This was my starting tweet earlier this morning: “We can officially feel sorry for the Canucks. Four of the starting six D-men are out with injuries. Everyone pray to the Hockey Gods and burn sticks as a sacrifice.”
With Alex Edler, Keith Ballard, Dan Hamhuis, Lee Sweatt and now Andrew Alberts – who broke his wrist last night and has been placed on LTIR – out indefinitely, that places Canucks management between a rock and a hard place.
They cannot call up the two experienced D-men from Manitoba, Ryan Parent and Nolan Baumgartner, for fear of losing them on waivers. Instead, rookie Yann Sauve has been called up to play the number six spot, which already includes another rookie Chris Tanev on defense.
That means the starting four on the Canucks defense are now: Kevin Bieksa, Christian Ehrhoff, Sami Salo and Aaron Rome. This is surely a concern for GM Mike Gillis, as Rome, who is number seven on the depth chart, is now being asked to play top four minutes.
Speaking of minutes, just how do you work Tanev and Sauve into the line-up? You surely can’t play them together, which means Tanev will have to play with Rome, and Sauve most likely with Salo. I think we should collectively start praying for Salo’s good health. That leaves Bieksa and Ehrhoff as the number one pair, with bulls-eyes on their backs – ouch!
These types of pairings can only last for a short period. Since the starting four D are out indefinitely, and with Ballard possibly not returning for another three weeks, that forces Gillis to trade for an experienced D-man who can play the fifth or sixth spot. That would then place Sauve where he should be, which is number seven currently, but really 11th on the depth chart.
Since the rest of the NHL GM’s are aware of Vancouver’s need, the price for a number six or seven D-man goes up. These days I would expect that to be a later round draft choice. But that could change to a mid-round draft choice if any other Canucks D-men get injured. So I would think that Gillis should not wait until the trade deadline, but instead pull the trigger now.
There is no use speculating on who that player might be but I would look for someone who is over-priced in their depth position, does not fit in with his team’s future or is in the last year of his contract.
The other problem that may tie Gillis’ hands is the salary cap. He will only have cap space to replace another player with Alberts’ current salary, or should I say, what is left of it for the remainder of the season.All of these injuries now place further pressure on the goaltending, mainly Roberto Luongo and to a lesser degree on Cory Schneider. As witnessed lately with the diminished defense, the opposition has started to create Grade A scoring chances, which often end up in the back of the net.
NHL scorers of today are just too talented to miss when given time and space. Luongo will now undergo his sternest test of the season and will have to play like he did during his unbeaten streak, which ran from December 5, 2010 to February 14, 2011.
Looking at this optimistically, the upcoming schedule is going to be a blessing in disguise for riding out this period of adversity. Starting with tonight’s game in Minnesota, the Canucks have eight games in 17 days. After this short three game road trip which ends in Nashville on the 17th, the Canucks start a six game home stand.
None of the first four games on that home stand will be easy (none are these days) as the Stars, Canadiens, Blues and Bruins present a physical challenge.
Looking at the next eight games, I see that series as a key point in the season. If the Canucks can get through them with a .500 record or better, then I believe that will be a positive sign for the run to the finish in this marathon of a season.
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 http://twitter.com/nucksiceman.com (I love this tweeting because it’s like small 140 character articles).
Filed under: Vancouver Canucks