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THE MOJ: Did you think for even a moment the lottery balls would bounce the Canucks way?

History has shown Vancouver had no chance at homegrown B.C. superstar-in-waiting Connor Bedard
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Regina Pats forward Connor Bedard (98) lines up prior to WHL playoff hockey action against the Saskatoon Blades in Saskatoon, Sask., on Friday, March 31, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Heywood Yu

The misery of being a Canucks fan continues.

Even with a 3% chance of winning the 2023 NHL Draft Lottery, Canuck Nation held out hope that maybe, just maybe, the hockey club could hit the jackpot and earn the right to select Lynn Valley’s Connor Bedard with the first overall pick.

To no one’s surprise, it didn’t happen.

It is the Canucks after all.

Shortly after it was announced that Vancouver would be selecting 11th, the Canucks media relations department sent out a Tweet celebrating that fact.

It wasn’t well received.

Scrolling through the replies you could feel 53 years of pent-up frustration being vented towards an organization that had an opportunity to tank this year and instead wound up winning a bunch of meaningless games in the last couple of months of the season, and, in the process, greatly diminishing their chances of selecting a generational talent.

Can you blame Canuck Nation?

For them, it was just more pain that has spanned generations.

It started even before the Canucks played an NHL game – losing that infamous roulette wheel spin to Buffalo in 1970 that allowed the Sabres to draft future Hall-of-Famer Gilbert Perreualt first overall while Vancouver settled for Dale Tallon.

It was Nathan LaFayette hitting the post in game seven against the Rangers in the 1994 Cup Finals.

It was the Canucks blowing a two-games-to-none lead to the Boston Bruins in the 2011 Cup Finals.

It was not ever having the first-overall pick in their 53-years of existence.

The draft lottery was a reminder of all of that – especially when the grand prize was a local kid who has superstar written all over him. Oh yeah, did we mention he grew up a Canucks fan and would have loved to have played for them?

And the worst part about the whole situation is that a team that blatantly tanked got rewarded – the Chicago Blackhawks.

There are those that claim the fix was in and that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman wanted Bedard going to a ‘big market’ team but I’m not buying what those people are selling.

The National Hockey League is expected to generate approximately $5.7 billion in revenue this year. I find it difficult to believe that 31 of 32 organizations in a billion-dollar industry would let the ‘fix’ just slide by.

What does hurt the league is that the lottery process isn’t transparent.

If the league wants to maintain credibility with its fans, show the process which determines the draft lottery – not some made-for-TV production that had more errors in it than a tee ball game.

From an announcer telling the television audience that the Columbus Blue Jackets had dropped to the third pick overall heading into a commercial break despite the fact that Columbus was one of the three teams remaining, to coming back from the break with a big star next to Chicago on the TV screen beside Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly at the podium, the NHL made an event into a non-event.

Don’t even get me going on the four-second look-ins with the general manager of the team whose slot was just determined.

It needs to be fixed.

Getting back to the Canucks, the day was another reminder that the hockey club needs to make a commitment to a rebuild.

The Blackhawks organization made the commitment of building their team through the draft, securing 11 draft picks this season that now include the 1st and 20th picks in the first round as well as four picks in the second round.

The bottom line is that Chicago suffered through a horrendous season and now will be rewarded for it.

The Canucks went on a meaningless 20-12-4 run under new head coach Rick Tocchet to excuse themselves from even getting a top five pick which would have immensely helped the hockey club given the depth of this year’s draft.

Historically speaking, the 11th overall pick should net the Canucks a good player but it’s doubtful it will be a difference maker that they could have acquired with a selection in the top five. The consensus picks after Bedard are Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson, Matvei Michkov and Will Smith - all of whom project as future all-stars.

If you’re wondering what a 11th overall pick has got you the last 20 years, the ceiling is Anze Kopitar (’05) Jeff Carter (’03) and Filip Forsberg (’12) while the floor is Lauri Tukonen (’04), Duncan Siemens (’11), and Samuel Morin (’13).

Either way, Vancouver fans will view the 2023 NHL Entry Draft as another painful event in the history of the hockey club.

Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media. And check out his weekly podcast every Monday at Today in B.C. or your local Black Press Media website.

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