Just because October is over, the Canucks show no signs of shaking their Stanley Cup hangover from last season. And really, who can blame them? In the bigger games of their season, the Canucks have been able to elevate their play. And when they trail to a lousy team (like last night’s tilt with Anaheim), they can still just about rally to salvage a point.
Last season, there was an urgency that permeated the team to never waver from “the process”. This urgency resulted in the franchise’s best ever regular season and a brush with the Stanley Cup.
You certainly get the sense from this year’s team that the urgency is gone, or at least, is reserved for only the most crucial situations. And with the Canucks trailing the division leading (and over achieving) Edmonton Oilers by only three points, there is no time for panic yet.
Though that’s not to say we shouldn’t be offering up some of our fine commentary.
In the “we told you so” department, we have maintained that Jannik Hansen could score like Alex Burrows if given the same chance. And while it’s early yet, young Jannik (ater struggling mightily to start the season) has scored two even strength goals and is plus three after two games replacing Burrows on the top unit. Burrows, for the record, had three even strength goals in 15 games with the Sedins this season.
And in the “we told you so, again” department, Keith Ballard still sucks. He has one lousy point in 17 games of action (the highlight reel goal marker early in the season on a brilliant play by Henrik Sedin). And he’s -11. And while the rest of the defense crew, save Sami Salo and Alex Edler, have suffered mightily, this was supposed to be Keith Ballard’s shot at redemption.
If Dale Tallon’s judgement is this bang on, David Booth looks to be in for a tortuous ride in this town, too. Though it is way too early to pass judgement. Booth is quick enough and seems to have more tolerance for the middle of the ice than the soon-to-healthy speedster Mason Raymond, but his defensive play is shockingly bad. In his last 46 games, he has compiled a -36 rating (including -7 in his brief 9 games here). That is unfathomably poor. Like we said earlier, Ryan Kesler can kiss his Selke award good bye.
And what about Bobby Lou? Who cares about Bobby Lou? Seriously, there is nothing he can do this regular season that will make anybody happy. If he plays 75 games, wins 50 games, posts 10 shutouts and stops 95% of his shots, we’ll all be wondering the same thing. What about the playoffs? So in that sense, the only story here is why he and Schneider aren’t, at the very least, splitting duties until we get there. There’s nothing to be gained for anyone by any other scenario.
In the glass is half full mode, there is the fourth line. Like Canucks’ management, we stressed the need for a fourth unit that had some consistent chemistry as opposed to the revolving door of AHL level talent we saw last season. And in the trio of Maxim Lapierre, Aaron Volpatti and Dale Weise, they’ve found just that. Make no mistake, this trio will not score much and doesn’t feature a legitimate heayweight (that is clearly not part of the Mike Gillis
Detroit Red Wing blueprint), but they’ve looked like a momentum changing line on many nights.
And there is Cody Hodgson, who is hardly the boy wonder some might have dreamed of, but has shown good smarts and play making skills. It is not clear what will happen to Hodgson’s ice time when Mason Raymond returns given the organization’s man crush love of Manny Malhotra. Based on the extended recovery time from last season’s injury, we’re prepared to cut Manny some slack on his very poor season, but the continued development of the prize prospect should be more important than getting the face-off whiz into game shape.
In the end, given the competition in their division, the Canucks’ mediocrity can likely continue into December before it’s time to start contemplating the need for significant change.