A week to forget. The Canucks are playing some of the most uneven hockey we've seen in years. I can almost see the future headlines claiming the dominant win over the LA Kings on March 2 as this season's "emotional peak". Since that game, the Canucks have blown a lead against Calgary and put up a strong effort against San Jose, but then lost to one of the worst teams in the league in Columbus and relinquished the Northwest Division crown to Minnesota in perhaps their worst effort of the season.
At the halfway mark of the season, there have been more average-to-poor efforts than strong ones, and if this continues any longer there has to be some response from Mike Gillis. Don't get me wrong, there is still a lot of time left in the schedule, but the Canucks are teetering dangerously to having this season devolve into nothing more than a series of sideshows.
Manny Malhotra was shut down. Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo are still here, and neither of them are playing particularly well. Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa are hurt. The power-play is downright awful and there are questions about the coaching. Something positive has to happen on the ice soon or all these sideshows are going to become the main attraction.
The Canucks are a top-five possession team in the NHL this season (from HockeyAnalysis), but they aren't getting the results they want from all that time with the puck. The benefit of possession statistics like Corsi and Fenwick is that they prove to be much more indicative of a team's future performance than their position in the standings. Hopefully that is the case and the tide begins to turn in Vancouver's favour.
SPECIAL TEAMS ARE ALL PLAY, NO POWER
If the Canucks had even a decent power-play right now, they'd have at least two or three more wins over the past couple of weeks. I can't remember the last time I saw their man advantage so downright pathetic — it's the only word for it. Alain Vigneault finally made the adjustment we've all been screaming for and put Jason Garrison on the top unit against Minnesota. The PP has been a weapon for years and if it's not working — even with their strong five-on-five play — the Canucks aren't a contender.
COACHING (OR LACK THEREOF)
Sometime during the 2010 season Alain Vigneault handed the keys over to the veterans on the team. He was still navigating, but guys like the Sedins, Bieksa, Malhotra and Kesler were behind the wheel. Well, I think they've lost the map. With some new faces, the Canucks need some structure right now. Last night, with the real possibility of slipping to 8th in the West, the team laid an egg and was out-chanced by double. With Malhotra out, Salo gone, and Bieksa and Kesler hurt, this roster can't coach itself anymore.
Speaking of Kevin Bieksa, the team's record is terrible without him. He's the Ryan Kesler of the defence: not the best, but maybe the most important. He's the only right-handed top four defenceman the team has, and his absence means that one of Andrew Alberts or Cam Barker is in the lineup.
Doug MacLean claims he's hearing that Roberto Luongo is unhappy, which completely sounds like something he made up. If Luongo was vocally unhappy, you think Doug MacLean would be the guy hearing about it? Give me a break.
Alex Burrows hasn't found the back of the net in a long time, which is surprising since the Sedins have been playing well.
Alex Edler has been a trainwreck lately. I'd like to see him demoted from the first power-play unit and replaced with Dan Hamhuis, who can keep it simple and feed passes to Garrison. Special bonus: no more lazy drop-pass zone entries!
11 games in the next 19 days. There's no time to regroup, this team needs to find its form soon or Mike Gillis is going to have some very hard decisions to make in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline.