Written by: Larry “The Nucks IceMan” Johnson
With the possibility that the Canucks’ top shut-down defenseman, Willie Mitchell, will not play again this season due to recurring concussion like symptoms, it’s time for GM Mike Gillis to be aggressive at adding a similar-type defenseman and also an offensive forward.
Neither coach Alain Vigneault nor Gillis are even on the same page when asked about Mitchell, nor would they confirm whether Mitchell will be back. Why would they anyways? GMs are not likely to tip their hand about injuries and their urgent needs, as it surely ups the price.
The problem here is Gillis has stated on a number of occasions that he does not want to part with draft choices, as the Canucks organization is actually very weak (again) in quality prospects. There is no one down in Manitoba to call up that is of Mitchell’s caliber and Michael Grabner has not been playing well enough to take anyone’s spot at the forward position.
Cory Schneider has not had a banner year with the Moose but he and Grabner could be used instead of draft choices for a couple of players the Canucks desperately need.
Let’s get real here. The Canucks, as they stand, do not have enough talent nor are they big enough to go past the first round—that is if they make it into the playoffs. Once the Canucks run up against a San Jose or Chicago, they will eventually be worn down by the bigger team’s relentless pounding.
The second problem is the Nucks’ road record. Unless the Canucks were to have home-ice advantage in every round, how can they go anywhere if they cannot win on the road? In the playoffs, the road team always seems to win a least one or two games in a series that they win.
The best player of the recent road trip before the Olympics was Ryan Kesler. The Sedin line was shut down as is expected on the road and the third and fourth line do not produce goals.
Depending on if Pavol Demitra can come back and play with the passion he showed in the Olympics with Slovakia, that would once again leave the Canucks with one line that can produce on the road. That would be Kesler, Mason Raymond, and Mikael Samuelsson.
The third line, with Kyle Wellwood and Pavol Demitra, needs someone with more offensive talent than a Steve Bernier or Tanner Glass to play with. Anyone that watched Demitra’s play with Slovakia can see that he is a great setup man when he has a finisher, which Bernier, Glass, and even Jannik Hansen are not.
Even the fourth line has failed, lately, to produce that energy jolt that is needed on the road, with Ryan Johnson out in favour of Jannik Hansen. The other problem with that line is that (here we go again with the obvious) they are not tough enough.
Marek Zidlicky of the Minnesota Wild is a UFA after this season. Although the Wild has not yet given up trying to re-sign the defenseman, teams do not usually trade within their division to an opponent. The same can be said about Columbus defenseman Milan Jurcina.
So the following players should be on Mike Gillis’s top-priority list as one forward and one defenseman are needed: