Times are tough for the Vancouver Canucks, the team are 23-26-6 and only the Arizona Coyotes sit lower in the Pacific division. The season started well and the team went undefeated in their first four games, but then lost nine in a row and have been struggling to find that original form again. The Canucks have 29 games left to salvage their season, but are currently seven points behind Calgary, who right now hold the second wildcard space in the Western conference.
The Canucks have won just one of their last six games (they beat Colorado if you were wondering) and have been outscored 23 – 11. Four of those six games were on the road, but at home the Canucks lost to San Jose and Minnesota 4-1 and 6-3 respectively. The Sharks and Wild are, of course, good teams and possible Stanley Cup contenders, but each game counts as the end of the season draws ever closer.
Injuries have played a small part. Both Derek Dorsett and Erik Gudbranson are out indefinitely, but neither are key players in Willie Desjardins’ grand scheme and didn’t contribute massively when healthy. The important players who are healthy, namely Daniel and Henrik Sedin, aren’t performing at the same level as last season. Both forwards averaged 0.74 points per game last season, but are at 0.53 and 0.60 respectively in 2016/17. More is being expected of the 36 year old twins than I suspect they’re able to contribute. Henrik is playing a full minute more per game than last season, and Daniel is playing about 15 seconds more. Current points leader and shining-light-for-the-future Bo Horvat has seen his points per game increase, so there’s hope there.
The Canucks defense is a hot mess. Plus/minus is a weak statistic in isolation but seven of the nine blueliners who’ve dressed for Vancouver this season are in a deficit, four players are in minus double figures. The Canucks’ D is geared toward offence. Troy Stecher, Ben Hutton, Luca Sbisa and Alexander Edler have combined for 48 points. In Bettman’s goal-centric league that’s okay, but you’ve got to keep the puck out of your own net. Keeping the biscuit out of the basket is something the Canucks have gotten slightly better at in 2017. Between October and the end of December, Desjardin’s men were conceding 3 goals per game, that’s now dropped to 2.6.
In goal Ryan Miller‘s performances are probably the best the Canucks can hope to get out of the 36 year old. His numbers are holding steady but he’s not melting the ice with his performances. Jacob Markstrom‘s numbers are okay but nothing for fans to get excited about.
Vancouver are in a quandary. The team are still reliant on the power of the Sedins, but the old engine block is struggling and the team hasn’t found a replacement yet. Horvat and Sven Baertschi are playing well enough but points wise aren’t troubling the top 100 forwards in the league. The Canucks need to make decisions about what roles the forwards are going to play, unless the team can sync up, Jim Benning may as well write off this season.
Tonight the Canucks face off against the 34-13-5 Columbus Blue Jackets in the first of a five game road trip that also takes in Boston, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. While the team still has a chance of making the playoffs, this road trip is going to be make-or-break.
What do you think about Vancouver’s current situation? Comment below or join in the conversation on twitter.