The Paper Feature is a weekly column and sidebars that appears in the print edition of the Vancouver Courier newspaper. Track it down!
If you gave up on this Canucks season a week ago (or more), you could easily be forgiven. Not only did the Canucks go on a long losing skid, the sun also came out over Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. It's completely understandable if you chose hanging out on a patio over watching the struggling Canucks.
A combination of injuries, cold streaks, and the Canucks not being that good to begin with finally took their toll and drove the Canucks down the standings. Injuries are still an issue: Antoine Roussel, Brandon Sutter, and Chris Tanev are all confirmed as done for the season, Sven Baertschi probably should be shut down for the season with post-concussion syndrome, and Ben Hutton has no timetable to return from his foot injury.
Even now, in spite of their five-game point streak over the last week, the Canucks are still a longshot make the playoffs. They might only be four points out of the playoffs, but they need to pass four teams to get into the final WIld Card spot.
With that in mind, you might be wondering why you should bother watching the eight games remaining in the Canucks season. It’s a fair question. I’m not going to hate on bandwagon fans, because it is admittedly far more fun to cheer for a team that’s winning. That said, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out some very good reasons to keep watching.
There’s still a chance for the playoffs
If you’re a big fan of mathematical possibilities, the end of the Canucks season is for you! The Canucks have not been mathematically eliminated yet and could still make the playoffs. HockeyViz places their chances at 1%, while Sports Club Stats has them at 1.3%, which is significantly better odds than C3P0 gave Han Solo for successfully navigating an asteroid field, and it worked out pretty well for Han Solo.
Besides, if the Canucks pull this off, you would feel like a fool if you missed out on one of the most unlikely and incredible runs to end a season in NHL history. You should also never leave any sports game early, because you never know when a team might come back from being down 5-0 or something. You don't want to miss something crazy like that!
Quinn Hughes’ Canucks debut
The Canucks signed their top prospect, Quinn Hughes, over a week ago, but, in classic Canucks fashion, he’s injured. A shot that he blocked in the penultimate game of his NCAA career caused a deep bone bruise on his ankle and he’s been seen in a walking boot instead of in his skates on the ice.
That said, Hughes should be able to make his Canucks debut as early as next week and it should be a sight to see. Hughes is an elite skater that could revolutionize the Canucks’ breakouts and provide a serious boost on the power play. Hughes’ debut should be a can’t-miss event. So, don't miss it.
Elias Pettersson’s rookie of the year run
The Canucks haven’t had a Calder Trophy winner as rookie of the year since Pavel Bure back in the 1991-92 season, but that’s about to change. Elias Pettersson is the favourite to win this season and it’s not hard to see why: he’s run away with the rookie scoring race and rescued the Canucks’ season from potential unwatchability, breaking the Canucks' rookie scoring record in the process.
Pettersson has a little bit of competition — Jordan Binnington has been outstanding for the St. Louis Blues and Rasmus Dahlin smashed the record for most points by an 18-year-old defenceman — but Pettersson still has the inside edge for the Calder. Pettersson has entertained Canucks fans all season long and watching him close out a Calder campaign will be worth the price of admission.
There have been a lot of positives in the 2018-19 Canucks season and reasons to be hopeful for the future. But for the masochists in the Canucks fanbase — and they must exist, given the suffering over the last 50 years — there’s also plenty to appreciate.
The Canucks are unlikely to make the playoffs, but their recent point streak has also pulled them out of the NHL basement. As a result, they’re entering what Patrick Johnston of The Province has called the Realm of Sadness. It’s the area where not only are you missing the playoffs, but you’re also missing out on the best prospects at the top of the NHL draft.
Just how sad can the Canucks season get? You’ll have to tune in to find out.
Stick-taps and Glove-drops
A tap of the stick to Elias Pettersson for passing Pavel Bure and Ivan Hlinka for the Canucks rookie record in points with his assist on Monday against the Chicago Blackhawks. It’s an incredible accomplishment for the 20-year-old centre.
I'm dropping the gloves with the NHL players that voted Antoine Roussel as the second-worst trash-talker in the NHLPA player's poll. Look, just because you can't understand his chirps through his French accent doesn't mean they're not devastating.
61 - It took Elias Pettersson 61 games to reach 60 points, four fewer games than it took Bure in his rookie season and 11 fewer than Hlinka. On Monday, he scored his 61st point in his 62nd game to pass them both.
63 - Daniel and Henrik Sedin combined for 29 goals and 63 points in their rookie season. Pettersson has already matched their combined point total, with his two points on Wednesday bringing him to 27 goals and 63 points in 63 games.