Botchford: Nice work Jim, but playoffs still a long-shot for Canucks
Jim Benning has made some good moves but the Vancouver Canucks are still 50/1 to win the Stanley Cup
Vancouver Canucks' goalie Ryan Miller listens during a news conference after he signed a three-year contract with the NHL hockey team in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday July 1, 2014.
Photograph by: THE CANADIAN PRESS, Darryl Dyck
Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning has been gutsy and decisive.
He cut the Ryan Kesler melodrama off at the knees, probably because he knew it was far worse than anyone else did.
He got another player to waive his no-trade clause, and turned a defenceman with chronic groin issues into Linden Vey, a 22-year-old playmaking centre who has impressed in the minors and has promise.
On the first day of free agency, Benning signed the best goalie on the market. On the second day, he signed the best right-winger left, and one who is a better option here than Jarome Iginla.
So, Trader Jim does have a plan.
But deciphering that plan right about now is akin to taking a random cloud and trying to figure out which Disney character it resembles.
The Canucks are supposed to be getting younger, but signed Ryan Miller, an about-to-be 34-year-old who will take a lot of playing time away from one of their best young players, Eddie Lack.
On Wednesday, the Canucks signed a 33-year-old winger, Radim Vrbata, who makes it more difficult for their best young forward, Zack Kassian, to get offensive opportunities while crowding things up for Nicklas Jensen.
And as the roster sits, this team probably isn’t good enough to make the playoffs in the West.
Anaheim, St. Louis, Chicago and L.A. are presumed to be locks. It’s difficult to see Minnesota or San Jose sliding and missing the playoffs. And then there are Colorado and Dallas, which both made the post-season last year and have improved since.
The Canucks’ stated goal is to make the playoffs annually, and it’s why they went all-in on Miller and paid top dollar for Vrbata.
But even if Miller handles Vancouver wonderfully and puts in an impressive season, and Vrbata excels with the Sedins, they remain a good second line away from realistically being in any conversation other than the ones about “bubble teams.”
Las Vegas has the Canucks at 50/1 to win the Stanley Cup, which is 18th among the 30 teams and behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are at 45/1.
It sounds about right.
With a Sedin bounce-back, that defence and Miller, the team is not going to be bad enough to tank without John Tortorella pulling them down the sewer with his choke collar.
It leaves Benning’s team at risk of drifting into the dreaded NHL limbo, where you miss the playoffs, get the No. 10-to-14 overall draft pick, and risk spinning your wheels without significantly improving.
More troubling, especially in Vancouver, as of now, the Canucks don’t look like a team that will make losing fun.
When Benning was asked on TEAM 1040 Tuesday where the goals were going to come from, he said the team was going to play “cleaner” in its own end.
It’s not quite that bleak, though.
Kassian showed last season he is capable of pushing offence, and is on the verge of doing some pretty great things on the ice, as long as he gets power play and top-six ice time.
Jensen showed a glimpse last year, but with Vrbata and without injuries he doesn’t have a clear path into an offensive role on this team.
It is a team that was third last in goals last year and you’re going to hear a lot about how they will try to “score by committee” this season.
The Canucks just don’t have the horses for Willie Desjardins to play the uptempo style that was promised by this regime.
© Copyright (c) The Province