Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Canucks October Report Card

Well, it was an interesting first month of the season. After a near perfect pre-season expectations were high heading into the regular season, but as people tend to forget, pre-season don't mean jack.

After a brutal first week the Canucks managed to put things together during the middle of the month just as a bizarre number of injuries began to set in. Not many thought the Canucks would merely be a .500 hockey team coming out of October. The poor start was a direct result of some inadequate goaltending, poor penalty killing and a lack of goal scoring away from GM Place. Sure you can blame injuries, but they really weren't a significant factor (every team has to deal with injuries) until the pathetic lineups that were iced down in California. Anyway, let's take a look at the individual players and how they performed in October...

The Forwards

Henrik Sedin: A-
Despite playing all but 4 games without his brother, Henrik still managed to produce at a point a game level and leads the team in goals with 6. He has also done a good job at shooting the puck more, increasing his shot per game average from 1.7 last year to about 2.3 this year. He has also done the job in the faceoff circle, winning 53.6% of his draws. The only blemish on Henrik's record are the dumb hooking/holding penalties he continues to take.
Mikael Samuelsson: A-
With 12 points in 14 games, including 3 power play and 2 game winning goals, Samuelsson has delivered. It's hard to imagine where the team would be without his production. It will be interesting to see if he can increase his production when Daniel Sedin returns.
Ryan Kesler: B+
After a slow start Ryan Kesler picked it up after the first week. His numbers are solid, but his biggest contribution to the team has been his ability to anchor the second line at a time where the Canucks desperately needed it. While Henrik's line has produced, on a shift by shift basis it has been Kesler's line who has consistently generated offensive pressure.
Mason Raymond: B+
While Raymond's point totals aren't great his play has been. Along with Kesler he has given the team a strong second line at a critical time and he has done a solid job on the PK. Needs to up his point totals, especially in the assist department.
Michael Grabner: B+
After failing to make the team out of camp, and being ripped (undeservedly IMO) by the coaching staff, Grabner got his chance after Daniel Sedin went down and he delivered. Grabner's contribution of 5 points in 9 games along with a bunch of shots and chances was just what they needed. Unfortunately it looks like he won't be back for a while.
Daniel Sedin: B
Four points in 4 games, I'll give him a B.
Steve Bernier: B-
Bernier has managed to put the puck in the net a few times and is on pace for about 40 points which puts him ahead of last season. He looks quicker this season and hopefully he continues to gain confidence and gets himself into the 20 goal range. If the injuries continue they're going to need at least that many out of him.
Alexander Burrows: C+
It's been a slow start for Burrows. Don't expect Burrows to hit 30 goals, but he needs to produce more than 3 goals a month especially with the injuries to other offensive forwards.
Rick Rypien: C+
Offensively Rypien needs to produce a little more, but he brings some much needed grit and physical play to the 4th line without sacrificing speed. May just be the best pound for pound fighter in the league. Needs to improve in the faceoff circle if he wants to increase his value by playing in the middle.
Alex Bolduc: C+
Hasn't produced any points, but before his injury was starting to look more comfortable. He's got good wheels and could find an NHL career as a checking centre. Didn't hurt the team when he was called up, exactly what you want out of your injury callups.
Ryan Johnson: C
Offense isn't expected out of Ryan Johnson, but you need something out of the 4th line every now and then. With his hand healthy his faceoff numbers are great, but as the leading PK'er up front he has to share some of the responsibility for the poor PK numbers. Not a bad month for Johnson, but not quite up to expectations.
Darcy Hordichuk: C
Hordichuk plays his enforcer role well enough, but the Canucks need more impact out of the 4th line. It doesn't have to be much... one good shift a game... have an impact on one game a week... that's all you need out of your 4th line. One or two games a month isn't enough.
Tanner Glass: C-
Coming out of camp I was excited to see what Glass could bring to the lineup. He looked very good in the pre-season, but has been a complete non-factor in the regular season.
Kyle Wellwood: C-
One point ain't good enough. The only thing keeping Wellwood out of the D or F range is that he has done a solid job defensively, at least in terms of +/-. Unless Wellwood finds a way to produce, the Canucks will need to upgrade the 3rd line centre spot.
Sergei Shirokov: D
This year's version of Steve Kariya was Sergei Shirokov. Great pre-season, terrible against the big boys. Shirokov hasn't done anything at the NHL level, no points in 6 games, and a -4. His biggest problem so far at the NHL level is that he doesn't have the speed to do the things he is used to doing. Can he find a way to produce against NHL calibre players? I think we'll be waiting until next year to find out.
Guilaume Desbiens & Mario Bliznak

The Defense

Christian Ehrhoff: B+
Ehrhoff has come as advertised, good skater and puck mover who sometimes struggles defensively. His offensive contribution has been great. Defensively he hasn't been bad, but he does tend to get beat in one on one battles.
Willie Mitchell: B+
Mitchell can be frustrating to watch at times (due to his lack of puck skills), but he does his job. And surprisingly this year he is actually producing some points, 2 goals and 4 assists have been a pleasant surprise.
Kevin Bieksa: C+
Solid contribution offensively, but two minor penalties every three games is too much. Needs to find a way to stay out of the penalty box.
Alexander Edler: C+
Edler teases you with his talent. Often it looks like he is poised to be a number one defenseman in the NHL, however too often you wonder if he will ever achieve enough consistency to be more than a second pairing guy. He struggled during the second full week of the season (where he was -5 in 3 games) and his numbers haven't really recovered.
Sami Salo: C+
Surprise, surprise, Sami Salo out again. Still the Canucks' best defenseman, the Canucks can only hope that he's healthy at the right times.
Aaron Rome: C+
As the 7th defenseman Rome has done a solid job filling in on the blueline and up front. He's also done a nice job staying out of the box which is a pretty good indication that he isn't getting caught out of position in the defensive zone.
Shane O'Brien: C
Sometimes it looks like O'Brien has the tools to maybe be a number 4 guy someday, but unfortunately he doesn't put it together on a consistent basis. Hasn't been bad this season, but he can be better.
Mathieu Schneider: C-
Perhaps too early to give him a grade, but a -5 in 4 games is too ugly to ignore. Sure most of that was in one game against Anaheim, but hey, they all count. Will be interesting too see where he's at in a couple weeks.

The Goaltenders

Andrew Raycroft: A
Other than a blip in Anaheim, Raycroft has been as near perfect as a goalie can be. He's done the job and then some. I don't like his size, but if he can keep stopping the puck and controlling his rebounds I won't complain.
Roberto Luongo: C-
Perhaps a little harsh, but Luongo was brutal to start the season and was directly responsible for losing some pretty important points in the standings. Got it together in the second half of the month, but the first was brutal.
Cory Schneider: Incomplete
Yikes. I didn't watch the 3rd period of the Anaheim game, but is Cory Schneider ever going to stop the puck at the NHL level? At this point I don't care what his AHL numbers are, if I'm an NHL GM I'm not giving up anything for him until I see him stop the puck in the NHL.

* All grades are relative to expections: IE: A "B" for Ryan Kesler isn't the same as a "B" for Alex Bolduc. Kesler is expected to get 60pts, so the 60 pt range puts him in the B to B+ range, whereas Bolduc is expected to play well defensively and not hurt the team, offense is a bonus.

So there you have it, finally some content. Look for things to pick up in November as I finally have some time to dedicate...