Fantasy Hockey

2015 Fantasy Hockey Team Preview: Vancouver Canucks

Hockey season is almost here! This is the latest in a series of team preview we have been doing this off season. You can check out all the other team preview on our fantasy hockey page.

Year in Review

  • Record: 48-29-5 (101 points)
  • Goals per game: 2.88 (8th)
  • Goals against per game: 2.68 (19th)
  • Power play: 19.3% (9th)
  • Penalty kill: 85.7% (2nd)
  • Shots per game: 29.9 (16th)
  • Shots against per game: 29.8 (17th)

Despite finishing second in the Pacific Division, the Vancouver Canucks had no answer to the red hot Calgary Flames, being eliminated in the first round for the third time in the last four years. Success in the regular season comes naturally to Willie Desjardins and his team, but come playoff time, everything falls apart. With their top players on the wrong side of thirty, Vancouver will need to dig deep if they want to return to the Stanley Cup finals.

What made the Canucks so successful last season was their ability to score goals. It’s cliché, but the more goals you score, the more games you’re going to win. It’s also basic math.

Compared to 2013-14, the Canucks saw their goals per game increase from 2.32 to 2.88.

Goals G/GP Goals Against GA/GP Shots (%)
2013-14 191 2.32 216 2.63 2,527 (7.5)
2014-15 236 2.88 220 2.68 2,453 (9.6)

(Courtesy of Sporting Charts)

The difference between finishing 5th in 2013-14 and 2nd in 2014-15 was exactly 45 goals—just under half a goal per game. The offence made this team look better than it actually was and repeating that feat this year will be challenging. Any decline in production could see Vancouver drop way down in the standings and possibly out of the playoff picture.

Offseason Game Plan

The men in charge of scoring goals for Vancouver will be their top line (Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Radim Vrbata) along with Alexander Burrows. The four combined to score 69 goals last season, 29 percent of the team’s goals. The pressure for them to produce will be enormous, maybe even too much to be realistic.

When it comes to secondary scoring, the Canucks will need everyone to step up and contribute on a nightly basis.

Newly acquired center Brandon Sutter will get his chance to play in the top-six, while Bo Horvat and Linden Vey look to increase their production from last season. With Chris Higgins sidelined for at least three weeks with a foot injury, their depth will be tested from the start.

One player who could benefit from the Higgins injury is rookie Jake Virtanen.

The 19-year-old will now get a legitimate shot a cracking the opening night roster. At 6ft1 207 lbs, the former 6th overall pick in 2014 has the size and skill that NHL teams love.

A formidable adversary for any challenger, Jake Virtanen is an imposing power forward in the truest sense. Possesses a non-stopping motor and creates an abundance of on-ice energy when throwing his weight around and establishing his physical presence. Exhibits world-class skating ability, and can blow by defenders just as easily as he can go through them. Stands up for his teammates and never backs down from a challenge.

-Elite Prospects-

Whether he sticks with the team all season or not is another question, but for now, the kid should get every opportunity to show management he belongs in the NHL.

The area that concerns me the most is defense. With the departure of Kevin Bieksa to the Anaheim Ducks over the summer, Vancouver finds themselves with a young, unproven defensive core. Alex Edler and Dan Hamhuis will be counted on to lead the team and play significant minutes, but after them, it’s really a crapshoot. Both Christopher Tanev and Matt Bartkowski should be the team’s second defensive paring, with Yannick Weber and Luca Sbisa filling out the bottom two.

On paper, this defense isn’t something to write home about. They will struggle at times, but if the Canucks can play good defense as a team, they may be able to survive in the tough Western Conference.

Another big question mark is goaltending.

Ryan Miller will be entering his second season with the Canucks. His first year didn’t go as planned, with the goalie playing in only 45 games and posting a 29-15-7 record. He’s still a pretty good player, but at 35-years-old, his elite days are clearly behind him. For the Canucks to have any chance of making the playoffs, Miller will need to stay healthy and play upwards of 65 games. At this point, both those objectives seem very unlikely.

His 2.53 GAA was good for 22nd in the league (min. 40 GS), while his SV% was good for 24th. The good news is that there is room for improvement, but the bad news is, it may not happen this season.

Miller can easy make the defense look better and vice versa, but considering the makeup of this team and the players currently on the roster, it’s more likely that Miller will finish in the bottom half in most goaltending categories.

Sports betting site Bodog has set the over/under at 40.5 wins for the Canucks this season. There are many sites that allow you to check out the best betting for the sports team that you are rooting for or against, such as https://betting.com so make sure you’re going to the right one! It’s unlikely that the Canucks win over 40 games this season, let alone 48 like they did last year. Assuming an NHL team in the Western Conference needs over 97 points to make the playoffs (Calgary qualified for the playoffs as the final team with 97 points), Vancouver would need to win over 45 games and pick up some points in overtime and/or shootouts. Right now, the under is where I’m putting my money. If you’re struggling to make your mind up about where you might place your money, you could head on over to various betting calculator websites to see what the best odds are available to you depending on your chosen placements and bets.

This team is getting old and a rebuild should be the next step. Management will need to make some tough decisions about the team and look to move some veterans, mainly the Sedin twins, to acquire younger players and draft picks. Whether they decide to start the rebuild this year or next year will depend on how the team plays, but it’s inevitable and will need to happen sooner rather than later. Canucks fans should probably prepare themselves for a disappointing season.

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