Road trippin’

The Canucks garish 2-4 road trip has highlighted some emerging issues that should frighten even the most optimistic fan.

First, the Canucks defence is simply not as good as many (myself included) think it is. Sami Salo has proven, once again for all the doubters, that he quite simply can’t stay healthy; certainly not for long enough to be a number 1 or 1A defenceman. Willie Mitchell appears, at best, to be off his game and, at worst, to have lost a step. I can’t even count the amount of times he has been beaten, badly, when defending in situations where the opposition crosses the blue line at full speed. That is certainly not the Mitchell I’ve come to know and love. Alex Edler is glaringly tentative with the puck and seems unsure of what to do when he doesn’t have it. Shane O’Brien looks average, which is no better or worse than expected. The only bright spots are the play of Kevin Bieksa, who appears to be recapturing the form displayed in 2006-2007, and Mattias Ohlund, who continues to provide a threat offensively while taking care of business in his own end.

Second, the Canucks do not have a bona fide number one line. As good as the Sedin’s can be when on top of their game, they seem woefully incapable of putting up points on a nightly basis. That is fine if you are expected to provide secondary scoring, not if you are pencilled in to carry the offensive load on a team whose second line may well be the third line. Sadly enough, the third line may well be classified as the first line on this team. I mean, 70-80 points per season is all well and good but any Canucks fan worth his salt will gladly point out to you that the Sedin’s pile up most of those points in about a third of the games.

Third, it now seems on the verge of axiomatic that this team is unable to win hockey games when Roberto Luongo does not outplay his counterpart at the other end of the ice. Take this road trip: Brent Johnson outplays Luongo, albeit facing only 10 shots, and Washington wins; Luongo outplays Osgood and Vancouver wins; Luongo is outplayed by Huet and Leclaire and Chicago and Columbus win. Further to the point, the team looks hopelessly out of their depth in games where Sanford starts, e.g., the 5-2 loss against Buffalo. Tonight’s 4-2 loss to Columbus only serves to reinforce the reliance on a stellar Luongo. When he struggled early and the Canucks fell behind, they simply couldn’t marshal the necessary resources to get a win.

Overall, this road trip has done well to convince me that if Mike Gillis can’t address this team’s glaring problems reasonably quickly this could be a tremendously frustrating season for Canucks fans.

2 Responses to “Road trippin’”

  1. 1 H October 21, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    I agree with your take on the defence. Mitchell has looked pedestrian this season, beaten way too often against the lesser lights of the NHL. Salo, what can you say, always injured. O’Brien is not ready for the bigs. Ohlund and Bieksa are our best dmen, with Edler looking decent but still a bit shaky.

    The Luongo experiment at Captain is close to being a failure. I never liked the idea, so I can’t be attacked for quitting on it so early. I can’t see how your captain has scheduled nights off. Also, his scheduled starts seem to be nights off. He has been beaten on simple shots early in the game when his team needs him to keep them in it. Luongo is great at keeping the Canucks close when they are done, but has issues at the begining of games.

    As far as the offence is concerned, it is going par for the course for what their line up is. They are not scoring goals and not cashing in on key opportunities.

    Oh well, Go Canucks Go.

  2. 2 Emmett October 24, 2008 at 9:16 am

    Fire Mike Gillis! oh… wait… nevermind.

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