The hand isn’t hovering directly over the panic button, but in Vancouver it’s always close by.
From the middle of February to the middle of March the Canucks lost 11 of 16, including a disappointing 8-3 drubbing at the hands of the Red Wings, and lackluster efforts against some of the poorer teams in the conference.
Most recently, the boys have rattled off a 4 game win streak. They’ve done this despite a rotating lineup of injured forwards, and playing the last 5 games in 7 nights. On this streak, the hand has strayed from the panic button somewhat. But even with the Canucks winning streak, it seems like there is always the potential for disaster just past the next game. Why is that?
Injuries have decimated the roster depth at all forward positions.
The Canucks injured reserve already included Ryan Kesler (foot), David Booth (ankle), and Manny Malhotra (eye). More recently, the boys have also played without Chris Higgins (back), Zack Kassian (back), Dale Weise (shoulder), Steve Pinizzotto (illness), and Alexander Edler (suspension).
For one game against the Coyotes, the Canucks were missing their entire second line of Kesler, Booth and Higgins. Coach Vigneault was able to put together a lineup of forwards that included moving Keith Ballard out of the doghouse, and onto a 4th line with Andrew Ebbett and Dale Weise. Going into the last week, I felt that 5 games in 7 nights was going to make or break this team’s hopes for the playoffs, especially as the Canucks were not playing to their potential. And my hand was hovering directly over the panic button.
The team still has two #1 goaltenders, and only one center that can score.
Manny Malhotra has been forced into retirement by the team, and with all due respect to Andrew Ebbett, Jordan Schroeder and Max Lapierre, none of them have proven themselves in the 2C spot. Ebbett and Schroeder have been up and down from the farm for most of the season, and Lapierre is the prototype 4C grinder. Once they get Kesler in the lineup, he will again have to work to get his game timing back, which will likely take at least 2 weeks of games, which will likely run right in to the playoffs.
I like having the insurance policy of two #1 goaltenders, but hockey history usually tells us that while a goalie tandem can work in the regular season, it is dangerous to run this system in the playoffs. The move that makes sense is to trade one goaltender for a center that can score, and pick up another goalie to play backup.
Canucks have goaltender supply, but demand is low.
Earlier in the season, potential trade partners for a Luongo deal included Tampa Bay or Florida, who currently sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. There’s not much hope for a deep playoff run in either city, so the demand for a goaltender is low. Other potential trade destinations included Toronto and Chicago – both of which seem to have solved their goaltending problems internally. Reimer looks to be able to get the Maple Leafs into the playoffs this season, and Corey Crawford in Chicago has been lights out.
The Canucks will get through this rash of injuries, and they’ll make the playoffs. They might even win the Northwest division. There are only 4 games left until the trade deadline. What do you think will happen? Blockbuster trade? A couple small deals to shore up the depth? Or nothing at all?