by Tyler Rowe
As of Monday morning, the Vancouver Canucks are getting odds between 10/1 and 15/1 from Vegas line-makers to win the Stanley cup, which is good for sixth to seventh most likely to win it all. Its likely that these odds will shorten before the playoffs should the Blue and Green continue their (what now seems oddly) cohesive play with the additions of healthy Ryan Kesler and newcomer Derek “shut-up-and-take-my-money” Roy. Still, this is an evaluation by big sports books that says “we do not believe this team will win, but we can’t make the odds too enticing just in case the better teams get injured”. The media outside of Vancouver tends to agree. The conversation around who the bona fide contenders are includes Chicago, Pittsburgh, L.A. and Boston of course, but also less whelming teams like Montreal and Anaheim who, lets be honest, really have no chance at raising the mug this spring. Vancouver seems to be omitted from that conversation, at least as of right now. Sure, the power play still sucks, but the ‘Nucks have railed off 10 wins in 12 games with Schneider looking great, the offense looking invigorated and the team defense morphing from a skinny kid in a green bodysuit to an awesome green dinosaur. Rounding into form right before the playoffs is something that looked pretty good on the Kings last year. Could the same thing be happening in the home of the great Joshua Jackson?
But as soon as you can say “We can’t legally serve you a third cheeseburger, Mr. Garrett”, the injury bug bites again. With David Booth already projected back no earlier than the second round, the Canucks lost both Chris Higgins and Chris Tanev, causing headlines like “Things Abysmally Amiss With Each Chris, Leaving Well-wishers Listless”. No… no wait: “Shoddy Lower Body Buddies”. Plus Jannik Hansen left yesterday night’s game against the Flames with about nine minutes left in the third period. The Great Dane is skating in practice today, and I is still worried about it. The Canucks have gone most of the season without most of their second line. Is it now time to go through the rest of the season without most of the third? And just as soon as Keith Ballard returned, Chris Tanev got the heck out of dodge as if whatever coach Vigneault hates about Ballard might rub off on him. And as far as expectations go, we would be remiss to forget that the buzz in Vancouver itself is far from palpable. The hardcore fans like-but-don’t-love our chances, and the casuals are buying Whitecaps jerseys and complaining about Luongo. They know about his contract now.*
So was Vegas really just pre-cognizant? Do they really need to be if the line was contingent on Canuck injuries? That is tough to say. But there is reason for optimism going into this post season. Expect an article soon on how SmugNation likes the Orca’s chances against each of the western playoff teams, but right now, assuming Tanev, Higgins and Hansen are all with the team going in and that David Booth can rejoin the team in the 2nd round (and they make it that far this year), this might be the line-up for a showdown in the conference semis with someone like L.A. or Anaheim:
Sedin – Sedin – Burrows
Raymond – Kesler – Kassian
Higgins – Roy – Hansen
Booth – Lappiere – Weebbettottotito
Hamhuis – Bieksa
Garrisson – Edler
Ballard – Tanev
That’s a pretty deep team, one I would go so far as to say is a better line-up than the one they rolled out in 2011. And unlike the 2011 and 2012 squads, there is no president’s trophy to vaunt, no gaudy seasonal team stats to rattle off, probably no regular season trophy contenders to speak of unless Schneider manages a Vezina finalist nod. The Vancouver Canucks, poised to win their fifth consecutive Northwest division title as the West’s #3 seed, are under the radar going into the 2013 playoffs. It would be delicious to compare this to the 1994 team, but such comparisons would be both useless and inaccurate. That doesn’t change the fact that these lowered expectations might be just what the doctor ordered.
*I will stand by the Luongo contract if it kills me, but popular opinion on the situation is no longer a urine-current but now a poop-tidal-wave.