You’d think by the time we were six games into the season the Canucks would be “in the conversation” right? Well they are, just not for the reasons we expected them to be. A team that’s been touted to win the West, and even win the Stanley Cup this season, these 40th anniversary Canucks look great on paper, but haven’t been able to transfer that to their product on the ice.
Against the Los Angeles Kings in their home opener they looked good and fell short – understandable. In their third period meltdown against the Anaheim Ducks, you can find a scapegoat. In a dismal road showing against the Kings, they deserved to lose. And against the road-weary Carolina Hurricanes, they managed to put the screws to them and win big at home. So far the results have matched the Canucks play. They haven’t won any games they shouldn’t have – not yet at least.
So what can you make of ice a squad with decent jump that played a sound game that comes up on the short side of a 6-2 divisional loss to the Minnesota Wild?
When the Sedins are producing at 1.50 points per game and have scored in every game this season but the team stands at 2-3-1 on the season, something else has to be the problem. The Canucks bounced back after two dismal showings against Carolina. They did what they had to and took advantage of the situation. Against a Wild team with similar disadvantages, the Canucks faltered and were trampled. The PK that was systematic in it’s first five games struggled without the likes of Ballard (concussion) and Hamhuis (foot). A depleted blue line that sees defensive pairings of Rome-Alberts and Bieksa-Parent certainly doesn’t help add confidence in your back end. So who has to step it up?
The Canucks top players are continuing to score, and by top players I mean the Sedins. The rest of the team has to get on board. When the defense is struggling and riddled with injury the way the Canucks’ blue line is, it’s the offense that has to step up and win games. That means Samuelsson, Raymond, and Kesler all have to do a better job. Kesler, the team’s emotional leader has been non-existent when he’s been needed the most. Jannik Hansen, who’s been given significant top-six ice-time, has to start producing. The expectation from him on the third and fourth line was that of a role player, but given the opportunity he’s had of late, he’s now under pressure to start scoring as well. Role players can only do so much. That said, the Canucks role players are doing what they’ve been called upon to do. Desbiens, Glass and Schaefer have a combined penalty total of two minutes in the first six games. They’re playing sound, penalty-free hockey. Malhotra’s proven consistent on both the PK and in the faceoff dot whether the Canucks win big or lose big and it’s now time to start expecting the guys that are paid big dollars to step up.
When the Canucks have all their pieces together, they are a difficult team to beat. That’s why on paper they are amongst the leagues best. The injury variable is something that disrupts even the best laid plans and while the Canucks rehab the likes of Salo, Hamhuis, Ballard, Burrows and Bolduc, the rest of the team has to step up and fill the gaps. With a depleted defensive core, I’m not sure it’s fair to ask guys like Rome and Parent to do more than they are already doing. Our remaining defensive studs have found their way onto the scoresheet and are doing their part to compensate for their missing counter parts.
The onus lies in the Canucks’ offensive core players to step up and start winning games. The onus lies in the A’s that rest on the chests of Kesler and Bieksa who need to now show why they are this team’s leaders. The onus lies in the Canucks’ best players because they are paid to be our best players.