One thing that’s been clear this season, is the Canucks are not a bumping and bruising team. Fifteen games into the season they’ve faced teams that have taken the body to them and they’ve been horribly out done. With the Canucks looking like an episode of The Biggest Loser coming into the season, a lot of the Canucks forwards lost weight like the new look Wellwood and Bernier, but some of the wrong Canucks also lost weight. The Canucks don’t have a lot of grit, but when your grit players are slimming down you run into some problems. Shane O’Brien and Darcy Hordichuck were two more of the returning participants on The Biggest Loser, and on a team that’s young, fast, and light, the heavy weights are not supposed to follow suit.
Hordichuk in particular was brought in to be the Canucks tough guy. Since coming to the Canucks his physicality has been in steady decline and he now looks like an environmentalist Jeff Cowan on the ice hugging it out, minus the bras and the 7 game goal streak. This year the Canucks have had to rely on Glass, and Rypien, two guys that are far from heavyweights, and they’re getting pushed around.
The Canucks most important games against the Northwest Division have been games they’ve been pushed around in this season. The Flames batter and bruise the Canucks, and the NW division is not a small division to play in. When it comes to Luongo, the Canucks get pushed around their own offensive zone and when you let the opposing team player get in behind your goaltender on a consistent basis you have a problem.
The Canucks don’t all necessarily need to get nastier, but they need to get smarter. The role players need to do exactly that, play their role. Hordichuk and O’Brien need to get tougher, and the Canucks really need Bieksa to clear the crease when the other team comes into the offensive zone. The Canucks can’t all get tougher, but they can get smarter, and they need to. It’s been clear all season with the speed of Raymond, Kesler, and Grabner, when the Canucks out skate their opponent they win games, and when they skate to the net they create opportunities.
In the two losses to the Flames this year, the resounding similarity was that the Canucks go pushed around and weren’t skating away from the Flames. They were skating straight into the Flames physical game and they were beaten at nearly every opportunity. Gillis wanted to build a youthful, fast team and as a result it’s resulted in a finesse game. The Canucks aren’t a team that’s going to win teams by physically beating their teams, but they can win games by out skating the other team. The Canucks skated their way to wins against the Blackhawks, and the Avalanche, they now need to apply that to the teams that build their team around battering their way to victory.