Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 11/5/14
20 games? Already? It’s crazy isn’t it? But it feels like it was yesterday when we were watching Alex Biega and Patrick Mullen during the preseason and thinking: “Oh, sweet Jesus. The Canucks defense has to stay healthy this season. These guys are awful”. But here we are, well into November now and the defense (save for an Alex Edler suspension) has remained in tact. The waiver wire pickup of Ryan Stanton has been a nice touch as well. He’s played in all 20 of Vancouver’s games and is averaging a nose hair under 14 minutes a night. Though, with the good fortune the defense has seen, the injury bug has still come in and nipped away at the forwards. Jordan Schroeder is on the walking wounded list in 2013. The Canucks, for once, have lost more man-games from their forward corps than their blueline. Sounds strange, right? But with injuries to Alex Burrows, Jannik Hansen, Jordan Schroeder, Dale Weise, David Booth and Jordan Schroeder again, the Canucks have already lost 54 man-games due to injury. Compare that to the zero games the blueline has lost due to injury. I’m not counting the suspension handed out to Alex Edler, the 10 games that Yannick Weber has missed as a healthy scratch or the 17 Andrew Alberts has missed for just being awful at hockey. I know 20 games isn’t a great sample size to look at injuries, but maybe that flies with the other 29 teams. Vancouver has been notorious for injuries, especially to its defense. I think it’s a miracle that it has been this long. But, it’s one of those give and take things. Defense is healthy and the forward group is desperate enough to use Alberts as a forward or even give Tom Sestito time in the top 9. Like I said, give and take. What do we know at 20 games? Life in the Pacific Division: As most people expected, life in the Pacific Division hasn’t been a walk in the park. In fact, the Canucks are 3-4-1 against the other teams in the Pacific. Not terrible, but it’s below .500 hockey against the teams they see the most in the NHL. That’s not to say the Canucks have been terrible; they’ve been surprising and dare I say fun to watch some nights. There’s push back, an aggressive fore-check and at times, an unwillingness to pack it up and go home. As a fan, it’s been a treat. But if this team is going to make the playoffs its going to need to tighten up and start to play better against their own division. Right now the Canucks sit at 5th place in the Pacific and 8th in the conference and one point ahead of the Los Angeles Kings, who could have jumped the Canucks in the standings tonight had they been able to pull out a win against the miserable Buffalo Sabres. It’s not going to be like it used to be…like when the Canucks would be getting ready to make another Northwest Division champs banner sometime in the first 20 games of the season. Santorelli has already bested his point total from last season Surprises: Mike Santorelli We know he’s from Vancouver, we’ve been beaten, clubbed, tarred and feathered with it more times than I think anyone thought we would. But, he’s done his part to stay on this team, and not just get a few games in here and there, but center the second line. The surprising play of the 27 year old (and the switch to the top line winger for Ryan Kesler) has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season. Signed on July 6th on a two-way deal that pays him $550,000, Santorelli has already bested his point total from last season (2G/2A in 34GP), and is on pace for a career best with 21G, 29A. I’m not sure if this type of production is sustainable, but for the time being it’s nice to have a reclamation project flourish. Ryan Stanton A waiver wire pick up on September 30th, had only played one NHL game prior to joining the Canucks. I won’t pretend like I had a little scouting black book or him, or that I even knew anything about him, but he has been quite the surprise this season for the Canucks. Not only has he played in all 20 of the Canucks games this season, he’s put up a few points on the back-end. Stanton has registered 1G, 6A so far this season. But a side from his point production he has been a sound in his own end, is physical and isn’t afraid to step in and drop the gloves when he needs to. A big huge breath of fresh air, unlike the last ex-Blackhawk who played defense in Vancouver and wore the number 18. Part 2 goes tomorrow, we’ll look at the players who have been surprisingly mediocre, or just plan awful. We’ll also see who can’t shake the lower-body injuries and what is to be done with the bottom 6. CLICK HERE CHECK OUT THE CANUCKS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE SECTION AT NWSB!
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