Mar 102014
 

Michael Grabner, New York Islanders

Photo credit: http://islanders.nhl.com

How big were the Vancouver Canucks’ recent losses to the Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes? Well, consider that with 16 games left in the regular season, the Canucks currently sit in 10th place in the Western Conference, and wouldn’t you know it, the teams directly in front of them – the teams they’re chasing for the wild card playoff spots – are the Wild, Stars and Coyotes.

Strength of Schedule

If the Canucks have any aspirations to make the playoffs, now is the time to string together a few wins. Including tonight’s opponents, the New York Islanders, 6 of their next 7 games are against teams that aren’t in playoff positions, and 5 of those teams have a worse record than they do.

  • New York Islanders (24-33-9, 14th in East)
  • Winnipeg Jets (30-28-7, 11th in West)
  • Washington Capitals (30-25-10, 10th in East)
  • Florida Panthers (24-33-7, 15th in East)
  • Tampa Bay Lightning (34-24-6, 5th in East)
  • Nashville Predators (26-28-10, 12th in West)
  • Buffalo Sabres (19-37-8, 16th in East)

Mixed Messages

Last week, I wrote about the Canucks and their season ticket renewals. With anger rising amongst the faithful, overall interest in the team dwindling, and the trade deadline presenting somewhat of an opportunity to retool the roster, fans wanted to see some sign of life or some sign of direction from the team before committing large amounts of their own money for next season. The Canucks responded by trading their best goalie ever for a goaltending prospect and a third line center, hanging on to Ryan Kesler and Alex Edler, two sought-after players from the roster, not addressing any immediate scoring needs, and losing 4 games in a row, including the 3 games with playoff implications that I mentioned earlier.

Needless to say, they didn’t exactly instill a lot of confidence moving forward.

The thing is, the Canucks were supposed to send renewal letters to season ticket holders last week on March 3rd; they haven’t yet, and Elliotte Friedman from CBC reported on Saturday that the Canucks have held off from sending them out. Of course, I don’t blame the Canucks for holding off because how do you sell the product as it is right now? The team isn’t winning and the entertainment value is poor. Now, whether it’s an emotional response to how far this team has sunk in a couple of years, or perhaps a financial reality that ticket prices have peaked to the point that even the most diehard of fans can no longer justify the value of Canucks tickets, but I’ve heard a lot – and I really do mean A LOT – of season ticket holders who’ve expressed they aren’t renewing next year or are leaning towards not renewing. While the Canucks seem to still be tiptoeing between a playoff push and a rebuild, fans, on the other hand, are speaking more clearly – with their wallets.

Market Correction

Speaking of which, if there’s any positive at all to this, it’s that single-game ticket prices seem to be back within reach for a lot of fans. I spoke with a scalper before Saturday’s game, and they expressed how single-game prices are at its lowest in several seasons.

For those of you who want to watch the game live, scour the secondary ticket market. Heck, you may get in to tonight’s game for as low as $25.

Is Sebastian Collberg that good?

GM Mike Gillis is receiving a lot of criticism in this market recently (deservedly so), but let’s also consider what Islanders’ GM Garth Snow managed to pull off this season.

Earlier this season, Snow acquired 0.42 goals/game scorer Thomas Vanek from the Buffalo Sabres, and in exchange, gave up 0.36 goals/game scorer Matt Moulson, a 2014 or 2015 1st round draft pick and a 2015 2nd round draft pick. Then last Wednesday, Snow traded Vanek and a conditional 5th round draft pick to the Montreal Canadiens for prospect Sebastian Collberg and a conditional 2nd round draft pick, the condition at both ends being that the Habs make the playoffs.

The Habs are in a playoff spot right now, but are far from assured of making it. (They’re 6 points up but have played 1 or 2 more games than the teams chasing them.) If the Habs don’t make the playoffs, Snow essentially would have traded 30-goal scorer Matt Moulson, a 1st round draft pick and a 2nd round draft pick for Sebastian Collberg. Is Collberg that good? I’ll let you decide.

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