In the last 3 games – the #Canucks have been outshot 104-57.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) December 4, 2015
The Canucks are officially in a funk.
The strategy of late has seemed to be “sit back and pray the Sedins and Hansen win the game.” This has not been a reliable strategy.
When it works? It looks great. That game against Chicago? The Sedins turned back the clock and spanked the Blackhawks like they were playing them online in NHL 16. You could almost see Chicago scrambling to pull the power cord to disconnect.
The problem is you can’t expect those kinds of games from the Sedins all the time. Since that Chicago win?
3-2 loss. 3-2 win. 3-2 loss. 4-0 loss. 2-1 loss. And tonight? They lost 4-2 to the Dallas Stars.
If it wasn’t for the Canucks ability to get to OT (where they promptly lose), they would be fighting the Oilers for last spot in the West.
So what happened tonight? Well more of the same. Bad defence. Ineffective forwards. McCann being grounded, again. Also, Dan Hamhuis. Oh Dan. Dan Dan Dan.
1. Sad Hamhuis
There was a time when we all had fun joking about Hamhuis’ inability to be happy. It was funny, you see, because he was on such a winning team, yet he rarely smiled.
“Oh Dan, your team just won its 8th game in a row, why can’t you smile?” we all chortled (chortling was big in 2011).
Now though? Dan looks sad most of the time, and he has a reason to look sad. His team is playing poorly, and he is playing AWFUL. It is no longer fun to watch Dan Hamhuis be sad. Now it’s a sobering reality of where his game has fallen to.
He could not have made a more appropriate face pic.twitter.com/GHqUgP8P76
— Mike Halford (@HalfordTSN) December 4, 2015
Hamhuis is struggling. Both the eye test (copious amounts of tears) and the Corsi test (-9 on the night tonight at evens) highlighted a Hamhuis who played like his skate guards were still on:
This wasn’t the only fall of the game. Hammer had several times where he seemed to be struggling to stay on his feet.
Lest we also forget last game where this happened:
It doesn’t help that he’s playing with Yannick Weber. No offence to Weber, but he is an offensively gifted d-man, one who doesn’t usually excel in his own zone. So anytime Hamhuis missed a guy tonight, it seemed like Weber was there to whiff on the same guy. Hamhuis was essentially denied a bail out by the Swiss bank tonight.
On the game winning goal, Hamhuis doesn’t close the gap on Sharp, and looks slow doing so. So fine, he eases up and lets Weber take over. Except Weber misplays Sharp, and before you know it, Dallas wins the game.
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) December 4, 2015
On the Nichushkin goal, we get another look at Hamhuis simply not having the legs to keep up with faster players. The desperation wrap around poke check just highlights how beaten he was on this play.
Now, lots of players have played poorly this year, so this isn’t to pick on Hamhuis. It’s just more jarring to see Hamhuis play so poorly because of how great he was back in the 2011 days.
Sure, part of that was simply by being on a better team, and he was younger, and it was before his guts exploded when he hip checked Lucic, but it still feels like his play has dropped off rapidly even compared to last season.
Remember, this is a guy who is perhaps the worst backdoor goal converter in the history of the Canucks. He is not on the team for his offence. He was a top-2 d-man on this team because he rarely made a mistake and somehow made a pairing with Kevin Bieksa one of the best in the league.
Now his offence is poor and he is making costly defensive mistakes, and it’s hard to watch some games.
2. Work Safe Environment
And now that Prust is in the penalty box for five minutes, McCann is safe.
— Jason Brough (@JasonBroughTSN) December 4, 2015
One of the worst aspects of the losses to Anaheim and LA was seeing how little push back there was from the team when they were getting pushed around.
No, nobody wanted to see fights or cheap shots, but you wanted to see some hits, some scrums, something that showed they would stand up for each other.
The two games were so poorly received that even Jim Benning made it public he felt the Anaheim loss was the “most disappointing loss” since he’s been there.
So on one hand you thought maybe the Canucks would have a bit of fire and brimstone to their game tonight.
Then on the other hand you realized it probably meant Dorsett and Prust would have a couple of fights in the first period and that would be it. So what happened?
Look, I have nothing against fighting. Who doesn’t love watching an intense battle between teams erupt in a bit of violence here and there?
