The Vancouver Canucks are stuck.
Their fun run in the 2020 playoff bubble was a mirage, followed by two playoff misses and a third well on the way. It’s obvious now that change needs to come here, but new management’s initial work to double down on last year’s group has left them hamstrung and with few great avenues to turn over the team.
Some would suggest the best option — or only option — now is to tear it all down, trade it all away, and tank the season for the hope of drafting the sensational B.C.-born Connor Bedard first overall.
Tanking is a nice idea with the Canucks struggling as they are, but what does it mean to try and tank over halfway through a season? Some teams have been tanking successfully since October and won’t be keen to give up their lead. From there, it’s a long shot to win the draft lottery even if you finish 26th-29th in the league.
Heck, if you finish dead last it’s still more likely you won’t get Bedard than you will.
And this is where the Canucks find themselves — too far ahead too late in the game to truly tank, too far behind the competition to be patient with the situation.
“When I came here, I knew it was going to be a big challenge, and I thought we’re going to have to do minor surgery,” Canucks president of hockey operatiosn Jim Rutherford said at his blunt state of the team press conference. “Have I changed my position? Yeah, we have to do major surgery.”
After Bedard’s record-setting performance at the WJC, the draft — and how it relates to the trade deadline — is coming into focus. We know who the prize is at the very top, but 2023 is regarded as a deep and talented pool of prospects overall.
Wherever the Canucks or Blackhawks or Ducks or any of the other Bedard candidates finish in the standings, the draft lottery will have the final say on who will get the first overall pick. So if tearing down a roster is your direction of choice, make sure to prioritize maximizing the return value for those you’re moving, over the idea of Bedard.
First, a few reminders:
• Teams can only move up 10 spots in the draft order, so those finishing 12th-16th lowest can not win the first overall pick in the draft lottery
• There are two “lotteries” where the top two picks are up for grabs. The percentages below indicate the chances of a team winning the first lottery (where the top pick is in play).
• Florida’s unprotected first-round pick belongs to the Montreal Canadiens
Here is a look at the current draft lottery board…
FIRST LOTTERY ODDS
* denotes a team outside of the bottom 11 that can’t get the first overall pick in the lottery
Standings as of games ending Jan. 29