this franchise for 50 years: a game changing, home grown, power play quarterback. Quinn Hughes is a legitimate force. Not only did he make the all-star team, Quinn will win rookie of the year at some point this summer. He had 53 points in 68 games. He was spectacular offensively and much stronger than we expected defensively.
The Offensive Outlook –
The off-season acquisition of JT Miller was excellent. In 69 games he had 27 goals and 45 assists. He won 59.2% of his face-offs which is the second best percentage league wide. Miller has no flaws in his game and excels everywhere on the ice. The Canucks had the second best face-off winning percentage in the league led by Miller, Jay Beagle and Bo Horvat. Miller worked perfectly on a line with Elias Petterson and deadline acquisition Tyler Toffoli. Elias Petterson at times looks like a very dangerous sniper. It seems like the wear and tear of an 82 game season slows him down. He needs to get stronger. With 55 goals in his first 139 games, he’s shown flashes of being the elite level scorer every team craves.
The Tanner Pearson, Bo Horvat, and Brock Boeser line can be played in any situation. Brock Boeser hasn’t returned back to the success he had in year one, but he might recover that form. In that first year, he was runner up for the Calder. He played on a poor team with a bevy of linemates and still scored 29 goals, and 26 assists in 62 games, and looked dangerous doing it. It’s difficult to know whether his wrist or his back has troubled him. It appears that bulking up has been counterproductive, and it reduced his quickness.
Bo Horvat has been a solid contributor at both ends of the ice. It’s easy to see why Horvart is the captain. He has the skills necessary to lead this team. Tanner Pearson, Jake Virtanen, Adam Gaudette and Josh Leivo are solid value pieces for the price point. Gaudette, in particular, is likely to continue improving. He has a great work ethic and improved all aspects of his game this year. Virtanen was much improved this year, but for a player with his size, speed, and shot he continues to underperform. Tyler Motte gives everything he has on every shift, and it’s invaluable. Each year Zack MacEwen continues to improve. Considering his size an work ethic, he should continue to improve.
The Defensive Outlook –
The Canucks have a good but not great defense. Quinn Hughes has been a revelation, and Alex Edler is excellent in all areas but his speed has declined. Chris Tanev will be badly missed if he isn’t resigned, and considering the cap issues, it’s entirely possible he is not. Tyler Myers is a big man with a big shot. He may be overpaid a bit but he has made the Canucks a better team. Troy Stecher seems unlikely to stay. He is solid, but also small and not an equal to Tanev. He carries the puck well when the Canucks have cleared the puck from their own end, but considering he makes 2.3 million per year, he does not give value equal to his salary. Oscar Fantenberg has good value, and has deservedly taken the sixth spot from Jamie Benn on defense. However, he will be a UFA and his return is uncertain.
The Future –
Although success in the AHL doesn’t equate to success in the NHL, it’s a good sign. A strong AHL squad that’s filled with NHL prospects is a sign of strength and hope for the future. The Canucks AHL affiliate (Utica Comets) was good this year, especially on the back end. A future defensive addition to the Canucks will be 24 year old Brogan Rafferty. He excelled in Utica with 7 goals and 38 assists in 57 games. 22 year old Guillaume Brisebois also had a strong year with a +21 in just 48 games.
It appears KHL defensemen Nikita Tryamkin wants to return to the Canucks. He could give the Canucks a big boost. He is 6’7″ 253 pounds and can skate well. He led the Yekaterinburg Automobilists in hits and penalty minutes. He clears the net, and would be an intimidating force whcih is something the Canucks need. Defensemen Jack Rathbone was excellent for Harvard this year, and is now a “can’t miss” prospect for the Canucks. In his second year for Harvard he had 31points in 28 games. He hasn’t decided if he will turn pro this year, but either way He’ll get some seasoning in Utica.
Jacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko give the Canucks one of the best goaltending tandems in the league. However, Markstrom will be a UFA (unrestricted free agent). He made $3,666,667 but has earned a significant increase. He seems loyal to the Canucks, who has treated him well. They will have to hope he gives them a hometown discount.
