The monotony and desperation of October is once again passing in Vancouver. But the bigger question still remains: why are the Canucks so notoriously awful for the first month of the regular season?
It is difficult to pinpoint any one issue in particular for 2011. Last year, a mass of defensive injuries starting the season ailed the Canucks and made it difficult to establish any sort of offensive system amongst the team. It seemed a valid excuse at the time, and worst comes to worst, there was always Luongo kicking around to blame.
This October is a little different. The only true injury was in star center Ryan Kesler, and a newly infused Keith Ballard has brought a much needed dimension of physical contact to the blue line. The problem lies in the actual way the Canucks play hockey: a strong systems team that relies on each line to do a very specific job. With this issue in mind, things begin to make a bit more sense.
The loss of Erhoff is not necessarily the apocalypse that has been painted by some, but rather the creation of a new position for Edler that he should have filled anyways last year if not for injury. Erhoff was also a seriously over-rated offensive tool due to his lack of defensive responsibility. This is exemplified By Erhoff’s -6 on the season so far and 7 points, even though he is getting top PP minutes on Buffalo and supporting Thomas Vanek, one of the leading scorers in the NHL. Edler, on the other hand, currently sits at 13 points with a -1 and almost twice as many shots. As long as the loss of Erhoff is filled from the bottom up with defenseman such as Ballard, Rome and Alberts stepping up and playing larger roles, removing his heavy contract from the roster will be to the Canucks’ benefit. That said, Edler is still figuring out exactly how to guide the PP and establish himself amongst the top offensive D-men in the league. On the subject of D-men, as to why Bieksa currently sits at vicious -8 as opposed to his +32 season last year, we can only hope that with the team finding themselves, he too will come into his own.
Another component to the problem is Kesler’s return, Booth’s addition and Raymond’s injury. This problem is focused entirely on the second line and just comes down to players having to get used to working with each other. Kesler is still the force on both the PP and PK that he was last year, its just a matter of adjustment.
The coaching system has not changed nor has Luongo or Schneider played particularly awful. Its true that neither have stunned or awed in October, but bad goaltending hasn’t stopped many of the top teams in the league so far such as Philly. As the Canucks get the opportunity to come together as a squad on their ongoing 6 game road trip, fans can look forward to seeing their team get stronger and start to gather a few more wins over the course of November.