SO far the Vancouver Canucks season has unfolded as I expected. The first 20 games have been a rough go as the team gets over last year’s disappointment. The Canucks specialty teams have been their life line, though I had hoped it would have carried them a little further.
The Canucks begin this week at 9-8-1, 8th place in the west, 3rd in their division. They can definitely play better, and they need to find that game sooner rather than later. They need to shape up their consistency and defensive play. Nearing the quarter-pole of the season, the Canucks are not far off from the conference and league leaders. The next 20 or so games may define the Canucks season. Either they will continue to tread water, or they can start pulling away from the pack.
Here’s the Canucks individual player report cards:
Daniel Sedin A, Henrik Sedin A- Daniel is second in league scoring, Henrik tied for 4th. The scary thing? The twins have not really dominated yet. They’ve been good, but expect better as the season progresses.
Maxim Lapierre B+ The season’s most pleasant surprise. Now regularly playing on 3rd line.
Chris Higgins B+ Cooling off as of late but enjoyed great start to the campaign.
Alex Burrows B+ Solid but not spectacular, just like his identical linemates.
Ryan Kesler B Still trying to find game after missing training camp.
Cody Hodgson: B Consistent, clever with the puck. Points are starting to come.
Jannik Hansen C Last year Hansen may have been the best 3rd line player in the entire league. He’s finally showing signs of coming around.
Aaron Volpatti, Dale Weise: C Solid 4th liners. Combined 1 goal and 2 assists, they are ultimately replaceable.
David Booth C Only one goal, plus last night’s empty netter. Doesn’t use his linemates well.
Manny Malhotra D: Malhotra was a huge part of the team’s success last year. This year he looks old and slow, struggling terribly with lack of summer training due to eye surgeries.
Dan Hamhuis: A – : The Smithers native has been most consistent Canucks dman.
Alex Edler: B+ : Near the top of scoring lead among NHL defensemen, but has defensive lapses when not paired with Sami Salo. The Canucks need to find him a partner when Salo is not available in order to keep Edler off of the ride side where he struggles. If he plays all season on left side, he could be a Norris candidate.
Sami Salo: B : Fragile veteran has shown he can still make a valuable contribution.
Keith Ballard: C: Last year’s whipping dog has played regularly this season, and looks great when jumping into the rush or throwing his patented hip check. But he’s suspect in the defensive zone and lacks the breakout passing ability (unlike, say, Christian Ehrhoff) to jump start the Canucks desired transition offense.
Andrew Alberts: C: Hasn’t been terrible, which is often the best thing you can say about Alberts. With Aaron Rome back and Alex Sulzer and Chris Tanev knocking on the door, Alberts could be the odd man out if the blue line is healthy.
Kevin Bieksa D: “Juice” has been downright brutal this year, making bad pinches and reads. Was Bieksa’s breakout season last year an aberration?
Roberto Luongo: C+. Let’s be honest – Lou hasn’t been very good so far this season. A fair portion of that is due to the Canucks poor defensive play, even though Luongo takes most of the blame. He needs to be better.
Cory Schneider: B Schneider continues his solid play from last season.
Coaching Staff: B Alain Vigneault and company continue to show no hints of a Plan B in several scenarios. That was a major problem against the Bruins in the playoffs last year.