Salary Cap Issues –
There are problems. The team has salary cap issues that they have caused themselves. The cap problems are not a result of paying stars too much. They continue to overpay role players on top of the dead weight from Roberto Luongo’s salary restructure. Their salary cap burden will disable them from filling their roster with a superior supporting cast. The most obvious conundrum they currently have is signing Tyler Toffoli. He demonstrated this year he significantly adds to the team’s strengths.
For the first time in years, they could expect to sign free agents that want to play on a winning team. Here are the causes of the salary cap woes:
|Players||Length of Contract||Salary|
|Roberto Luongo||Two Years||$3,000,000|
|Loui Eriksson||Two Years||$6,000,000|
|Brandon Sutter||One Year||$4,375,000|
|Micheal Ferland||Three Years||$3,500,000|
|Sven Baertsch||One Year||$3,366,000|
|Jay Beagle||Two Years||$3,000,000|
|Antoine Roussel||Two Years||$3,000,000|
The overpayment on these contracts is crippling, especially Eriksson and Baertschi’s contracts. Sutter would be overpaid even if he could stay healthy but he rarely can. Beagle and Roussel are good in the bottom six, but are substantially overpaid. The only hope we have for Ferland is he might retire due to concussion issues.
A Quick look into the Future –
I expect the 2019-20 season to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. If that’s the case, NHL fans will be drooling for the start of the 2020-21 season. As far as NHL futures betting, the Vancouver Canucks to win the Pacific Division and the Stanley Cup will offer excellent value.
The Edmonton Oilers will be a massive underlay in the Pacific Division. They have the two highest scoring players in the NHL in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and little else. They will take money and be heavy favorites in the Pacific Division, the Western Conference and the Stanley Cup. Fading a team in the futures market that suffers from a severe lack of depth is extremely appealing.
The Vegas Golden Knights were getting enormous value for underrated forwards and shocked the hockey world when they reached the Stanley Cup final in their inaugural season. Those players are now being vastly overpaid. The cap hit from their top 6 forwards is $38.9 million. They will not be able to add or build around them. Recency and vividness bias will be at play, and they will be an uderlay in the NHL futures market.
The Calgary Flames are led by captain and 2019 Norris trophy winner Mark Giordano. He will turn 37 on the eve of next season and comes along with a cap hit of $6,750,000. Sniper Johnny Gaudreau is coming off a disappointing campaign that saw him total just 58 points in 70 games. He was usurped by 22 year old Mathew Tkachuk as the best player on the Flames. Tkachuk’s rookie contract is over and as a result his $7,000,000 salary will be a cap hit. The Milan Lucic contract will be a weight hanging around the Flames neck for years to come since his $5,250,000 cap hit doesn’t end until 2023. The Flames will be a middling team next season and pose no threat.
The Arizona Coyotes are a team on the rise with skill throughout their lineup. Their biggest issue is toughness. When General Manager John Chayka took over in 2016, he was the youngest GM in NHL history. He has built a team that is easy to play against. When the toughest guy on your team is 56 year old head coach Rick Tocchet, you have serious problems. This is a team that can be intimidated and pushed around. They are not built to handle the rigours of an 82 game season.
The San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Ducks are plodding NHL clubs whose best days are in the rearview mirror. The Kings seem a little further ahead on their rebuild. Doug Wilson has done a terrible job managing the Sharks. The combined cap hit of defensemen Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Erik Karlsson is $26,500,000. The Ducks have one more season before they can get out of Ryan Getzlaf’s $8,250,000 contract. He will likely be a highly coveted trade piece when the Ducks are no where near the playoff picture late in the season. All three teams need a few years of lottery picks to begin an upward trajectory.
If you are looking for NHL futures that will give you the right risk/reward, look no further than the 2020-21 Vancouver Canucks. They will offer excellent value for something Canucks fans are not used to and that’s winning. They have elite scorers and a strong defense that includes an all-star power play cap QB. They have a strong combination of size and depth, and if they re-sign goaltender Jacob Markstrom they have a top 5 goaltending tandem. They have the right mix of skill and character. In my opinion, they are capable of going on a run through the Western Conference. In 2020-21, the Canucks will be giving NHL bettors something they crave, and that’s value. Don’t let the anatomy of a losing team keep you from getting paid. These aren’t your father’s Canucks.