Start to the Season
So with the season off and running I thought I would weigh in with my opinion on the Vancouver Canucks. The team has played 15 games so far this season, only Pittsburgh and Ottawa (in the Eastern Conference) have matched the Canucks in number of games played so far. Considering how long a playoff run the Canucks had you would not expect their schedule to be front end loaded. Boston meanwhile has only played 12 games to date. I have to admit that I wasn’t really even ready for the season to start back on October 6th. It appeared the Canucks weren’t either and after a win today over Chicago they have crawled back to .500 with a record of 7-7-1. They have had a few great games, most recently against Chicago and Calgary and a few games where they seemed disorganized and disinterested like against Minnesota a few days ago.
Hard to believe it, but on paper the Canucks look even better than they did last season. Additions like David Booth and Dale Weise added some size and a bit of grit. With Volpatti, Weise and Lapierre the Canucks arguably have a fourth line that could easily play as a third line on most teams. Kesler seems a little lost early in the season adjusting to his new line mates, Booth and Higgins, but will be in fine shape as the year goes. Chris Higgins is the player I think has improved the most since last season and getting second line duty seems to be working for him. The twins have started a little slowly but have come on as of late and like Kesler they should be fine as the season goes along.
Grade thru 15: B+
Gone from the core group of a year ago is Christian Ehrhroff and I thought we would miss his offense on the power play, although his defensive play left a bit to be desired. The Canucks d-men have been good on offense and the power play is getting better and better as the team plays more games. Defensively the Canucks have not had a great start and have hung the goalies out to dry on a number of goals and a few games this season. They didn’t even show up for a 5-1 loss to Minnesota, a game Cory Schneider stood on his head for or it could have been a 10 or 11 to one loss. Their biggest challenge as a group is to play more consistently than they have in the first 15 games. The often injured Salo (currently injured), Sulzer, Alberts, Rome and possibly Tanev look to rotate in with the core group of Bieksa (struggling this year), Edler (looking pretty strong especially on the power play), Hamhuis (probably the most consistent so far) and Ballard (who has looked good at times early on).
Grade thru 15: B
I started writing this as the game against Chicago (November 6, 2011) was on and when Luongo let in a 50 footer from the far side of the ice I was thinking of changing this to “another” Luongo rant. However after the Canucks came back and won the game 6-2 I decided to stay with my original topic. So let’s start with Schneider. In my opinion he has looked pretty good to start the season and his record is more likely a result of which Canuck team shows up to play in front of him during his starts. He is expected to get 22-27 starts this year to help lessen the work load on Luongo and I have good confidence in him. Luongo on the other hand has not been as consistent. He has had some good games and great saves, but as has become all too typical he is off to a slow start. The one bad goal per game and flopping around on his stomach too often has got to stop. He is also one of the worst puck handling goalies in the NHL and should just let some pucks continue on behind the net on an opponents dump in. However, I do have faith that his play will improve in the next 15 games.
Grade thru 15: C
I’ve always heard that the NHL schedule was brutal, but never really paid to close attention to it beyond the Canucks. This year Tara decided to get me the NHL Centre Ice package and I am amazed in a 30 team league how on some days we can have 8 games starting at 4pm, 3 or 4 starting between 5pm and 6pm and 1 or 2 starting at 7pm then on another night there is ONE game on the entire evening and it’s a 4pm PST start. The schedule is brutal, come on NHL let’s get that fixed!