Making the playoffs may have been the ideal for Vancouver, but with the team about to finish their worst campaign since 1998-99, Canucks GM Jim Benning emphasized that this season has been one step in a longer process.
“We’ve never once said this was going to be easy or fast,” Benning said, per the Vancouver Sun. “What we said is our goal every year is try to be competitive and make the playoffs. But we’ve never once mentioned the Stanley Cup or had any illusions about where we are as a team. If you don’t have the goal to be a playoff team, what’s the sense of even playing the games?”
The Canucks have put an emphasis on getting younger, but they’ve also resisted doing a complete overhaul. Back in April 2015, they made it clear that they didn’t want to go the same route as other rebuilding teams that are stuck at or near the NHL basement for years while they rebuild through the draft. Instead, they felt it was important to develop prospects within a “winning environment.”
If you wanted to draw a parallel to what they were going for, perhaps the Detroit Red Wings would be a fair comparison of a team that attempted to rebuild on the fly. Despite that, Vancouver will sit in the 28th spot in the NHL with just one game left on its schedule.
So in that sense, this season could be seen of as a failure, but at the same time it’s not a deviation from their long-term goals. After all, Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi, Ben Hutton, and goalie Jacob Markstrom all played significant roles this season and could be important pieces of this franchise for years to come. Meanwhile rookies Jared McCann and Jake Virtanen were given a chance to grow within the NHL.
Benning still wants to be competitive next season, but he thinks realistically it will be a few years before Vancouver can stack up against the league’s top squads.