Pardon my absence...losing a hard drive tends to disrupt life a little bit. And don't get me started on the aptitudes of your average technical support employee.
Rather, I'll save my venom for the 20 some odd guys wearing the Canucks uniform these days. I missed the memo where this team told the rest of us that they weren't interested in winning anymore. Or that getting one point in OTLs or shootout losses is just swell with them.
It's at times like this that I have to figure out if I'm being overly critical or if my cynicism and angst is well placed. So I rolled on over to the NHL Stats machine for a closer look and found some things that jumped off the page to my eyes:
Bryon Ritchie: worst team plus/minus at -13
Mike Weaver: Despite 38 games played and a 14th ranked TOI on the team, the dude has no points (and is -4).
Jeff Cowan: 29 GP, 1A and 0G (ergo, no bras on the ice).
Brendan Morrison: Despite being out since the beginning of December, the former Ironman's 20 points still ranks 6th on the team.
Ryan Kesler: If you ignore Hansen and Edler's at 100% each, only Kes has a Face Off winning percentage above 50% (53.9% to be exact).
Goals per game: 25th of 30 at 2.55 goals per game. Ottawa is #1 at 3.40.
Shots per game: 25th of 30 at 26.4 shots per game. Detroit is #1 at 34.4.
Face off % per game: 23rd of 30 at 48.5%. Detroit is #1 with 54.8%.
Winning % when trailing after the first period: 26th of 30 at .214%. Dallas is #1 at .500%.
Goals at home: 24th of 30 at 75. Ottawa is #1 with 105.
OTL: 26th of 30 at 8 OTLs, one OTL away from being tied for the league worst. The Kings are #1 with 3 OTLs.
It's not all bad in whale land of course. Vancouver ranks well with fewest total goals against (4th best in the league), are shockingly good at winning when they score first (9th overall at .733%) and they lead the league in wins when leading after two periods (1.000%! Crack the bubbly!). Then again, the latter is far from amazing when you consider how this team loves turning the offense off and letting Luongo safeguard those one goal leads in the third.
Here's the finer point: almost across the board, the team is painfully average. 14th in points, 16th in winning %, 11th on both the PP and PK, 15th in shots against per game, 12th in overall +/-, etc. I'm sure there are deeper meanings to be extracted if you break down the numbers even more, but my coffee has barely kicked.
My mid-morning takeaway is that this squad isn't doing the little things right consistently enough to ensure a spot in the post season. By comparison, this team had similar, if not the exact same, issues last year (woeful scoring, great goaltending) but managed to whip out a 32-8-6 record after Christmas by more or less perfecting the art of salvaging one goal wins. This year they aren't doing that so they've lost the lone strength and difference maker they had. It only takes a few stumbles to move from the NW champ to the NW basement.
They can still make the playoffs obviously, but the mantra of "every regular season game is actually a playoff game" started sometime last week. A wonderful case in point just happens to be tonight against the Oilers. The Canucks should beat a team that's riddled with injuries and last in the division, but we know that rarely happens; they should win this in 60 minutes, but we know that almost never happens.
If you're optimistic, you'll think they can still do it, string some wins together, maybe add a f'ing scorer and not Brent Sopel at the trade deadline and squeak into the playoffs (just to face Detroit in the first round...woot!). Or you'll see a team that will still cough up games in the second period, lose their focus in the third, settle for one point OTLs, become sellers at the trade deadline and focus more on "retooling" for the 2008-2009 campaign.
I wrote on canucks.com that this stretch run will rely a lot on Naslund to prove his worth to the team. By extension, maybe the entire team needs to take a page from these guys when they lose next.
Whatever the case is, I feel myself drifting towards the pessimistic view of this team these days. A lot more then a win tonight will be needed to change that vibe.