With the Canucks perched atop the NHL standings heading into this weekend’s all-star break, with four members of their team slated to participate in the all-star festivities, with the Sedins battling it out (again) for another Art Ross Trophy and with their number one goalie rounding into vintage form, you knew that it was only a matter of time before the other shoe dropped.
And with this morning’s announcement that Alex Edler will be lost for an extended and uncertain length of time, that’s precisely what has happened.
To many, the Canucks are a Stanley Cup contender. Any naysayers have often pointed to the Canucks’ lack of a stud defenseman the likes of Chris Pronger or Duncan Keith or Nicklas Lidstrom as their most observable weakness. Of course, this season Alex Edler was looking like he was rounding into form as that guy with a break-out season at both ends of the ice.
So it seems that should he not return by the playoffs, the Canucks’ Stanley Cup hopes will take a major blow. And even if he were to return, could we expect the same type of physical play from him that we were becoming accustomed to?
For certain, this injury to Edler paves the way for a seamless Sami Salo return (from a salary cap perspective). Though this morning the Canucks we’re still indicating that his return is still far off. But what else could they say given the tap dancing they’ve been doing all along to stay on side with the salary cap implications of his injured reserve status.
Another thing that is certain is that Keith Ballard will finally get the opportunity to showcase his wares with some significantly increased ice time. The questionable logic of having a $4 million man getting $1 million minutes seeming not so puzzling after all.
Yes, in the end, it’s all about depth. A depth (a the defense position, in particular) that seems to get tested on an annual basis right about now. And usually, the Canucks have failed this test.
But this time should be different, right? When Salo gets back along with Andrew Alberts and Aaron Rome (from their short term injuries), they will join Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis, Christian Ehrhoff and Keith Ballard to give the team seven veteran NHL defenders. That is certainly no cause for panic.
There are lots of reasons why the Canucks are the number one team in the NHL right now. But perhaps, the biggest reason is their health - their top 4 defenders have been healthy pretty much all season until now and they’ve had no significant injury woes anywhere else in the line-up.
Come playoff time, if Alex Edler is the only man down, we still like their chances as much as before…