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The pundits and analytics agree: the Canucks are going to be bad

Can the Canucks exceed expectations this season?
Canucks head coach Travis Green predicts the Canucks will get at least 3 points in 2017-18 season.
Canucks head coach Travis Green predicts the Canucks will get at least 3 points in 2017-18 season.

What’s a realistic expectation for how many points the Canucks will have by the end of the NHL season? If you’re feeling optimistic and think the Canucks have a chance at sneaking into the playoffs, then you probably are hoping for 95 points. If all hope has been crushed out of you the last couple season, you might think they’re on their way to the bottom of the league, perhaps as low as 55-60 points.

The predictions from pundits and analytical models around the NHL are in and they wind up somewhere in the middle: still bad, but not quite the worst team in the league.

Last year, Kevin Allen of USA Today and EA Sports with their video game simulation both predicted that the Canucks would finish with fewer than 70 points. Fans scoffed at the pessimism, but by the end of the year, they were right or at least close. The Canucks didn’t quite finish with 63 or 65 points as predicted, but 69.

In fact, Allen was really only off by two games, predicting a 28-45-9 record; the Canucks' actual record was 30-43-9.

This year, Allen expects a modest improvement to 75 points and a 33-40-9 record, specifically noting the addition of Brock Boeser to the roster. That puts them in 7th in the Pacific Division and 29th in the NHL. Last season, 75 points would still have landed the Canucks in the bottom-five of the NHL and sixth in the Pacific.

The trio of hockey pundits at The Sporting News are less optimistic. They predict a 63-point season for the Canucks, lower even than last year. Amazingly, that doesn’t land them at the bottom of the NHL or even the Pacific Division, as they have the Las Vegas Golden Knights at a meager 47 points and the Colorado Avalanche at 58 points.

Those are bold numbers, but the Avalanche proved that it’s possible to sink to those depths last season.

Most pundits, however, don’t predict point totals. The Hockey News and Puck Daddy simply predict that the Canucks will finish 7th in the Pacific Division, just ahead of the Golden Knights. The NHL brought together 17 experts to make their playoff predictions: not one picked the Canucks to make the postseason

The Canucks, of course, finished 7th in the Pacific Division last season, so it’s a pretty easy job to just slide them back into that spot, with the newly-minted Golden Knights underneath them. That likely means a point total in the neighbourhood of 70 points.

So, that’s what the pundits have to say. What about the analytics?

There are a number of fancy stat folks who have put together analytical models to project the point totals for the coming NHL season. Corsica, an advanced statistics site, even has a contest running this season for which model winds up the most accurate. Let’s take a look at a few of these models.

Corsica creator Emmanuel Perry made his projections using his Salad model to simulate the season 50,000 times. He projects the Canucks as finishing 28th in the NHL with 74 points.



Perry’s model is continually updated on the Corsica site, so you can see how the predictions are fine-tuned as games are actually played.

Micah McCurdy used his Edgar model, designed to project the results of individual games, and used it to simulate each game 10,000 times. That gave him his season projections, which peg the Canucks at 85.5 points for the season. That’s significantly better than Perry’s projections, but still only good for 27th in the NHL.

For what it’s worth, McCurdy’s model predicted 85.6 points for the Canucks last year. The model might be overly optimistic about the Canucks.

Dom Luszczyszyn over at The Athletic has the Canucks last in the Pacific Division (warning: paywall) and 30th in the NHL using a model based on his Game Score statistic. The model projects 80.8 points for the Canucks.

Meanwhile, Stephen Burtch over at Sportsnet combined the Salad and Edgar models with Dawson Sprigging’s work on Goals Above Replacement. Combining these models produces a prediction of 82 points for the Canucks. That sounds better than most of the other predictions, but it actually puts the Canucks in dead last in the NHL.

These statistical projections allow for a wide margin of error, with each of them still giving the Canucks a chance at making the playoffs.

McCurdy’s Edgar model gives the Canucks a 38% chance of making the playoffs. Burtch’s work combining models results in a 13.3% playoff chance, while Luszczyszyn’s Game Score model projects just an 11% chance at making the playoffs. Perry’s Salad model gives the Canucks’ the lowest chance of making the playoffs, at just 2%.

Let’s put together all these predictions in a nice little table so we can see them a little more clearly:

Pundit/Publication/Model Points Position in Pacific Position in Standings % Chance of Playoffs
Kevin Allen, USA Today 75 7 29 n/a
The Sporting News 63 7 29 n/a
The Hockey News ~70 7 n/a n/a
Greg Wyshynski, Puck Daddy ~70 7 n/a n/a
Emmanuel Perry, Salad 74 7 28 2
Micah McCurdy, Edgar 85.5 7 27 38
Dom Luszczyszyn, The Athletic 80.8 8 30 11
Stephen Burtch, Sportsnet 82 8 31 13.3
Average 75 7 29 16.1


It’s not a great sign that the most optimistic prediction is that the Canucks will finish 7th in the Pacific Division and 27th in the NHL, but it’s also not surprising. The Canucks were terrible last season and there are legitimate questions to be asked about how much they improved.

What do you think? Are the pundits and analytics right? Where do you expect the Canucks to finish in the NHL standings?