Vancouver Canucks After 20 Games: Disturbing Trends, Ominous Forecast
Here are some numbers that might be a little frightening if you are a Canucks fan. Of course, if you are a fan of a rival team, they might be a source of glee. It's all in the perspective.
The Canucks, one of the hottest teams in the NHL as a little as ten days ago, have now dropped four games in a row (Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks and now the Phoenix Coyotes).
All four of those losses were to playoff teams.
Two of those losses (Chicago and Phoenix) have come at home, where the Canucks were previously undefeated in regulation (6-0-1 prior to this weekend at Rogers Arena).
The once-mighty Vancouver offense has scored a meager 15 goals in the last seven games, and eleven of those goals came at the expense of the hapless Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs. The Montreal Canadiens shutout the Canucks. In the last three games, they have scored only four goals.
Last year they scored the most goals in the Western Conference, and were second only to the Washington Capitals in the entire NHL. And earlier this year, they were on a similar pace.
In the last two games, neither Sedin twin has a point. Back to back games where neither Henrik nor Daniel pick up a point? I'm not going to spend hours going back through game sheets, but I'd hazard a guess that it hasn't happened in quite a few years.
What do the Canucks need to break out of this slump?
In the last five games, the Canucks have surrendered the games first two goals. Its hard to win when you spot the other team a pair of goals.
The Canucks are now a mediocre 5-4-1 in their last ten games.
The Colorado Avalanche are now the Northwest Division leaders. The Canucks had a five point lead over the Avs a week ago. Ok, that one doesn't hurt as bad as the other stats. It seems natural to see the Avs atop the division. I don't like it, but they have dominated the division since moving from Quebec City.
The Canucks are now the proud owners of the worst losing streak (0-3-1) in the Western Conference.
And here is the kicker. The team that many pundits (yes, including those not based in Vancouver) picked to be a Stanley Cup contender? They are barely hanging on to a playoff spot. The Canucks are currently in eighth place, barely ahead of Anaheim, (Both teams are tied at 23 points, but the Canucks have three games in hand), and with the Minnesota Wild only a point behind with a game in hand.
I'd imagine this isn't exactly the situation that Mike Gillis was envisioning for the first 20 games of the season.
So what can they do to fix it?
After the Chicago loss, I wrote an article with a few suggestions. Namely, shake up the forwards. Samuelsson needs to be either benched or dropped from the top two lines. Bring up one of the hot kids from the Manitoba Moose, either Cody Hodgson or Sergei Shirokov, to fill in.
And do something to stabilize the D and goalies. Maybe its a trade, maybe a coaching change, but do something.
It isn't all bleak, I do see two reasons for optimism.
First, the Canucks now have a leadership core (Sedins, Kesler, Bieksa) who have all individually gone through hard times before with lacklustre play on the ice and fans calling for their heads off the ice. They endured and were better players after, so hopefully they can impart some of that experience to the team as a whole.
Second, Mike Gillis doesn't seem like a guy who is shy about making changes, so I wouldn't expect this losing streak to go on for too long before he takes action to right the ship.
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