Jan 052012
 
Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: canucks.nhl.com

41 games in the books, meaning we’re just 41 games away from the playoffs. The road back to the postseason is a slow and arduous one, but it’s vital the Vancouver Canucks machine is a finely-tuned one for when the games start to matter.

In the meantime, here’s the CHB assessment on how the Canucks stack up at the first half pole. We’d love your feedback and marks, so make sure you hit us with a comment!

Forwards

Daniel Sedin (A): He’d have to go on a goal-scoring run to get close to the career-high 41 he put up last year, but how many Canucks in history can lay claim to having back-to-back 40-goal seasons, anyway? The beat goes on for Daniel, on pace for 92 points. Perhaps the bigger injustice is that the Sedins are 17th and 21st in All-Star voting, behind the likes of Joffrey Lupul and Sidney Crosby and his 8 games played this year.

Henrik Sedin (A-): Ho hum… Another 100-point season may be in the cards for Henrik, who has once again led the offensive charge for Vancouver. His passing has once again been superb, but he’s on pace for his lowest shot count (122) since the first post-lockout year. You can’t argue with the results, but would it kill the guy to be a little more trigger happy?

Jannik Hansen (B+): He had just three points in October, but had seven in November and then exploded for 12 in December. The point progression has mostly to do with Hansen’s ability to seize an opportunity on a scoring line, but there’s no arguing the Great Dane has been physical and buried a lot more scoring chances then in years prior.

Alex Burrows (B): Burrows is on the right track again, looking to pot another 30-goal year in his pocket. There has been a steady change in Burrows’ game over the years, however; he rarely gets himself into altercations anymore, and in fact he has fewer penalty minutes (26) than both Sedins (34 and 28). His five game-winners are also a team-high.

Ryan Kesler (B): The offseason hip surgery was well-documented, and Kesler’s slow start corroborated with that. But since a five-game point streak to cap off November, putting up 14 points in 15 December games. We’ve seen glimpses of “Kesler Beast Mode”; we just want to see more of it.

Chris Higgins (B): Injury woes aside, a full year of having Higgins in tow has been a godsend. He hits, he scores, and he’s a decent skater, and at $1.9-million this year and next, the Canucks get great value. His 29 takeaways are also best on the team, which shows just how committed Higgins is to not being a defensive liability.

Mason Raymond (B): Considering the circumstances, Raymond’s earned a good grade. While he’s currently mired in a patented Raymond point slump, the speedster came back looking as though he hadn’t missed a beat, fearlessly going back into the corners to dig out loose pucks. Raymond has also shown less hesitancy to jump into the slot for a scoring chance.

David Booth (B-): The potential is there, and we saw flashes of it just before Booth went down with a sprained right knee. His three-point effort against the Flames in his 18th game as Canuck whet fans’ appetites, but when he returns to full health, fans are banking on a shorter adjustment period this time.

Cody Hodgson (B-): Hodgson averages about 12 and a half minutes of ice-time a night, which is about what you’d expect for a team that has Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler up the middle. But he’s utilized that time effectively on most occasions and he regularly plays on the second powerplay unit. With every game he gets a little more confident with the puck and isn’t that what you hope for?

Maxim Lapierre (C+): Lapierre has the team’s third-best faceoff win percentage. And while he anchors the fourth line, he plays 11 solid minutes a night, which is generally more then most fourth-line centres in the league. More notably, his 121 hits are 41 more then the next closest Canuck.

Manny Malhotra (C): There’s one statistic you care about most with Malhotra: his faceoff percentage. It’s a shade down (58.2%) from last year (61.7%), but it’s still among the NHL elite. On a team oozing with offense, Malhotra will never be counted on to score, but he’s on pace for his worst offensive output in nine years.

Andrew Ebbett (C): What’s needed to be said? Despite his limited opportunities, Ebbett has made the most of them, even scoring a couple big goals against Edmonton a couple weeks ago. He’s a depth guy who relishes any chance he gets to play for a good team, and that kind of hunger is appreciated.

Dale Weise (C): When it comes down to it, is Weise an upgrade over Tanner Glass? Virtually the same player, Weise brings the same physicality that Glass did and occasionally scores the out-of-the-blue goal. The Canucks are obviously hoping Weise can bring the same type of fire that Raffi Torres brought in last year’s playoffs.

Defense

Alex Edler (B+): On track for 58 points, Edler stemmed the summer belief that Christian Ehrhoff’s powerplay presence would be missed. Doug Lidster’s single-season record of 63 points by a defenceman would require a Herculean effort on Edler’s part, but on a team this good, he may still do it.

Kevin Bieksa (B+): For many of the Canucks, none were happier to see October in their rearview mirror than Bieksa, who had just three points and was a team-worst minus-7. Since finishing off November on a three-game point streak, Juice had 13 points and was plus-11 in December and is on track to for his first 40+ point campaign since 2009.

Dan Hamhuis (B+): Ditto for Hamhuis, who had a pretty woeful October of his own but has since picked up his play. Hamhuis has been steady defensively as usual, and has since become the face of the team’s special teams units, playing the most shorthanded minutes and the sixth-most powerplay minutes.

Sami Salo (C+): He may be the greybeard on the team, but Salo has been a rock on the blueline, still playing quality top-four minutes and still being a fixture on special teams. If Salo can somehow make it through the regular season healthy, there’s an outside chance he can reach his career-best of 37 points.

Andrew Alberts (C): Simply put, the Canucks literally need more bang for Alberts’ buck. For a bottom-pairing blueliner, Vancouver should expect a ‘take no prisoners’ approach from Alberts, who needs to provide more of a physical presence in order to stay in the lineup. He’s one of the biggest bodies on the backend, is that expecting too much?

Aaron Rome (C): A hand injury and nagging thumb injury has hampered Rome, who quite honestly has been one of the steadiest blueliners. His game is about as ugly as it gets, but his safe defensive game wins the praise of Alain Vigneault.

Keith Ballard (C-): Is it now safe to say that Ballard has been given every opportunity to shine? Ballard’s lack of success can no longer be pinned on injuries, and his hefty salary only makes his troubles harder to bear. Ballard may be third on the team in blocked shots, but that’s not enough. He needs to turn things around fast.

Goaltenders

Cory Schneider (B+): You get the sense that Schneider’s early success could pave the way for Vigneault turning to him on a more regular basis. Statistically, he’s been superior to Luongo, but the Canucks may also be doing a good job of showcasing the most coveted backup in the NHL.

Roberto Luongo (B): “Good, bad, and sometimes great” might be the best way to describe Luongo’s performance thus far. We’ve seen the best and worst of Luongo, so Canucks fans are hoping there’ll be more consistently good nights when it matters most. But the leash isn’t as long as it once was.

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  • Guest

    You give Cody Hodgson a B-, and put him behind Mason Raymond? He’s a candidate for rookie of the year, for crying out loud. 

    Your analysis of Ballard is ridiculous. He’s defensively more reliable than Edler, who almost cost us the Boston game with his giveaways and mental mistakes. Ballard, on the other hand, was physical and provided good puck movement.  

  • http://www.leftcoastbydesign.ca/ Chris (@lyteforce)

    While I wouldn’t have given Ballard as low of a grade myself, one game a player does not make.  Comparing Edler & Ballard, Edler comes out on top 9 times out of 10.  And when you look at the work provided by Raymond this season (the handful of games he’s played in) when compared to expectations after his injury, his grade also seems reasonable to me.

    That said, Hodgson has definitely shown he belongs in the big leagues and should get some serious Calder trophy consideration.

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