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It wasn’t much of a surprise when the Vancouver Canucks failed to make the NHL playoffs last April. The team—finally committed to an actual rebuild—had missed the end-of-season dance the last three years in a row and, despite the excellent play of some young forwards, were never expected to be a contender.
But as shocking as this might have been a few months ago, the Canucks might actually end 2019 as the most successful sports team in town.
And yes, that of course speaks more to the downright abysmal performances we’ve seen from the city’s other clubs that make this article look insanely naïve in hindsight.
There hasn’t been a playoff-less year from all of Vancouver’s major sports teams since 1990, when the B.C. Lions and Canucks both failed to make the postseason. Will this year see all four Vancouver-based teams (no, we’re not counting the Giants—they play in Langley because of reasons that make us shake our head in disappointment) miss the playoffs for the first time?
It’s very possible. With the Canucks and the National Lacrosse League’s Vancouver Warriors (who had a good season at the box office, but a brutal 5–13 record) already out of the running, let’s break down the other options.
Current record: 14–23 (last in the four-team North Division)
Unlike the rest of the teams on this list that just appear to be of minor-league calibre, the Canadians are actually a minor league team (specifically, short-season Single A, about as low as you can go while still being affiliated with a major league team) that serves the Toronto Blue Jays.
And while the Canadians have seen some hot prospects—like Nate Pearson and Cavan Biggio—come through Vancouver on their way up the ranks in the last couple years, the team is currently a tad low on bonafide prospects. As a result, they’ve had a pretty rough first half of the season.
But that’s also good news. The Northwest League operates in two halves, meaning that the leading team in each division after each half makes the playoffs. And the better news? The first half ends TODAY. So the Canadians get a new lease on life starting tomorrow.
It also doesn’t hurt that the C’s have been much better lately. They’re currently on a three-game winning streak and hold a 7–3 record in their last 10 contests—good for tops in the division.
Having the best park in Single A should get the Canadians some more points, but sadly the world is unfair.
Odds it happens: 5/10
If the C’s can keep up their recent winning ways, they have a good shot. Turnover in Single A is so prevalent that it’s hard to accurately assess what the team will look like in two weeks. But going off what we know so far, it’s not out of the question. Get those rally caps on!
Current record: 1–5 (last in the five-team West Division)
There’s a reason the Lions have only missed the playoffs four times since 1990. With apologies to legendary coach and general manager Wally Buono, who oversaw that legendary run, it’s relatively easy to make the playoffs in the Canadian Football League. Three teams in each division make the dance, meaning six of the league’s nine teams make it. Not too high of a bar.
There is also a crossover rule that allows a team with a better record to take the spot of a team in another division. Right now, a third of the way through the season, the Lions are technically only one win behind both Ottawa and Saskatchewan, one of which would be en route to the playoffs. That doesn’t sound so bad, right?
Of course, the problem is that they are also horrific.
Is that statement coloured by the fact that the one Lions game I’ve been to this season was a recent 33–6 shellacking at the hands of the Edmonton Eskimos in front of an empty and lifeless crowd at BC Place that probably goes down as the worst sporting event I’ve ever witnessed first-hand?
Yeah, most likely. But even looking at the cold hard stats, it’s tough to find positives in a season that many thought would be a return to glory for the Lions.
After all, they brought on a new coach and plucked star quarterback Mike Reilly from the Eskimos, signing him to one of the richest deals in CFL history. They also added pieces like star wide receiver Duron Carter and defensive back Aaron Grymes, among many others.
It hasn’t worked out yet this season. Reilly has been a shell of his former self. Consider that, last season, the QB threw for 5,562 yards, 30 touchdowns and 18 interceptions while rushing for 595 yards and another 13 TDs.
It doesn’t take a mathematician (thank god) to calculate that, with 1,602 yards and six touchdowns through the air and 103 yards and two TDs on the ground a third of the way through the season, Reilly isn’t close to matching last year’s production. Only the interceptions (he’s thrown six thus far) are on the same pace.
Of course, there’s still a lot of time to turn it around. But the Leos have only really been close in one of their losses (a 36–32 result against Calgary) and their only win came by a one-point margin (the result of a “rouge” which you get for kicking the ball into the end zone and tackling the opposing player before he gets out) against the lowly Toronto Argonauts, the only team without a win in the league.
Odds it happens: 3/10
It’s definitely possible. But if you were there that night against the Eskimos (and judging by the crowd, you weren’t), it’s very hard to have faith. Hopefully, Reilly finds last year’s form. After all, today marks the beginning of Leo season (where my astrology heads at??).
But the Lions are last in the division despite having played more games than anyone else. That’s not a good look.
Current record: 4–8–11 (last in the 12-team Western Conference)
Where to start?
Like the Lions, the Whitecaps had something of a complete teardown in the offseason. A new coach, Marc Dos Santos, came aboard, as did a host of new players. Many of the familiar faces from last season—most notably forwards Alphonso Davies and Kei Kamara and former captain Kendall Waston—got out of dodge.
And the promise of a new era began.
Of course, the team’s new boss, Dos Santos, preached patience as the club headed toward a full-on rebuild. But things were supposed to be better than this.
Flush with a whack of money from Davies’s transfer, the Whitecaps have mostly squandered the opportunity given to them (other than the solid acquisition of Ali Adnan). Dos Santos seems resigned to the fact that the team is effectively done for the year, even saying that he’s already spying the January 2020 transfer window.
The on-field product has been tough to watch, which is probably putting it mildly. While Dos Santos’s defensive system seemed to be working earlier this year (even as it was putting fans to sleep in the stands), lately the club has been getting pushed around.
The ’Caps have lost five straight Major League Soccer contests, scoring only twice in those games. Seriously.
And while the Canadian Championship is still up for grabs, the Whitecaps could only tie Cavalry FC, a Calgary-based team in the Canadian Premier League (don’t worry, no else one has heard of it either).
The Whitecaps’ second Canadian Championship game against Cavalry goes down on Wednesday night, but it’s hard to have much faith in this squad.
Odds it happens: 1/10
The atmosphere around this team right now is completely toxic and the fanbase is right on the edge of a revolt. The team is averaging its worst attendance since 2012 and even part-owner Steve Nash isn’t safe from the backlash (just read the replies below).
The Canadians probably represent the best chance we have of seeing a Vancouver sports team in the playoffs this year. If not, it’s yet another notch in the city’s dance with sporting failure.
Say what you will about Vancouver, but it’s hard to beat us in that category.