Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Another Day Another Defenseman Down

Andrew Alberts is the latest victim of the annual springtime injury train. Alberts is out with a broken wrist, no word yet on how long he will be out - the general diagnosis for a broken wrist is at least 6-8 weeks. Alberts joins Hamhuis, Ballard, Edler and Sweatt on the injured list. That leaves the Canucks with Ehrhoff, Bieksa, Salo and Rome as the only veteran defensemen. Yann Sauve has received the call, joining fellow rookie Chris Tanev.

The Canucks have weathered the storm so far, but the loss of so many defensemen is starting to take its toll. With Sami Salo no where near the top of his game the Canucks struggled to move the puck in St. Louis. So far Kevin Bieksa has handled the extra duties well, but Christian Ehrhoff is struggling a bit since losing his defense partner. The trickle down effect also has Aaron Rome playing way too much and Chris Tanev playing with less talented partners.

This adversity is a good test for a team that has a comfortable lead atop the Western Conference standings. This team is damn good and even on their off nights they're still tough to beat. Take away Luongo's gaffe and St. Louis could easily have lost a game in which the Canucks were not very good.

Catching Up on a Few Things...

  • There has been much talk of late about the Canucks team toughness, or lack thereof. Last week the Canucks were pushed around by Chris Neal and the Senators while the Ducks also took it to them physically. The Canucks won't admit their concern, but after the Anahaim game they immediately dispatched Volpatti to the farm after he failed to bring any kind of physical presence to the 4th line. Obviously they recognized a change needed to be made. Oreskovich brings some much needed size to the 4th line, but more importantly he has the speed to actually get in on the forecheck and hit people.
  • You have to wonder if Jeff Tambellini is going to stick around for the rest of the season. He hasn't scored in 2011 and has seen his ice-time plummet when he does find his way into the lineup. The Canucks have started to use him on the PK a little, but even then if he isn't scoring or generating chances he isn't contributing much. With the need for more grit in the bottom six Tambellini's days could be numbered.
  • The Canucks philosophy on grit and toughness seems to be the attitude of "we'll make them pay on the power play". Well that works in December, but when the games and officials tighten up in the last third of the season and into the playoffs, it doesn't work quite as well.
  • Cody Hogdson was dispatched to Manitoba for "more playing time", but it's pretty obvious he was sent down for cap reasons. The Canucks are better with a natural centre on the 4th line and Hodgson had played reasonably well. Unfortunately for him, his $1.6m cap hit became a problem once the injuries on defense hit.
  • Former Canuck Michael Grabner was named the NHL first star after an 8 goal week. One of the reasons I write this blog is that it's fun to look back on what I thought about a particular move.