Since the West Coast Express departed Vancouver years ago two things became abundantly clear:
1. The Sedins took the torch as the new heroes in town
2. Without scoring beyond the Sedins the Canucks wouldn't win with much consistency.
This season is the perfect example of point #2. Hell even the last 3 games are indicators. Shut out tonight in Chicago, Sedins were in on both goals in the 2-1 win over the Rangers on Wednesday, and it was the Radim Vrbata / Brandon Prust show mostly in the 5-2 win over Buffalo on Monday.
HOT AND COLD
THE DUDE LIST
-Daniel Sedin has 10 goals and 14 assists in his last 20 games.
-Henrik Sedin has 7 goals and 16 assists in his last 20 games.
So much for age catching up with them. I hate seeing great seasons for them going to waste. I know we are projected as a fringe playoff team but my expectations rise when I see the droughts of other players who should be better but aren't.
THE DRY GUYS
-Radim Vrbata: 3 goals and 0 assists in his last 7 games. The hatty against Buffalo obviously the source of all 3 goals. He is not living up to his expectations.
-Jannik Hansen: 1 goal and 0 assists in his last 7. 4 goals and 4 assists in his prior 9 games. We've grown accustomed to Beaker streaks.
-Alexandre Burrows: 0 points in his last 10 games. Yea. That's bad.
-Chris Higgins: 1 assist in his last 14 games. Game over.
-Sven Baertschi: No points in his last 11 games. Game over.
-Jared McCann: 1 assist in his last 12 games, 1 goal in his last 20 games. I know, no pressure on the kid....ok maybe a little.
-Same with Bo Horvat: 1 assist in his last 10 games. Hasn't scored a goal in 20 games. I did not foresee Horvat only having 2 goals and 8 points at the 30 game mark this season. Especially not with 2nd line minutes, hell not even 3rd line minutes. Not having a bonafide second line center is really hurting the Canucks right now. Which is where Brandon Sutter comes in.
The guy many scorned Jim Benning for acquiring from the Penguins (along with a 3rd round pick) in exchange for Nick Bonino (how's he doing by the way?), Adam Clendening (yea, I wanted him to stay) and a 2nd round pick. Benning saw Sutter as an impact player and you know what? He was right. So he extended his contract and paid him royally, again, with the haters breathing flames upon his skull.
Sutter had 4 goals and 4 assists before sustaining an abdomen injury on November 11. The Canucks were 7-4-5 in those first 16 games. The team went 0-3-1 in the 4 games after the Sutter loss. Also, 4-8-3 in all games since the injury. Think that's just coincidence? I think not.
The domino effect of losing Sutter is hard to watch. He is a far-more poised and gritty and NHL-skills-ready than the young Horvat. He drives to the net like a fiend, something Horvat cannot do lately either.
It is clear at this point that Bo is not ready for second line duty. He would be better off sheltered on that 3rd line again. The way it's going with him now, you wonder if he'll even heat up this season. I think he will, but I doubt it will be as the 2nd line center. Nothing is clicking there at all. It's not just on Bo either, as the Dry Guys list above shows.
Let's take a quick look at a boxscore list of Sutter's 8 points:
Sutter (D Sedin)
H.Sedin (D Sedin, Sutter)
Sutter SHG (Sbisa)
McCann (Burrows, Sutter)
D. Sedin (Hutton, Sutter)
Sutter PPG (Burrows, Horvat)
Dorsett (Virtanen, Sutter)
Sutter (Hansen, Bartkowski)
The first glaring thing I see there is the different amount of players involved. That screams versatility to me. Speaking of versatile, Sutter is used in all situations. Here are his average time on ice stats per game for the three situations:
Even Strength: 14:17, 3rd-most for the forwards...still
Power Play: 5th among the forwards, even after being gone for over a month.
Shorthanded: 2nd among forwards to Bo Horvat. So, at the time of his injury he was #1.
Did you see how losing so many faceoffs against Chicago hurt the Canucks tonight? Well...Sutter had taken 233 faceoffs and won 125 of them, which is a 53.6% average and still the best on the team for any regular faceoff guy.
-2 of Sutter's 4 goals are game-winners. Dank leads the team with 3. So yea, Sutter could very well be leading the team in that category right now, since over a month has passed since he played.
We'll have to wait a few more weeks before we get Sutter back. As of December 2 he just had sports hernia surgery and was projected to be out of action for 4-6 weeks. Provided that the Sedins maintain good health moving forward, Sutter's return would not necessarily be the equivalent of the second coming of Christ, but it would create the proper dynamic the Canucks need to create somewhat more of a balanced attack. I use the word "somewhat" because once again, a lot of the onus also needs to be on guys like Vrbata, Burrows and Higgins, who are not providing enough offence for this team. A team that has scored 17 goals in it's last 10 games. Take out the 5-2 win over Buffalo and it's 12 goals in their last 9 games. Aren't stats fun? Hell, how about the 29 goals allowed against in the last 10 games? That's another story for another day, however, there is part of a solution here:
Come back Sutter! We need you!
Uh...yea you can come back anytime Brandon.