At 17-7-1 through 25 games, the Vancouver Canucks sit atop the Western Conference. It’s been an incredibly impressive season thus far for Vancouver, a team that most expected to be on the fringes of the wild card race. The specter of John Tortorella is blissfully gone, and new coach Willie Desjardins has the Sedin twins producing at a point-per-game pace again.
The Canucks boast one of the league’s most balanced offenses, having nine players who have scored at least five goals. The defense, however, has been suspect at times. Alex Edler and Kevin Bieksa are struggling, playing well below the levels they consistently maintained in past seasons. Still, Vancouver has managed to thrive with timely scoring and has kept its head above water despite losing its best defenseman (Dan Hamhuis) in mid-November.
With all that said, there is reason to suspect that the Canucks’ record is a tad inflated. The team’s +10 goal differential is tied for fifth in the conference. There’s nothing wrong with winning close games, but that method doesn’t tend to be particularly sustainable over time. Vancouver is a middle-of-the-pack possession team that typically splits play fairly evenly with its opponents, something that doesn’t typically lend itself to such a strong record over large samples. There is also the issue of Ryan Miller, who has continued to be the same league-average starting goaltender that he has been for most of his NHL career. Realistically, he’ll need to be a good deal better than he has been for Vancouver to keep up this kind of pace over the long haul.
Future doubts aside, the Canucks deserve nothing less than an A for the wildly successful season they have put together so far. Nobody expected Vancouver to be first in the West 25 games into the year, and — lucky or not — the team deserves credit for the wins that it has banked.