It’s OK, Canucks fans, you can cheer for your team to go for it

Winning is fine. Riding the wave is fine. Just enjoy it while it lasts.

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“I know they’ll probably get bounced in the first but I’m really enjoying the Canucks winning games,” a friend said to me this week.

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To which I replied: “Everyone loses in the end, except one team. So might as well enjoy the ride and cover your eyes about the inevitable.”

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Sports is supposed to be fun. It’s a distraction from everything else. It’s a release.

And for once, the Vancouver Canucks are providing this again.

Halfway through the 2023-24 campaign, the Canucks have amassed 57 points. That’s the second-best, first-half in team history, after only the 2010-11 team.

Yes, this is all driven on the back of a sky-high shooting percentage, one so high that they’re in a class of their own.

Sure, they probably aren’t going to keep scoring at quite that rate and that means the wins will decline.

But the way they’re playing matters.

They’re defending well. They keep shooters to the outside.

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At the other end of the ice, how do you argue against the dominance of the Lotto Line? Head coach Rick Tocchet is late to discovering its power, but talk about playing the game the right way.

The salary cap has been a thing for nearly two decades. It’s changed the way fans view the game. They’ve been conditioned to think about players and teams as nothing more than numbers.

Vancouver Canucks defenceman Filip Hronek, right, is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal against the New York Islanders during the first period of an NHL game Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, in Elmont, N.Y. Halfway through the 2023-24 campaign, the Canucks have amassed 57 points. That’s the second-best, first-half in team history, after only the 2010-11 team. Photo by Adam Hunger /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Is this player worth their salary? What are the odds they keep scoring like this? Is there an hole in their game that’s less visible to the naked eye that the numbers can better reveal to us?

The rise of sports betting, of course, has only made this worse.

Fans used to just say “I love the way this guy scores goals!” “Oh there’s no better hitter in the game than that guy!”

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Everything is a nuanced take now.

“This guy is great at scoring goals, but he’s on a heater and so really he’s actually overrated!”

That’s not fun.

This is not to say that fans shouldn’t have an understanding of how and why goals are scored. Fans are better off if they come to understand how the game operates.

The numbers reveal these things. And a smarter fan is a better fan.

But let’s not get caught up in the details.

For the most part, players and teams exist in the middle or next to the middle. There are so few teams or players at the extremes.

When your team finds itself at the positive end of things, enjoy it. Don’t beat yourself up for enjoying the ride.

Yes, Canucks fans, it’s OK to like where you’re at for the moment. Your team is playing very fun hockey. It’s good hockey, too. There’s no smoke and mirrors here.

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In the end, the Canucks are riding the percentages, but the fact the foundation underneath is so strong — they’re scoring so many goals from in tight, the place where goals do generally come from, while minimizing the quality of shots against and also getting great goaltending to boot — means this team is for real.

Yes, the Canucks should push their chips in. The reality of going for it means you are almost certain to fail. Look at last year: both the Leafs and the Lightning loaded up ahead of the trade deadline.

They knew they’d face each other at one point or another. It was an arms race and they knew there was a substantial chance that their efforts to improve their roster would prove pointless, that they’d lose in the end.

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Did anyone tell them that to work to make their lineup deeper was foolish?

The point is to win. And that means taking risks.

Nothing is guaranteed in life, but history is made by the first-timers.

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