The Paper Feature: Just one week left in this post-apocalyptic wasteland of a Canucks season

Steady-on, Canucks fans. The end is almost here.

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The Paper Feature is a weekly column and sidebars that appears in the Vancouver Courier newspaper. Track it down!

There are just four games left in the Canucks’ 2017-18 season. On Saturday afternoon, the Columbus Blue Jackets will be in town and on Tuesday the Vegas Golden Knights pay a visit. On Thursday, they will face the Arizona Coyotes in a game that could determine where the two teams sit in the draft lottery. Finally, next Saturday the Canucks will end the season against the similarly sad-sack Edmonton Oilers.

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This entire season has seemed like a post-apocalyptic future, full of dread and despair. Precious commodities like goals and wins have been in short supply and the population at Rogers Arena has dropped to a fraction of what it used to be.

What are some common themes of a post-apocalypse?

There’s the inciting incident, the apocalyptic disaster that kicks the whole thing off: a medical experiment produces the first of many zombies, a nuclear armageddon destroys most of the world, or an environmental catastrophe.

Looking at the small scale of this season, you could point to all the injuries as that sort of disaster, but since the Canucks’ braintrust of Jim Benning and Trevor Linden keep pointing the finger backwards, let’s look at the big picture: the disastrous 2013-14 season under John Tortorella.

The entire team crashed and burned, as the Sedins were burnt out from playing too much. Tortorella alienated Roberto Luongo by starting Eddie Lack at the Heritage Classic and Luongo was finally traded, despite Cory Schneider already getting traded at the draft, leaving the Canucks without a dependable goaltender. And finally, Mike Gillis was fired, leaving the incoming Jim Benning with a limited prospect pool and an aging core.

If that was the apocalyptic disaster, however, another common post-apocalyptic theme kicked in right after: man’s inhumanity to man.

The incoming Benning and Linden had an opportunity to immediately commit to rebuild, the franchise, when the came in. Instead, they pushed hard for a quick turnaround. They edged into the playoffs that first season, seemingly proving to themselves that their approach worked, but have now missed the playoffs in three straight seasons.

Benning and Linden have continually preached “competing,” while signing veteran players to unwieldy contracts that have not helped them compete at all. They’re on their way to a third-straight finish in the NHL’s basement, while failing to acquire additional draft picks that might help them rebuild. Truly, man is the real monster.

Fortunately, there’s one more post-apocalyptic theme: hope.

Often the hope in post-apocalyptic fiction is figuratively and literally represented by youth. Children of Men revolves around the birth of a baby, the first in two decades. Waterworld has a map to the only dry land on earth tattooed on the back of a young girl. In The Girl with all the Gifts, the titular zombie-like girl represents the future of the world because of her capacity for empathy and education.

Likewise, the glimmer of hope in the Canucks’ current post-apocalyptic hellscape lies in the youth. Despite the team failing to acquire additional draft picks, the team does boast some excellent prospects and young players: Brock Boeser. Bo Horvat. Adam Gaudette. Elias Pettersson. Thatcher Demko. Kole Lind. Olli Juolevi.

The Canucks have some high-end talent in their prospect pool, even if that pool isn’t as deep as you might hope for a rebuilding team. All hope for the future lies with them.

Stick-taps and Glove-drops

A tap of the stick to Derek Dorsett, who is the Canucks nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy. The trophy is given to the player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication, often going to someone who has come back from injury. Dorsett, who returned from a spinal injury to, at one point, lead the Canucks in goal-scoring, certainly fits the bill.

Let’s stay positive this week and give another stick-tap. Adam Gaudette gets a tap of the stick for signing his first NHL contract, joining the Canucks this past week after the conclusion of his NCAA season. Gaudette led all of college hockey with 30 goals and 60 points in 38 games and projects as a potential third-line centre for the Canucks.

Game of the Week: April 5th vs Arizona

Two months ago, the Coyotes were 12-32-9 and seemed to have last place all locked up. Since then, they’ve gone 15-8-2, making up ground as the Canucks went on a losing streak. The Coyotes are now 30th with 65 points, while the Canucks are 28th with 67. That makes Thursday’s game a big one: if the Canucks can finish lower in the standings than the Coyotes, they’ll get better odds to pick first overall and potentially guarantee a top-five or top-six pick.

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