So ... the Vancouver Canucks are bad. We all agree on that, right?
That feels like a question we shouldn't even have to ask about a team that lost its 20th game of the season Sunday night. The Canucks have lost more times than the Toronto Maple Leafs, or the Buffalo Sabres, or the Carolina Hurricanes. They've lost more than the Calgary Flames or the Edmonton Oilers. They've lost as many games as the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team that was losing so much that they went out and hired John Tortorella, and what kind of franchise does that?
So yes, the Canucks are bad, just as all of the hockey world's most handsome experts predicted. But someone had better tell the standings page, which has Vancouver sitting in a tie for second place in their division. That's partly because they play in the Pacific, and you and your buddies from your beer league could make the playoffs in this season's Pacific. And it's partly because the team has had the good sense to do a big chunk of its losing in overtime and the shootout, allowing them to rack up a league-leading eight loser points.
(Yes, some fans would insist that there's no such thing as a "loser point," and that the Canucks are really just earning a whole bunch of regulation ties and then merely failing to earn a bonus point for winning once the gimmicks kick in. These people are delusional, and if you encounter one you should simply ask them why the extra point column on the standings page has the word "loss" right in it and then run away while they're staring at it in confusion and trying to remember what words mean.)
To their credit, the Canucks went into Chicago and played the Blackhawks tough Sunday night; the game was 1-0 midway through the third, and the final looked lopsided only because of two Hawks goals in the final minute. Vancouver very nearly played well enough to pull off the upset, which would have given them consecutive wins over the New York Rangers and Hawks. Bad teams aren't supposed to do that, so I suppose we're lucky that the Canucks didn't make it happen and ruin our whole narrative.
Bad teams aren't supposed to make the playoffs either, and it remains to be seen whether the Canucks can pull that one off in the Pacific, which at this point is basically the Los Angeles Kings acting out the NHL's version of that "How many 5-year-olds could you take in a fight?" meme. The Canucks woke up Monday tied with the Arizona Coyotes at 30 points, and while the Coyotes have been a nice story, nobody really expects them to stick around. The San Jose Sharks are right behind them at 29 points, and you have to think that someday this iteration of the Sharks will figure out what they want to be when they grow up, but it might or might not happen this season. The Oilers and Flames are the two hottest teams in the NHL, and just typing that made my laptop slam shut on my fingers repeatedly because it assumed I was making fun of it. And then there are the Anaheim Ducks, who we'll all keep assuming are the division's second-best team even as they're handing a jersey to Auston Matthews in June.
So the Canucks are bad, but it's quite possible that they'll bad their way right into the postseason -- remember, head coach Willie Desjardins has made it to the playoffs in every full season of his NHL, AHL and WHL coaching career. Vancouver could even win a round, because the league's common-sense playoff format would pair them up against another non-Kings Pacific team in a matchup that somebody would have to win, unless a frustrated Winnipeg Jets team that had missed the playoffs with more points ran in, WWE-style, and started hitting everyone with steel chairs. Which I would support, by the way.
And that's where we are in today's NHL. You can lose nearly two-thirds of your games and still be good enough to make the playoffs, even if you're bad, which the Canucks inarguably are. And if you're Vancouver, you might as well embrace it. You might be old, but you can't really rebuild, not in the traditional "trade your best veterans for blue-chip prospects" way. Not when your best players, as brilliant as they are, are identical twin brothers who insist on playing together and carry a combined cap hit of $14 million. They could trade some of their other veteran stars, but ... well ... you know.
Or they could just say "screw it" and keep on being bad and yet somehow good, or at least good enough for the Pacific Division. Could they win a Stanley Cup that way? No, of course not. But they could win a round. And they could earn the right to face the Kings for the division title in the second round. And if they did, who knows what would happen?
We all do. They'd lose in four straight. And yet, somehow, they'd earn four points in the standings for doing it. That's not bad at all, even though it's not good, and that's just where these Canucks are at.