Originally posted on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 3/8/13
Early struggles in a truncated season There is a slight chance you grimaced at the title of this article, and I guess you have the right to do so, but the Canucks are in an interesting position right now. Though they sit third in the Western Conference as of now, they’re only three points up on the Minnesota Wild.  I know it’s hard and seems rather ridiculous to harp on a team that currently sits in third place in the conference, but this is different. This is a division the Canucks have owned for quite some time. The fact that they’re battling the Wild for top spot in the division is no surprise either. Last year at this time it was the Wild who sat in third place while the Canucks tried to make their way to the top of the standings. However, in a truncated season the Canucks issues seem a lot more pronounced then they did last season at this time. At the 23 game mark in a regular 82 game season there is still room for improvement, significant room, actually. But when you’re a nose hair away from the half way mark of the season and you’re having these issues it may be time to look inward and see what needs to be done in order to succeed and not just get by. Inconsistency is a pain in the ass While the standings are some what of a mirror imagine from last season, there is some underlying issues of concern for me. The Canucks have been unusually inconsistent this season and are currently 3-4-3 in their last ten games. Players are going through slumps, maybe none more pronounced than Zack Kassian, who started the season off with 6 points in his first 10 games, 5 goals and 1 assist. Kassian has registered only two more points since the tenth game of the season It appeared that the lockout had benefited Kassian greatly and the extra minutes he was getting the Canucks AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves was paying off handsomely. Well, fast forward 12 games and Kassian has registered only two more points since the tenth game of the season. In fact, Kassian hasn’t scored a goal since January 30th against the Colorado Avalanche. You could attribute this to a number of things I suppose. His drop in ice-time, moving off of a line that saw him Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin and a reduction in time on the power play. Whatever the case is, Kassian is slumping hard, and not just in the goal scoring department. For long stretches you can see him not engaging opponents or finishing checks, two things that are key to him staying in the lineup when he isn’t producing offensively. Kassian isn’t the only guilty party here. Though it would certainly appear that I’ve singled him out, the team has been plagued this season with this type of play from a number of players, Kas has stood out perhaps because I expected big things from him. Either way, there are a number of players who have been hard to watch this season for one reason or another. Alex Edler doesn’t get out of this easily either. At times you see flashes of brilliance in him when he quarterbacks a power play, makes a hit or is, dare I say it, effective in his own zone against opposing teams top lines. Unfortunately for Edler, those games have been few and far between. The Canucks power play is horrible, Edler is not to blame for that, solely, but he hasn’t been himself out there. He’s been out muscled on plays where the opposition has no business out-muscling him and made to look awful in his own zone. When do you make a move? Now, I’m also not suggesting that either of these players are moved in a trade, I’m simply saying that they’ve been the most frustrating to watch, at least from my perspective. What I’m actually suggesting, or wondering is when is the appropriate time to make a trade? How many more games do the Canucks eek out a win? How many more games does the power play struggle and they get a loser point in a game that they should have won outright? Those are dangerous things to just sort of “wait and see” on. I also understand it’s hard to win and play with a real level of consistency when your second line center is out of the lineup more often than he’s in it. But what happens when you can’t eek out wins anymore and those loser points turn to regulation loses and the only level of consistency is not winning? I’m reaching on this, I know, but you have to wonder if the team is at all prepared for this. In my opinion, the team is ready for a move now more than ever. Not a earth shaking move that changes the fabric of the entire team. It could be something simple, yet effective. It could be bringing in a legit number three center to send Max Lapierre back to the fourth line, moving Jordan Schroeder to the second line to give him another shot in that role rather than have him play with Dale Weise and what other Muppet they decide to dress that night. if you’re making a run Chris Higgins is someone you want to be a part of your team! Not trading the obvious When I suggest the Canucks make a move I don’t mean moving Roberto Luongo. I think part of the teams success this season is from the goaltending, especially from Roberto Luongo. If they’re going to continue winning games by one goal, or eking out wins as I said earlier, then having two reliable goalies will be needed. What I’m (and probably everyone who pays even a shred of attention to this team is) thinking is that a move will come in the form of a winger being moved. The Canucks have some depth on the wings and could and will likely move one of them in order to bring back a natural center. The obvious candidates, despite their relatively solid play lately are likely Mason Raymond and Chris Higgins. Now, neither of those players will bring you a solid third line center back on their own and who or what you add to that is up to you to speculate on, but it’s a starting point. Personally, I would hate to see these two go, even with the amount of **** I’ve given Raymond on here and anywhere else over the years, he’s played well, perhaps that works out to the Canucks advantage when making a trade. Higgins on the other hand has played well and his versatility could see him fetch a decent return. However, if you’re making a run, or at least attempting to, Chris Higgins is someone you want to be a part of that. Where do you go from here? In my opinion, if the Canucks are going to make a move anytime soon it’s not going to be a monumental one. It will be one to shore up a position where they are currently weak. I don’t think that solves all their problems, but it’s certainly a start. By acquiring a defensive minded center for the third line it allows you to move Maxim Lapierre back to the fourth, gives Jordan Schroeder another chance to play in an offensive role on the second line until Ryan Kesler is back; it also alleviates the “problem” of having one too many wingers playing out of their means and out of their position. From there, they can work on scoring more goals and showing that their an elite team in this league. CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE CANUCKS BLOG IN THE CLUBHOUSE TODAY!
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