The Vancouver Canucks were on a nice little run for a while there.
But that run is over now — and given their remaining schedule, it’s going to be very tough for them to get back into a playoff spot.
Vancouver never stood a chance last night against the San Jose Sharks, who rolled into Rogers Arena, dominated the first period, then coasted to a 4-1 win.
“We were a little bit sluggish in the first,” Canucks forward Daniel Sedin told reporters. “After that I thought we played a good-enough game.”
But with just three wins in their last 10 games, the Canucks have fallen three points back of the second wild-card spot in the West. Vancouver doesn’t hold any games in hand on the St. Louis Blues, who got a big win last night in Mike Yeo’s debut behind the bench.
Next up for the Canucks? A home game Saturday against the Central Division leaders from Minnesota, followed by six straight on the road against Nashville, Columbus, Boston, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis.
According to Sports Club Stats, Vancouver’s chances of making the playoffs have slipped to just 7 percent. To make the cut, the Canucks will need to go in the neighborhood of 17-10-4 down the stretch.
As far as the March 1 trade deadline is concerned, management has called it a “fluid” situation. The Canucks will in no way be in the market for rental players, but they have not ruled out making moves. And with the expansion draft on the horizon, that’s not going to quell speculation about veterans like Jannik Hansen and Alex Burrows.
Of course, Hansen and Burrows each have a no-trade clause, and GM Jim Benning vowed back in December that he wasn’t going to ask any of his players to waive their no-trades — even if the team is out of playoff contention at the deadline.
“There’s a couple reasons why I wanted to put it out there about not trading guys with no-trade contracts,” said Benning, per Canucks Army. “The first reason is I wanted to be honest with our players and fans about not asking players to waive their no-trade contracts. The other reason is I want to try to limit the unnecessary distractions so our players can focus on getting better and winning games.”
He added, “We’ve moved some no-trade contracts the last few years, but the players we have left are important veteran players who bring our team experience and leadership. We’re going to keep them.”
Benning did allow that if a player came to him and requested a trade to a contender, he’d try to facilitate a move. So that possibility remains. Burrows is a 35-year-old pending unrestricted free agent. He may relish a chance to win a Stanley Cup elsewhere.
Hansen, meanwhile, is signed through next season with an attractive cap hit of $2.5 million. The 30-year-old winger is an obvious trade candidate to many, given he’s on a team that can’t afford to lose assets for nothing in the expansion draft.
He wants to stay, though.
“I want to play here,” Hansen told The Province after Benning’s remarks in December. “I love being around the guys. I love the city and I want to win here. And I’ve been here for a very long time. It’s nice that you don’t have to speculate as to whether they’re going to come in five days or five weeks to ask you for a list of (trade) teams.”
So, it should be an interesting month. The Canucks had a disastrous deadline experience last year. The pressure’s on for management to avoid a repeat performance.