The Vancouver Canucks will be looking to shake off their New Year’s Eve hangovers and rebound in a massive way on the first day of 2016 as they face off against Kevin Bieksa and the Anaheim Ducks.
Game Time: 7:00 pm PST
TV: Sportsnet Pacific
The Anaheim Ducks will be starting 2016 on a bit of a roll, having won their past two games and are climbing the standings in the Western Conference. I should clarify that by climbing the standings, I mean they have jumped ahead of the Edmonton Oilers who are now the bottom-feeders of the Conference.
I felt some context was in order there.
Despite their recent surge, their best players are still underachieving to a confusing degree. Corey Perry appears to be the only Duck who looks like himself (rat-like) with 13 goals on the season. Captain Ryan Getzlaf just recently scored his second goal of the season, but his first was into an empty net so that doesn’t really count. And last but not least, Ryan Kesler has been hilarious ineffective, at least offensively. Of course, goals and assists aren’t everything in the game of hockey, but Kesler sitting at four goals and eight assists on the season is pretty funny.
Just for fun, consider that Jared McCann (ostensibly traded for Kesler at the 2014 NHL Draft) in his rookie season is only one point behind at 11.
1. He’s Baaaaaaaaack
Seen here getting a tooth punched out of his face by Mr. Carrie Underwood, Kevin Bieksa will finally be making his return to Vancouver following his off-season trade to the Anaheim Ducks. Although it seems like he’s been gone for a while, this will sure to be an emotional night for the longtime Canuck.
Bieksa’s introduction to Anaheim has been, how shall I say, less than smooth. Here is a small example of how some fans on Twitter feel about the veteran defenceman:
Kevin Bieksa is worthless.. take him back Vancouver. #NHLDucks
— Andres (@a92704) December 18, 2015
— Chris Rahn (@chrisrahn) November 26, 2015
I could post a lot more, but there is a lot of swearing and I’m not exactly sure on what the rules are about that. I will say that a lot of them rhyme with “Kevin Bieksa Ducking Sucks”.
I’ll leave this one here though:
"Kevin Bieksa is going to be a great addition to the Ducks defense." pic.twitter.com/5CyFFsSpPR
— Matt (@matt_barton13) November 26, 2015
So yeah. It’s going well…
Where will Jim Benning take this team?
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, that decision will probably be made based in the next few weeks:
Canucks GM Jim Benning said earlier this season he would wait to the New Year before making some long-term decisions about his team. That included any potential extension talks for potential free agents.
He declined last weekend to chat about his plans, but the current seven-game homestand, followed by a six-game road trip, probably tells the tale — even though his team is far from healthy.
The biggest question is, what does owner Francesco Aquilini think? A run for playoff dates is tough to turn down. No one in the Pacific is out of it yet.
The most important point that Friedman makes is that no one in the Pacific Division is out of the playoff race. The Canucks are currently sitting in fourth place but are only four points from dropping into last place. With the way things have been going, there may be no clear indication of what direction Vancouver should take until it is too late.
If Jim Benning is, as Friedman indicates, going to base his decision on the next few weeks, then he will have to be making a leap of faith in either direction. It’s not going to be an easy decision to say the least, but I would strongly suggest that if Vancouver loses their next two games against the Ducks and Coyotes, then Benning may have to come to the realization that the Canucks just aren’t strong enough to compete in the Western Conference if they can’t even compete within their own division.
Whether Francisco Aquilini allows this line of thinking is another topic of discussion.
3. Chris Tanev Returns
Kevin Bieksa isn’t going to be the only defenceman making a dramatic return to Rogers area on Friday night:
— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) December 31, 2015
Okay, maybe not as dramatic as Bieksa. But if you happen to be on the Team Make-the-Playoffs (for some reason), then Tanev’s return is going to be key in fulfilling your goals.
There is no doubt about Tanev’s ability to change the complexion of the Canucks’ defence group. The current group of borderline NHL players/AHL journeyman have done an admiral job in light of the rash of injuries, but Tanev coming back means reuniting one of the better defensive pairs in the league, with Alex Edler.
No timeline on a return for Baertschi. #Canucks
— Irfaan Gaffar (@sportsnetirf) December 31, 2015
The lines will continue to be a bit of a mystery as Sven Baertschi appears to be out for the foreseeable future and with no call-ups from the Utica Comets on the horizon.
Take this lineup with a grain of salt…
|D. Sedin||H. Sedin||Hansen|
After being decimated by the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night, my hopes aren’t exactly high for the Canucks in this one.
The Ducks haven’t exactly been lighting the world on fire, but something about the way they play usually works pretty well against Vancouver. Then again, every team seems to have that these days.
Since I’m such a pessimist these days, and the fact that Auston Matthews is playing REALLY well at the World Junior Tournament, I’m going to say that the Canucks lose their second straight game to a California Team by a score of 4-2.