The problem is staged fighting serves very little purpose except to prove there is still a role for fighter specialists in the NHL. You even hear fighters say “I asked him if he wanted to go, we hadn’t fought in a while, and he said yeah.”
It’s like that person in your office that makes their job seem super hard, and takes all day changing the paper in the printer, so they can prove the office needs them.
This is why it strikes me as odd to hear Benning say he wanted a safe environment for the young guys to play in as his reasons for bringing in Dorsett and Prust. How does two staged fights in the first period protect against a team dishing out hits in the third period?
To Benning’s credit, when Dan Murphy interviewed him in the first period intermission, he asked if those two fights showed that the team had some push back. Jim Benning brushed it off and re-iterated he wants the team to hit and scrum more, not necessarily have the WWE main event in the first period.
3. Goalie Graveyard Graveyard
Let’s put this one to bed when it comes to Miller vs Markstrom.
In Vancouver, we’ve seen our share of goalie controversies. The soap opera that was Luongo/Schneider/Lack had all the hallmarks of a great controversy: Betrayal. Lust. Controversy.
How many times do you hear a story of an owner going to a goalies house to let him know he has to be the starter again, and will in fact not be traded? He had to ask Luongo to turn off the TV so he could tell him! Amazing.
With Miller and Markstrom, though? They’re two goalies who should be fighting for ice time.
With Miller, he’s an aging goalie. You don’t really want to be riding him into the ground. Resting him is never a bad thing.
With Markstrom, he’s 25 now, you really want to see what you’ve got with him as a goalie. He needs to be getting some games in. If Markstrom really is the “next guy” after Miller, it doesn’t make sense to only give him a handful of games, then suddenly throw a starting spot at him in a couple of years.
So if the team rides a hot hand this year, let’s try not to call it a goalie controversy or another sign of the goalie graveyard. Miller was signed to be a transition goalie. Markstrom is the transition. Dressing one goalie over the other is not a huge indictment of the other guy.
Both guys are just waiting for Demko anyhow.
4. Grizzled Veterans
Another last 9m of the game with no shifts for McCann. #Canucks aren't doing so well with this steady diet of 4th line shifts…
— Omar A (@omarcanuck) December 4, 2015
It’s always easy to state after a loss that a coach should do the opposite. The thing with Coach Willie’s deployment of youth is that it seems to run counter intuitive to logic.
Jared McCann has been one of the Canucks better players at producing offence, and this has even been when playing with Prust and Dorsett at times. He is a smart passer who back checks well, and has a great shot. Several good chances were created by McCann making a good pass.
So when you see a constant reluctance from the coach to give McCann a chance, it becomes a bit confusing. It’s not like the team is on a long winning streak, and you don’t want to tinker with a winning formula. There are on a losing streak, and that is the perfect time to change the formula.
For some reason, Coach Willie just doesn’t not want to see McCann on the ice late in close games.
Perhaps McCann is just a victim of Sutter being out. His faceoff prowess was abysmal tonight (1 win, 12 losses), so maybe Willie doesn’t want him taking draws late in a game.
Still, you would think learning through growing pains might not be a bad idea, especially if the tradeoff is more offence for the team.
5. Deflating assets
With the Canucks looking like they will be a bubble team this year, many are wondering if the team will sell at the deadline. The fact the Canucks haven’t even talked contract with Vrbata and Hamhuis means they are at least open to the idea of a fire sale if things go south.
The fear now is watching Hamhuis and Vrbata play themselves into fourth round draft picks.
Hamhuis, as we highlighted, has struggled. Will that gold medal and past pedigree be enough for teams to pony up to get him? Other teams might feel that inserting him into a better situation might shore up a lot of his on ice troubles. In other words, what Anaheim thought might happen with Bieksa (which isn’t looking so great so far, but hey, no takesies backsies).
Vrbata raised the bar so high last season, that him being on pace for 40ish points seems terrible in comparison. His disappearance in the playoffs last year, coupled with his start to this season, does make his trade value seem far less impressive than last season, when people were wondering even then if the team should sell high.
However, never underestimate the panic of the deadline to inflate prices. Either way, it should make for some must see TV come deadline day.
6. Best hit of the night
— Dylan Nadwodny (@dnadders) December 4, 2015