Written by: Larry “The Nucks IceMan” Johnson
I last talked about the Canucks at the 50 game mark and I had a segment entitled “Surprises”. Within that I discussed the maturing of Alex Edler and how he had risen to be the number one defenseman in the organization and the most valuable.
Next thing I know, he’s having surgery to repair a disc in the lumbar area of his back. Conservative time estimate that he will be out has been set at about two months or the remainder of the season.
More will be known in the coming days about the length of the rehab period Edler will be going through and if he will be available for the playoffs. So with that huge loss to the back-end, the off-season trades and signings that GM Mike Gillis accomplished now look like a stroke of genius.
Dan Hamhuis has already established himself, along with partner Kevin Bieksa, as the number one pairing. Now Keith Ballard, who on other teams has been a top four, will get the opportunity to move up from the fifth/sixth spot he has been in.
The other part of this equation is the expectation of the return of Sami Salo. It has been mentioned by the Vancouver media that Salo has been skating for about a month now but has not been cleared by the Canucks medical staff to play.
OK, that may be what the medical staff has told Canucks management. But I have suggested for months now that the salary cap has had more to do with Salo’s return than his medical condition. If Salo can return in a couple of weeks, like I suspect he will, the cap space will no longer be an issue as Edler will go on LTIR for a couple of months.
Most definitely the Canucks will miss Edler but if Salo can return to his play of last season, when he and Edler were the shut-down defense pair, then the Canucks should be able to ride Edler’s loss out. The other plus that Salo brings back into the line-up is a right hand shot, which means he could be paired up with a number of other D-men.
Since Bieksa is the only other right hand shot, that means Salo could be paired with Christian Ehrhoff, Keith Ballard, Andrew Alberts or Aaron Rome, the latter two when they return to the line-up. The most likely pairing would be Christian Ehrhoff but with Salo not available at this time, I would expect that Ballard or Chris Tanev would slide into Edler’s departed spot.
I can’t see the Canucks going with two rookies in the fifth and sixth spots (Lee Sweatt and Chris Tanev). For now that would mean Ehrhoff with Tanev and Ballard with Sweatt. Looking ahead a couple of weeks when Alberts and Rome return, that would then allow Ballard to play with Ehrhoff, Tanev and Sweatt would be returned to Manitoba and Salo will work his way into the line-up.
Coach Bowness, who is in charge of the defense, would not break up Ehrhoff and Ballard if they were playing well, so I would think Salo would start out with Alberts, pushing Rome to the press box. Sure is nice to know that come play-off time when the Canucks will need every D-man available, that they have a couple in Manitoba that could play on an emergency basis.
Going forward, the Canucks have an easier February schedule with only one back-to-back game and two short road trips made up of two and three games respectively. Their home schedule has two four-game stands which means they should be able to stay up in the Western Conference standings.
If the group of forwards that were in that horrendous slump can continue to slowly claw their way out, then the Canucks will be once again more than a one-line team to contend with.
Not too much has been written these day about Roberto Luongo and his outstanding run. Seems to me that not having lost since December 5, 2010 Luongo would warrant some accolades from the media. I mean, we were all quick to jump all over him when he wasn’t playing well.
The guy has been solid, chalking up 16 wins with some of those recently being of the impressive type as the Canucks started to slip in their strong play. He has won a couple of games by himself and has kept the Canucks in some games when they didn’t deserve to be.
So I say hat’s off to Lou for his outstanding run of wins. But no matter how many wins Luongo has, everyone in the ‘Nucks Nation will be waiting for the playoffs to see if his record winning play can continue. That’s fine –all the greats have had to prove themselves in the playoffs.
Maybe this is the season that Luongo shakes the monkey off his back and rises to playoff greatness.
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 (I love this tweeting because it’s like small 140 character type articles).
Filed under: Vancouver Canucks