Vancouver Canucks: 5 Things We've Learned at the Season's Quarter Mark

Alex H@Alexhoegler27Correspondent IFebruary 13, 2013

Vancouver Canucks: 5 Things We've Learned at the Season's Quarter Mark

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    The Vancouver Canucks are currently 8-2-2, which is good enough for third place in the Western Conference. 

    Aside from two ugly losses against the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks in regulation, they have been one of hockey's most complete teams so far and are looking like a legitimate contender to hoist the Stanley Cup in June.

    Despite excellent goaltending from Roberto Luongo, it hasn't been enough to put trade rumors to sleep.

    Daniel Sedin leads the team in scoring with 10 points, while defenseman Alexander Edler is second with nine.

    The Canucks have also allowed a league-low 24 goals so far this season.

    While questions such as Ryan Kesler's timetable to return remain, we've discovered some facts about this team.

    Here are five things we have learned about the Canucks a quarter of the way through the season.



5. Jason Garrison Has Not Lived Up to His Contract

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    The Vancouver Canucks thought they were getting a puck-moving defenseman and power-play quarterback when they signed Jason Garrison to a lucrative six-year $27.6 million contract.

    Although Garrison has a plus-seven rating, he hasn't been contributing to the score sheet, which is a huge reason the Canucks took a gamble on him.

    So far Garrison has just one goal and one assist.

    It's still early, but for the time being, Garrison is overpaid and not worth the dollars the Canucks gave him last July.

4. Zack Kassian May Be the Last Puzzle Piece for a Stanley Cup Run

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    The Vancouver Canucks have been a major disappointment in the playoffs the past decade, there is no denying that.

    The Canucks' main weakness, which has been exposed by the Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings, has been a lack of toughness.

    The likes of Dustin Byfuglien, Dave Bolland, Andrew Ladd, Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic, and Dustin Brown made life difficult for the Canucks defense, Luongo and the Sedins.

    Enter Zack Kassian.

    The Canucks finally have what they have been missing since trading Todd Bertuzzi to Florida in 2006: a true power forward.

    Kassian has fit the bill perfectly, scoring five goals, seven points and has recorded 25 hits and two fights.

    The Canucks desperately need toughness in the playoffs, and Kassian supplies just that.

    We will find out in the next few months if he was the key ingredient the Canucks were missing to finally win a Stanley Cup.

3. The Canucks Are Still Feasting on Its Divisional Opponents

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    Over the past few seasons, the Canucks have taken advantage of a relatively weak Northwest Division.

    Through 12 games, that hasn't changed much.

    The Canucks have outscored their divisional rivals by a total of 21-9.

    They are 2-0 vs the Minnesota Wild, 1-0 vs the Colorado Avalanche, 2-0 vs the Calgary Flames and 1-0-1 against the Edmonton Oilers.

    Simply put, the Canucks are playing in the easiest division in the NHL, and are piling up much-needed points in a tight Western Conference race.

2. Special-Teams Play Still Needs Work

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    Special teams are usually a strength for the Canucks.

    This season? Not at all.

    The Canucks power play is currently 17th best in the league, with a mediocre 17.2 percent success rate. Last year, they owned the league's fourth best man advantage, scoring on 19.8 percent of their power plays.

    Their penalty killing isn't much better, ranked 22nd in the league at a 78 percent success rate. Last year they were ranked sixth, killing off 86 percent of their penalties.

    Vancouver has one of the deepest, most talented rosters in the league. There is simply no excuse to be near the bottom of the league in special teams.

    Once Ryan Kesler returns, you can expect their power play and penalty kill to improve significantly, but until then, the Canucks need to reduce the unnecessary penalties and other players need to step up, especially on defense. 

1. Goaltending Situation Is Still a Mystery

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    Prior to the season, Cory Schneider was named the Canucks' starting goaltender, while Roberto Luongo was a hot name in trade rumors.

    Both goalies are still donning Canucks Jerseys, and to make matters even more baffling, Luongo and Schneider have each started six games, but Luongo has posted better numbers (stats provided by NHL.com):

    Record:

    Luongo: 4-0-2

    Schneider: 4-2

    Goals against average:

    Luongo: 1.45

    Schneider: 2.36

    Save percentage:

    Luongo: .943

    Schneider: .921

    It's looking more and more likely that Luongo will remain a Canuck for at least the remainder of the season.

    The Canucks locked up Schneider to a three-year $12 million contract in the summer, but that hasn't handed him the No. 1 job.

    Although Luongo will most likely be traded in the offseason, it still doesn't tell us who will finish the season as the main man between the pipes.

    As long as Luongo keeps up his spectacular play, there's no reason for Schneider to get the nod over him. 

    Both goaltenders are putting up excellent numbers, but it's tough to tell which goalie gives Vancouver a better chance to win now, considering the fact Luongo has faltered in the postseason, while Schneider has only started four playoff games.

    I'm thankful my name is not Alain Vigneault. He's going to have a tough decision for the final 36 games and beyond.

    It will surely be one of the main story lines to follow throughout the remainder of the season.