We are now three-and-a-half months into the NHL lockout, and it finally feels as though an end is in sight. Assuming a deal will be done in time for a 48-game season beginning Jan. 19, the lockout could actually end up being good for the Vancouver Canucks, for more than one reason.
First off, there are injuries. Jason Garrison, Alexander Edler and Ryan Kesler would all have missed time had the season started on time.
Garrison is struggling with a groin issue. In October, the Vancouver Sun reported that he expected to be ready to go if and when the lockout was resolved, and a week before Christmas, he was officially done with rehab, as the Canucks released him from the injured reserve list. Garrison will be a key player for the Canucks as he tries to fill the void created with the departure of Sami Salo in the offseason.
Edler has recently been cleared from an ongoing back injury, but has said that he will likely never be 100 percent again. On the plus side, he wasn't 100 percent last year, either, but he still finished tied for sixth among defenders with 49 points.
Kesler had offseason wrist and shoulder surgery. His original estimated return period of December has now been pushed back a few months. If the season does start Jan. 19, it's fair to say he will not be in the lineup. That said, the Canucks are better off playing without him for one to two months than the four to five it would have been had there not been a lockout. Canuck fans can only hope the team can pick up the slack in his absence and allow him to return with a big playoff presence.
Next up, we have the goaltending situation. Roberto Luongo is still a member of the Canucks, but whether the same can be said two or three weeks from today is still unknown. In years past, Luongo has struggled in October and November. If he remains on the team, perhaps starting in January will be the end to his early-season woes.
Lastly, the difference in the season schedule. Although it's not yet definite, a 48-game schedule would be played entirely against Western Conference teams. This would mean that a greater portion of the season would be played against the Northwest Division, which in recent years has been the weakest in the conference. Northwest teams made some significant improvements during the offseason, so it's possible that they will no longer be the weakest.
The lockout, although bad for the league and the Canucks financially, could be beneficial when it comes to the final standings.
Now all we have to do is hope that Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr can set their egos aside and put this lockout behind us.
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