Written by: Larry “The Nucks IceMan” Johnson
I decided to squeeze one more artilce in before Christmas. I promised the wife no more for a couple of days, unless of course I can sneak away somewhere. But on to this pressing need of D-men.
When you look at the Canucks 23 man active roster you’ll notice very quickly that it is made up of 13 forwards, nine defensemen and two goaltenders. Of these, a team is only allowed to dress 18 skaters and two goaltenders for an NHL game.
So if a team is going with four forward lines (12 players), three sets of D-men (6 players) and two goaltenders barring injuries, that would leave four skaters in the press box, of which three are D-men.
The D-men seem to be the excess numbers because since the obstruction rule was changed several years ago and there is no holding or hooking, the forward charging into fore-check gets a free shot at the vulnerable D-man. It sometimes looks like practice, where the coach shoots the puck into the corner and the forward goes in and pastes the D-man up against the boards.
The result of that has D-men throughout the NHL dropping like leaves in the fall.
Not many teams get through a regular and play-off season without nine D-men on the roster and the Canucks will testify to that. During the play-offs against Chicago last year, the Canucks resembled the Manitoba Moose with the number of injuries they had incurred and the call ups that resulted from it.
Lucky for them that they did not survive to play game seven against Chicago because they were down to only three regulars (Kevin Bieksa, Christian Ehrhoff, Shane O’Brien), that had started the season with them, as Andrew Alberts was added at the final trading deadline.
Gone were Willie Mitchell, Sami Salo (no surprise), Aaron Rome, Nolan Baumgartner and Alex Edler who got injured in game six.
So with that in mind GM Mike Gillis went out and not only added more D-men but physical/durable ones at that, in Keith Ballard and Dan Hamhuis.
Much has been mentioned about their physicality and or scoring ability since their arrival but no one has mentioned another important facet – durability.
Over his last five NHL seasons, Ballard has played all 82 games except one in 2006/07 when he played 69. Hamhius has played an average of 81 games over the last six seasons, so we know that they have both been durable, at least until they arrived in Vancouver. What happened to both of them at the start of the season is now history.
Just shows you how quickly the depth can change at the back-end.
As a team logging one the highest amounts of air miles in the NHL, I’m sure that durability was something that entered into the equation for these two, especially with the $4 plus million dollar contract each of them received.
Will the nine D-men be sufficent to get by this season? Better yet, what will the depth look like when Sami Salo returns sometime in the New Year?
These questions will be answered as we enter into 2011 and the march for the ultimate prize.
Until then, to catch all the news, updates and new articles as they occur, along with the Canucks farm team the Manitoba Moose, you can follow me @twitter.com/nucksiceman.com and @communities.canada.com/VANCOUVERSUN/blogs/fanattic/default.aspx
Once again, if I missed you yesterday – Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Filed under: Vancouver Canucks