Sports Hockey

Next two weeks could make or break Canucks

By Torben Rolfsen

Jannik Hansen. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Jannik Hansen. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

The Vancouver Canucks begin a tough, six-games-in-10-nights road trip Tuesday through the U.S. midwest and northeast.

They return home from the trip for a Saturday/Sunday back-to-back games against Calgary and Philadelphia before reaching their five-day bye, which falls the week before the trade deadline.

It’s not hyperbole to say the next two weeks could make or break the team’s season – and decide the fate of head coach Willie Desjardins.

The standings show the Canucks are currently tied for 11th in the West, five points out of a wildcard.

The three teams directly ahead of them to catch for a playoff spot are the Flames, St. Louis and Winnipeg.

The Canucks reward if they manage to scrape into the playoffs: likely a first-round matchup against Minnesota or San Jose.

(And we just saw what happened against those two teams, at home in Rogers Arena.)

This road trip promises to be a tough one. Aside from the usual road grind and six-in-10, look at the list of opponents: Nashville, Columbus, Boston, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.

With the exception of the Sabres, all are teams playing decent-to-good right now, and the Canucks can scarcely go into Buffalo – or any rink – expecting an easy win this season.

As proof, look at what happened just before the All-Star break in Glendale, Ariz.

The Canucks are getting healthier: Jannik Hansen is back, and Ben Hutton is getting close. (Erik Gudbranson’s timeline remains unclear.)

Team management will have to decide in two weeks whether they will sell players for assets at the March 1 trade deadline.

Hansen, Ryan Miller, Alex Edler and/or Alex Burrows could each return varying values in draft picks.

Further complicating the decision, this is not a relatively strong draft, especially in the top 10.

What if they don’t sell at the deadline and also miss the playoffs?

That would be a lose-lose for anyone’s season plan and there’s a feeling circulating that making the playoffs is the bar to retain Desjardins for another year.

Trevor Linden and Jim Benning have an important decision to make on Monday, Feb. 20.

As usual, the Canucks fan-base is waiting…