Canucks settling into Draft Mode.

Last week, Vancouver were 3 wins from near playoff contention but lost 4 straight, sliding to 5th last in the league.

Ending the season 4th last gives Vancouver minimal chamce to draft 1st for Austin Matthews. Meanwhile, finishing 2nd last and drafting such talent is attainable, judging from recent play.

Vancouver hasn’t experienced a forgettable season in many years. They contended for the Stanley Cup 4 straight seasons from 2008-2009 to 2011-2012, suffering upsets from Chicago twice, Los Angeles, and losing the Stanley Cup final to Boston. Vancouver was outmatched in the 1st round of 2013’s post-season and missed the playoffs in 2013-2014 during the John Tortorella experiment.

The 2013 draft involved Vancouver trading starting playoff goaltender Cory Schneider to New Jersey for the 9th overall pick, selecting Bo Horvat.

A goaltending controversy between Schneider and Luongo got ugly when managment made no trades involving either goalie, creating mixed feelings and tension.

When Schneider got traded, Eddie Lack became backup to Luongo but coach Torts gave Lack the start in the Heritage Classic, causing another trade desire, which was granted to Florida at the trade deadline involving current goaltender Jacob Markstrom.

Enjoying moderate success in 2014-2015 with Horvat and Radim Vrbata gelling with the Sedins, Vancouver predicted a strong showing next season but key players got injured, Vrbata disappeared, Alex Burrows/Ryan Miller are way overvalued, and depth players like Lindon Vey, and Alex Biega slumped.

Vancouver is perhaps the strongest of draft lottery eligible teams when healthy but currently lack direction, focus, and effort this season for playoffs. However, there’s enough effort to compete against Calgary and Edmonton at season’s end.

One problem. Season ending moral victories hurt Vancouver’s chances at landing elite talent like Austin Matthews or Patrik Laine.

Vancouver is suited for Austin Matthews. The need for a generational talent is immense since losing popularity in Eastern Canada after the Luongo trade, owner, management, and coaching screw ups, and Edmonton and Calgary drafting top young talent. Henrik and Daniel Sedin are great Canucks but Pavel Bure drew much attention to Vancouver since his arrival.

There is little salary cap space in 2016-2017, even with Vrbata off the books. Burrows and Miller aren’t a hot commodity in the trade market and Horvat, Jake Virtanen, and Jacob Markstrom will be restricted free agents soon.

Tough times loom next season but their core defense is locked up (Dan Hamhuis staying?) and prospects ripen, creating optimism for 2017-2018.

Burrows and Miller’s salary will be off the books that season. Draft high in 2016, develop goalie prospect Thatcher Demko while riding the storm in 2016-2017; the future appears optimistic for Canuck fans.