Written by: Larry “The Nucks IceMan” Johnson
That’s usually what will happen when a team with such high expectations is winless in four games and in eighth place in the Western Conference, even if it is early in the season. This Vancouver Canucks team has not played up to its capabilities; anyone that follows this team will tell you that.
With the red hot Colorado Avalanche (7-3-0) coming into town for a Wednesday divisional matchup, the Canucks do not want to be winless in five after this game. You know something will have to change.
So the usual thing that takes place is some line juggling by the Master Juggler, Coach Alain Vigneault, trying to shake some of these players out of their scoring slumps and find some chemistry. In Vancouver two games is a scoring slump and you don’t often see the Sedins in one of those.
There are a number of players who management thought would be further ahead than they are after 20 games - Mason Raymond, Mikael Samuelsson and yes, even Jannik Hansen who had an NHL career high with nine goals. But a whole lot of Canucks had career years last season and maybe that’s the problem, and where the huge media and fan expectations come from.
Previously Samuelsson’s best season for goals was his first one with 23, when he joined the Detroit Red Wings in 2005-06. Since that time his goal production has been 14, 11 and 19 and he basically was a third line player. The 30 that he had last season with the Canucks looks liked it may have been the pinnacle.
Alex Burrows is coming off shoulder surgery, missed the first 10 games, has bounced between the Sedin and Kesler line and it would be unrealistic to think that he can attain 35 goals again this season.
Mason Raymond also had a career year last season with 25 but management felt he could add to that when they signed him to a new two year contract. He currently has four goals, has not looked dangerous on the ice, and seems to have fallen back into his modus operandi of two years ago.
If you have been following my daily tweets on @twitter.com/nucksiceman.com you will know the goods on Jeff Tambellini, who was assigned to the Manitoba Moose several weeks ago. Along with Cody Hodgson, Tambellini has been the other hot Moose racking up 5G, 2A in seven games and today has been recalled to Vancouver.
He will play on the Ryan Kesler line with Mason Raymond, and Samuelsson will slide down to the third to join Manny Malhotra and Raffi Torres. The move for Samuelsson seems like a natural fit and he will help that line which is also in a bit of slump right now.
Tambellini, when sent down to Manitoba, was instrumental in shaking Joel Perrault out of his slump, so you know that he will bring energy to the Kesler line, finish his checks and has maybe better offensive skills than Samuelsson. He may not be as big as Sammy but he definitely gets to his checks and can cause turnovers in the offensive zone.
Alex Burrows returns to the Sedin line where he has played well although has had trouble finishing, but you know one game soon he will break out. Jannik Hansen, who I wrote about in my last article, has got caught in the shuffle also and will play with Joel Perrault and Tanner Glass on the fourth line.
Hansen has been a pleasant surprise this season with his Hit parade (46) but his 1G, 3A just are not third line numbers. Even with that, he will add more energy to the fourth line and help create some scoring chances, which is what management has been after all along.
Hansen is very defensively responsible, which is another bonus. Maybe Coach Vigneault will be able to get back to giving that line its usual eight minutes of ice time.
The offense isn’t the only area that has not lived up to expectations; take a look at the defense. Who would have thought that they would miss Sami Salo, the other part of last season’s shutdown pair with Alex Edler, so much?
After Willie Mitchell went down last January Salo stepped up and did a remarkable job. This season the Canucks have tried more combinations than a rubrics cube but to no avail.
Keith Ballard has been the unfortunate recipient of injuries (concussion) and most recently the flu, but will draw back into the line-up and most likely Aaron Rome will sit out.
If I was a hockey betting man, I would say that the odds the Canucks will show up tomorrow is money in the bank. They will prove to themselves and their fans, that all that was needed was a bit of line juggling for success. Because you have to believe that the talent is there.
As always, so can find me email@example.com/nucksiceman.com, @slapshot.com and @communities.canada.com/VANCOUVERSUN/blogs/fanattic/default.aspx
Filed under: Opinion