Friday November 19 - Winnipeg Jets at Vancouver Canucks - 7 p.m.
It has been five games and 11 days since the Vancouver Canucks recorded their last win, over the Dallas Stars on Nov. 7. They also grabbed a point off the Anaheim Ducks before sliding into their current four-game losing streak.
Can they bump the slump on Friday, when they face the Winnipeg Jets?
Well — the Canucks did play better on Wednesday, and even had a very brief 2-1 lead over the Colorado Avalanche in the third period before they were undone by penalties. Again.
Having Cale Makar score the game winner while Quinn Hughes sits in the box after a wildly undisciplined cross check twists the knife just a little bit harder, doesn't it?
For the moment, it seems like everything will remain status quo with the organization, as everybody tries to find a way out of this mess. Jim Benning emerged to face the media on Thursday — in a press conference at Rogers Arena in the morning, and on Sportsnet 650 in the afternoon. But I don't think he dropped any bombs, and I'm more confused than ever about Travis Hamonic's vaccination timeline.
For me, the most interesting nugget in this whole saga came on Wednesday's 'In The Crease' podcast from Emily Kaplan and Linda Cohn at ESPN.
When I think about steps that the organization could take if it did cut ties with Benning and/or Travis Green, I'm usually left rather cold. Sure — there are only 32 NHL general manager's jobs, so there will be candidates who would throw their hats in the ring. But I bristle at the idea of going down a road we've been down before with a guy like Mike Gillis — and I think it makes a ton of sense, as a former agent, that he could be jockeying for a position at the Players' Association as Don Fehr's leadership is being reviewed in the wake of the Kyle Beach affair.
On her podcast, Emily mentioned that Canucks' ownership was in contact with Jeff Gorton last summer, after he was relieved of his duties as New York Rangers' GM.
That's a name that's interesting to me. He's experienced, having worked his way up in both the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers organization after starting as a scout in Boston back in the mid-90s. And even under the glare of one of the brightest spotlights in the NHL in New York City, he wasn't afraid to pull the trigger on a scorched-earth rebuild while also integrating veteran talent, which seems to have put the Rangers back in the playoff picture ahead of most peoples' expectations.
Gorton has been popping up here and there as a media commentator since being let go by the Rangers last spring. To me, he comes off as bright and articulate.
Skimming back through Twitter, I see some speculation that he isn't interested in coming to Vancouver and/or would be asking for more money than the Canucks would be willing to pay. If either of those things is true, then it takes me back to Square One: Who can the Canucks bring in to right the ship?
I wonder what the Sedins are thinking right now. They're still in the 'learning' portion of their tenure, right? It's too soon to expect them to help steer things back into a positive direction?
As of Friday, with just two games on the evening's NHL schedule, the Canucks currently sit 28th overall in the standings, already seven points out of a wild-card spot.
My old go-to site for playoff odds, Sports Club Stats, hasn't been updated for nearly a week, so those numbers will be quite out of date. MoneyPuck
puts Vancouver's playoff chances at 6.6%, fourth-worst in the league, and is projecting 75.7 points for the team.
Since the Canucks are currently at 12 points in 17 games, that works out to 63 or 64 points in the remaining 65 games — almost a .500 clip. So even they're thinking that things can't stay *this* bad forever.
Here's a fun fact about Friday's game: Winnipeg's penalty kill is nearly as bad as Vancouver's!
After reaching a new low by giving up three power-play goals to the Avs on Wednesday, the Canucks' league-worst kill now has a success rate of just 60.3%. The Jets, remarkably, rank 31st at 65.9%, even as they sit in a tie with Minnesota for first place in the Central Division and have gone 6-1-3 in their last 10 games.
The net result has been much harder on the Canucks, though, because they take more penalties. Vancouver has been shorthanded 58 times so far this season, and given up 23 goals. With just one fewer game played, the Jets have only been shorthanded 44 times, which has resulted in 15 power-play goals against.
But maybe that vulnerability is something the Canucks can use to their advantage on Friday? Their power play is not as bad as the penalty kill, but it is now 0-for-13 over the last five games. And in the 11 games since Vancouver returned from that season-opening road trip, only two games have featured any power-play production: one goal in the home-opener loss to the Wild, and that outlier 3-for-6 performance against Dallas.
The Canucks do have the schedule advantage on Friday, as Winnipeg is wrapping up a three-in-four after a pair of games against Edmonton — a 5-2 home win on Tuesday, and a 2-1 road shootout loss on Thursday.
That also means that Eric Comrie will make a rare start in the Winnipeg net against Vancouver. But the 26-year-old has put up good numbers this season — 3-1-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. It has been nearly two weeks since his last game, on Nov. 6.
If the mood around the team was lighter, I'd probably be playing up the Tucker Poolman vs. Nate Schmidt revenge angle for Friday's game.
Poolman actually had quite a good night on Wednesday, in his return to action after serving his two-game suspension. He picked up his first goal as a Canuck, as well as an assist. Meanwhile, Schmidt is already up to 11 points in 16 games with the Jets after managing just 15 in 54 games with Vancouver last year. He's playing with Josh Morrissey on Winnipeg's top defense pairing.
Other than Paul Stastny, who is missing this road trip with a foot injury, the Jets are healthy. Here's how the lines rolled in Edmonton on Thursday.
As for the Canucks, after a day off the ice on Thursday, it looks like the only lineup tweak is another breakup of the Lotto Line. J.T. Miller re-joins Conor Garland and Vasily Podkolzin, while Jason Dickinson moves to the wing with Pettersson and Boeser.
Also — if you missed it, Justin Bailey was placed on waivers on Thursday, and will be assigned to Abbotsford if he clears. The AHL Canucks have had their scheduled games in Abbotsford postponed this weekend, as the region continues to deal with the terrible flooding.