When the final buzzer sounded in the Vancouver Canucks’ final game against the Chicago Blackhawks on May 11th last year, they were down to a defense corps that includes Kevin Bieksa, Christian Ehrhoff, Sami Salo, Andrew Alberts and Shane O’Brien.
Barring any last-minute changes, the Canucks will start tonight’s game against the Calgary Flames with a defense that includes the same top-four of Bieksa, Ehrhoff, Salo and Alberts. Plus, instead of SOB, they’ll have Aaron Rome in the lineup. And rookie Chris Tanev.
For all the excellent planning and work GM Mike Gillis did over the summer to address the Canucks’ (lack of) depth on defense, they’re back to where they were at the end of last season.
This isn’t to blame Gillis, of course. I mean, how do you plan for long-term injuries to three of your top-four defensemen? If anything, he deserves credit for the fact that it took this many injuries to get the defense to this point.
The Canucks have been able to withstand injuries so far this season, but this will be their biggest challenge. Dan Hamhuis has a concussion and is out indefinitely. Keith Ballard won’t be back until after the trade deadline. Alex Edler won’t be back until April or May at the earliest. Guys have been able to step up and fill in for short stretches; we’re about to see if they can hold the fort for a longer term.
Now, someone make sure to keep Salo away from the crackers.