Sports Hockey

Canucks` downward spiral in the draw

By Torben Rolfsen


Connor McDavid (97) of the Edmonton Oilers, celebrates his 100th point of the season after assisting on two goals against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Place in Edmonton on April 9, 2017. (Shaughn Butts / Postmedia Network)

Connor McDavid (97) of the Edmonton Oilers, celebrates his 100th point of the season after assisting on two goals against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Place in Edmonton on April 9, 2017. (Shaughn Butts / Postmedia Network)

“It was a season in hell, the worst of times, a winter of discontent…oh, it was bleak, bleak, bleak.” – Bill Richardson, Bachelor Brothers’ Bed & Breakfast

So the ping-pong balls fell out of the water cooler again Saturday, and like a certain young Russian defenceman, they bounced away from the Vancouver Canucks.

On the heels of one of the poorest seasons in franchise history, the Canucks took the maximum drop in the NHL’s draft order, falling from second to fifth.

Aside from the hiring of promising new head coach Travis Green, its been a disastrous couple of weeks for the team when you combine the lottery loss with the defection of Nikita Tryamkin back to his homeland.

At least they are finally using the R-word (rebuild), but the Canucks continue to go backwards relative to the competition.

The near-to-mid-future is murky at best. What’s becoming clear is that this is all going to take a lot longer than many people think.

Hopefully the league will fix – or at least tweak – its bizarre lottery system.

In the wake of the mysteriously clandestine dropping of the balls, Canucks president Trevor Linden said: “Our best chance was to move down and we did.”

How is that fair? They finished 29 out of 30 teams; shouldn’t their “best chance” have been to pick second?

They can get a really nice centre picking at #5 in this draft.

That pick, along with Bo Horvat, can form a nice pair of top-two centres down the line.

Here’s where the time frame gets depressing.

While the Canucks may have some promising youth on the way (Brock Boeser, Thatcher Demko, et al.), they are not of the star caliber of teams like Edmonton, Toronto and Winnipeg.

Realistically, most of the front-line players that will lead the Canucks to their next Cup challenge aren’t even drafted or on the roster yet.

Looking ahead, what I call the Loui Eriksson Hypothesis may be a good barometer.

Eriksson has five years left on his $6 million per contract.

It’s a good bet the Canucks won’t truly contend until that contract is over.

That puts us in 2022-23. I know, it sounds like a science fiction movie.

Expect Vancouver to be in the thick of the lottery for the next five years or so.

The good news is early indications are the next couple of drafts should be better than this year.

And who knows: maybe at some point a couple of unicorns like McDavid or Matthews appear again.

Let’s just hope the Canucks don’t continue the trend of falling downward in the draw.

If they do, the future may start to mirror the present: bleak.