Nobody knows what to make of the Vancouver Canucks right now. After 20 games, the Canucks are sitting atop the Northwest Division with 10 wins, 5 losses and 4 OTL’s. The team should be sitting comfortably, right?
They’re certainly a very streaky team, winning five straight games since the start of February, only to lose five of their last seven. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for top Stanley Cup contender with 28 games remaining. That mantle belongs to their arch nemesis, the Chicago Blackhawks who haven’t lost in regulation this season.
The team’s recent activities have certainly perplexed everyone who follows them closely, including the local media. Players like Zack Kassian, Jason Garrison and Jordan Schroeder haven’t made any recent headlines. Ryan Kesler is out again with a broken foot even though he had played hurt and after two negative x-ray results. The transactions this week have been confusing. Manny Malholtra returned from forced retirement, we think. Aaron Volpatti, a Revelstoke native, had gone to waivers and was picked up by the Washington Capitals. And the clock is ticking on GM Mike Gillis to formulate an effective roster as the Trade Deadline on April 3 approaches. The next month will certainly be interesting times.
Should the Canucks pound the alarm?
For the sake of speculation, let’s generate some reasons the Canucks should hit the panic button:
1. Lack of Depth at Centre (Still)
With Kesler gone again, the depth chart at centre may be short. Right now, Henrik Sedin, Jordan Schroeder, Maxim Lapierre and Andrew Ebbett are available at centre. Sorry, but this depth at centre won’t be good enough to have an impact on the offense. How should the Canucks acquire a seasoned-veteran centre who could not only score, but win the majority of face-offs, back-check and play some reasonable defence? Acquiring such a centreman leads to the second point…
2. Sacrificing the Lamb Luongo
It’s eight past Luongo again, after the Detroit Red Wings pounded the Canucks on February 24. But it really wasn’t his fault. The Canucks just couldn’t match the Red Wing’s ferocious counterattack. This is the same inexperienced Detroit squad that was ranked low in the standings by the hockey “experts.”
Despite the latest blowout loss, Luongo is still a valuable asset to other clubs, if Mike Gillis can get something tangible in return. That may be hard to come by with Trade Deadline approaching. Rumors are that Jarome Iginla, Daniel Alfredsson, Brendan Morrow, Daniel Briere, or Stephen Weiss may be available as trade bait. Briere maybe, but Weiss and someone else from the Florida Panthers could be a perfect fit for a Luongo trade.
3. Inspire the Uninspired
A bag-skate at practice. A call for urgency. Call out players in public who aren’t pitching in. Something. If the Canucks aren’t able to change their roster, then the coaching staff will have to kick-start Kassian, Schroeder and a few other players out of their slumps. Perhaps they should look outside for inspiration…
4. Listen to Don Cherry (Whaaaat?)
Watch the latest wisdom from the Don regarding the Canucks:
Cherry is right. The Canucks must play their own game and not worry about who hates them, and what the referees are calling or not-calling. They’ve forgotten how they’ve achieved first overall in the past two seasons and need to get back to the strategies and plays that made them successful.
So should we pound the alarm? Yes, but not just yet. It’s only been 20 games, and the Canucks have already hit their highs and lows. The season is still going good for now, just not good enough yet. But unless the team seriously falls off the rails, the Canucks will have to take some of these suggested measures if they want to be on an equal footing as Chicago or the Anaheim Ducks.
A former novice/atom player, timekeeper and fan of the game, Peter has lived and breathed hockey throughout his life, covering hockey happenings in Edmonton, Vancouver, and currently in Saskatchewan. He is now a contributing writer for the Hockey Writers.