Vancouver Canucks Progress Report: 16 Games In
It seems like it’s only been two weeks, but already 16 games have passed in the busy schedule of the Vancouver Canucks. So what’s the progress report? How have they done? Who have been their best players? Who have been their worst? Are they keeping pace in the tight Northwest Division?
Through the first 16 games, the Canucks have a record of 9-6-1 and are tied for tops in their division due to the tiebreak process. When you think about it, 9-6-1 is basically only 2 games above .500. Yet, when you also take that into consideration, the Canucks have already played a six game road trip. I’d have to say that their record is pretty good.
Roberto Luongo was honestly not very efficient in the month of October, but the surprising offense was able to bail him out during the first month of the season. Now it’s November, and it’s Roberto’s time to shine. In his favorite month of the season Roberto has already posted a streak of over four consecutive games worth of shutout minutes. Unfortunately, the Canucks offense has slightly tailed off during November.
The Canucks have also had to play through some injuries early in the season. Pavol Demitra has been out for nearly four weeks and news has just broken out that Kevin Bieksa will be out for two weeks with a broken foot. Minor injuries to Sami Salo and rookie Jannik Hansen have also been a challenge to the Canucks and their coaching staff. If the Canucks are able to combine their incredible, yet shocking offense from October, plus their great defensive play and goaltending so far in November, they could get really hot in an attempt to solidify a playoff spot.
Who have been the Canucks best players? To me there are three men that stick out in mind when I think of people that have played well so far in the season. Those three are: Kevin Bieksa, Ryan Kesler and, Roberto Luongo. Luongo already has a league high five shutouts, Bieksa leads all Canucks defensemen in goals and points, and Kesler has been contributing offensively as well as perfecting his role as a shutdown center. Yet, with players playing well, there has to be some that need to improve, like the Sedin twins.
What will it take to get these guys going? In my opinion their perfect line mate in the league would be Avalanche forward Milan Hejduk. However, the best fit on this Canucks team would have to be Kyle Wellwood. The Sedin’s need to pick it up. Steve Bernier needs to be better. How many times so far have you seen him get a great pass and miss an open net. His missed attempts cost the Canucks the game against Colorado. He needs to be more physical and needs to finish his chances.
Finally, there needs to be some significant improvement from Darcy Hordichuk. I haven’t even seen flashes of his enforcer ability which were greatly shown when he was with Nashville. He needs to hit and he needs to fight. The Canucks don’t need a repeat of Jeff Cowan.
Now it's time for a pleasant surprise. The most surprising player on the Canucks has been none other than Kyle Wellwood. I don’t care if he’s working out or eating at McDonalds, as long as he’s putting pucks in the net, i have much confidence in him. He has worked hard for this position and has significantly improved the defensive aspect of his game. Don't get me wrong, his game still needs work, but he has proved that he can fight for a top six forward position on this team.
16 games gone, 66 to go. The Canucks need to combine offense, defense, and goaltending to be the best that they can be. Overall, the Canucks have had a solid start to the year.
They have started to change the minds of some of their previous doubters as well. Hopefully this won't change.
Player Grades through 16 Games (relative to where they can be):
Steve Bernier: C+
Kevin Bieksa: A-
Mike Brown: B+
Alex Burrows: A
Pavol Demitra: B (not including injury)
Alex Edler: B-
Jannik Hansen: A
Darcy Hordichuk: C-
Ryan Johnson: B
Ryan Kesler: A+
Roberto Luongo: B+
Willie Mitchell: B
Shane O’Brien: C+
Mattias Ohlund: B+
Taylor Pyatt: C+
Mason Raymond: A-
Sami Salo: B
Curtis Sanford: C
Daniel Sedin: B
Henrik Sedin: B
Kyle Wellwood: A
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