The past weekend’s games couldn’t have made Canucks fans feel a wider range of emotions.
On Saturday, they dominated their arch rivals, the Blackhawks with a massive 6-3 win. The city’s adopted sons, the Sedins, had a massive nights – Daniel notching his 900th point and a hat trick, and Henrik with his first five-point game.
(The 18,500 “fans” at Rogers Arena did a lot worse with their lame two-hat performance)
Then on Sunday, they lost 3-2 to a supposedly inferior Devils team.
If you looked deeper at how Vancouver played both nights, the games were surprisingly similar.
Against both Chicago and New Jersey, the Canucks were outplayed at even strength (according to score-adjusted corsi numbers from war-on-ice.com). On Saturday, power plays and timely goals from the Sedins pushed them through, but on Sunday they failed.
Not that they didn’t try. The Sedins were dynamic on the power play, generating a couple of chances that were better than anything they created Saturday. They just couldn’t score on Cory Schneider.
“They’re like a fine wine,” Jim Benning said of the Sedins on TSN 1040 radio Thursday. “They just keep getting better with age.”
Now 22 games into the season, and with an unimpressive record of 9-8-6 (that’s 9 wins and 14 losses), one thing is becoming clear – Vancouver needs someone besides the Sedins to step up and help with scoring. Henrik and Daniel have been their usual selves, if not even better – dominating the offensive end most shifts they’re on the ice – but if opposing teams have strong shut down lines, the Canucks have a much tougher challenge.
Against Minnesota Wednesday we saw that. Mikko Koivu’s line along with Jared Spurgeon and Ryan Suter on defence nullified the Sedins for the most part. The advanced stats showed Koivu, Suter and Spurgeon dominating the game, while the Sedins were at the opposite end.
The twins did manage to break through twice – first on the power play, and later in the game when Daniel caught Suter pinching aggressively and dished to Jannik Hansen for a semi-breakaway goal.
Radim Vrbata scored a couple too, and if he finally gets going it’ll help the Canucks chances.
But Vrbata, the Sedins and Hansen make up the primary scoring for Vancouver. If they truly want to be competitive this year, they’ll need some secondary options to step up.
This brings up another debate for Canucks fans – do they want to see the team make the playoffs this year and make a push for a long run, or would they rather take the higher draft pick that would come if they miss the cut off?
While it seems many fans are on board with semi-tank mode, consider this: the Sedins are dominant players right now – how long that will last, we don’t know. They’ve certainly earned a few more chances to win the Cup, as I wrote in the summer.
Benning, in the same interview, said the phone has been ringing more this past week, and he sounds as if he’s looking to improve.
“It would have to be a certain type of player we’d bring in if we were looking to make a move,” he said, making sure to add he won’t be trading any young players.
“If we could add a goal scorer or something, we’ll look to do that.”
No doubt a goal scorer could help – Vrbata and McCann’s line might be lethal with a scorer on the other wing. Or he might provide the spark Bo Horvat needs, instead of making the second year player pull along Sven Baertschi or teach Jake Virtanen the ropes.
But with so many young forwards developing, and more getting ready in the minors (think Hunter Shinkaruk) is another scorer what the team needs most? A veteran winger will take playing time away from the youngsters who need to keep developing.
Think back to any team that’s won the cup in the last 10 years and one thing you’ll notice is they all have is a stalwart defenceman – a true number one guy who shuts down the opposition and has the offensive skills to quarterback the power play.
The Canucks don’t have that. In fact, on many nights you get the feeling Vancouver’s defence is a time bomb, just waiting to explode. Its depth is an issue as well.
With this in mind, perhaps the team should be stronger players in the Travis Hamonic trade talks. Hamonic is a 25-year-old right-shooting defenceman who plays the most minutes of any Islanders blueliner. He also put up 33 points last season.
While he’s not a true number one, he is close, and he could add the depth Vancouver needs while Ben Hutton develops.
Those guys don’t come along very often.