Slip Sliding Back Into Mediocrity

4:09 ET PM Update: The Schneids is on his way back to Manitoba. He played great on some nights, average on others. But the team in front of Schneider wasn't that great on some nights either. He's definitely a keeper though and will only get better so the future is bright for Cory. Good luck on the Moose kid, give our love to Mike Keane.

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Now with the holidays over and that pesky New Years activity finished, I can go back to focusing solely on the Canucks drive for playoff relevance.

That is, assuming, they can actually make it.

Because, in case you're like me, you can't help but notice our team is slip sliding back into that cozy blanket of mediocrity.

The new year quickly ushered in three games: Nashville, Atlanta and Dallas. The heavyweights of the league (Sharks, Wings, Bruins and - sure why not? - the Hawks) would have stomped a mudhole in all three of these guys. Vancouver? Not so much.

They barely escaped Nashville with two points, fueled greatly by the Labarbera's play and the lucky bounces for the Ohlund and Jaffray goals. But that's almost a typical Vancouver win, no complaining there.

In Atlanta the team couldn't hold a second period lead and were left to fend for themselves in the shootout (which they never win because Vancouver 'snipers' fear that long skate from center ice to net I think). But, hey, they got a point. Fine enough to skirt on back to Vancouver in time for fan appreciation night.

Last night felt like the same Atlanta script; this time they couldn't hold down a 2-0 first period lead and, after Ribeiro tied it midway through the second, the Canucks didn't feel like scoring again which lead to another shootout. And another shootout loss. As Vigneault said giving Dallas a 5-on-3 in the second was the low point of the night (actually Sundin giving his never-worn-in-a-real-NHL-game Vancouver jersey to a fan is right up there, but I digress).

The good news is that the four points they did get kept them in pace with Calgary who are still up by three points. Labarbera, playing three games in four nights, doesn't look out of place at all and well worth the late round pick. And, if you choose to believe this theory, the travel schedule last week was asinine so they have that behind them.

However, the Canucks are 1-5 in shootouts now. Guys like the Sedins can go gang busters (like they did in Atlanta) or contribute nothing. Secondary support has been spotty: in the past ten games, Demitra has four points, Kes has three, Bernier has seven (wow!), Raymond has four, Wellwood has three and Hansen has three.

I'm as curious (and skeptical) as I ever was to see what Sundin will offer to this group; he's expected to suit up this week and I'd guess a low-impact tilt at St. Louis on Friday (over a typical last man standing contest with Edmonton on Wednesday) sounds like a good option.

More so then Sundin though is Luongo. The guys need him back badly, just to give them that much needed boost of confidence in net.

All in all it could be far worse. 4-4-2 in the last ten could have been 1-9-0 if not for some timely goals and key saves but whichever of the now three Luongo substitutes have been in net. Imagine what they'll be able to do when they get their #1 goalie and #1 free agent much less another trade before the deadline.

Could be worse, could be better. But for now, they're mediocre and that may be OK to keep things afloat.

Then again, isn't it always dark before it goes completely black?

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