The Vancouver Canucks made a somewhat unexpected return to the playoffs last season, putting up 101 points to finish second behind Anaheim in the Pacific Division.
But there’s a widespread belief that the Canucks will be hard-pressed to repeat that performance in 2015-16. While Vancouver’s roster isn’t significantly different than the one that ended up losing to Calgary in the first round, the competition in the Western Conference hasn’t gotten any easier.
Consider five of the six teams that missed the playoffs last year:
— The Kings obviously have the roster to make the postseason.
— The Sharks are eyeing a “big bounce-back”.
— The Stars should win more, assuming they get halfway decent goaltending.
— The Avalanche can’t be counted out, given what they did in 2013-14.
— Even the Oilers, with Connor McDavid, could make a push.
About the only team that nobody’s expecting much from is Arizona.
The reason there’s pressure on Jim Benning and the Canucks to make the playoffs is because management has resisted the calls from a growing segment of the fan-base for a more aggressive rebuild.
“We want to draft and develop well, but we want our young kids to learn how to play in a winning environment, so they learn the right way to play,” Benning said in April.
OK, time to vote: