Written by Errol N. Hannigan and can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
At this point in the season the Vancouver Canucks are a win away from tying Detroit for first place in the NHL. Last year Vancouver finished first overall with a record of 54-19-9 for a total of 117 points and based on their current production are on pace to equal that amount again this year. If that will be enough to be first again remains to be seen, as the Detroit Red Wings and the New York Rangers also look like strong contenders.
Vancouver has made a few personnel changes from the team that came within one win of hoisting the Stanley Cup last year, and they look like a team that should be able to contend again without making any deadline changes.
Since last year the Canucks have added some grit to their line-up in the form of Byron Bitz, Mike Duco and if he is able to return from the injury list Aaron Volpatti. Vancouver has two lines that can put up points with regularity. The Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik, and the ever improving Alexandre Burrows are the number one line. With line number two being one of the fastest lines in hockey right now with the all USA born Kesler, Higgins and Booth. They also have good third and fourth lines that they can roll and use to wear down their opponents. They have one of the best face-off men in all of hockey in Manny Malhotra, who they use almost exclusively to win defensive zone face-offs.
Speaking of defense, Vancouver’s is not only strong but also mobile with Edler, Bieksa, Salo, Alberts and Hamhuis, Rome, Ballard and the recently called up Chris Tanev. Kevin Bieksa while playing a strong back game has also been joining the rush on a regular basis and is sitting at sixth overall in team scoring.
In net are arguably the best goaltending tandem in the league with Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider who have combined this year for 38 wins and two shutouts each.
With the trade deadline only a few short days away, will the Vancouver Canucks do anything to make their team better?
That is a hard question to answer but while every team is looking for and would like a top six forward or top defenseman, overall the Canucks appear ready to make another run for the cup as is. In goal if Luongo happens to have a bad game or two Schneider is more than able along with ready and willing to step in. Their defense is strong and the forwards fast and mobile. I do not expect much if any movement at all by the 27th even though some critics have claimed they need more grit.
While referees will be calling games differently than the regular season and with injuries playing a huge role in the playoffs, especially the deeper a team goes into them, and no one knows better the effects they can have on a team than the Canucks I believe they are ready for that possibility.
Canuck players to watch and who might be in play prior to the deadline; the speedy Mason Raymond has been mentioned in trade rumours as he will be a RFA next year as will Dale Weise. The player mentioned most is goalie Cory Schneider as he is making a very modest $900,000 this year and will be a RFA. He will be expecting as well as deserving a raise next year.
Also possible trade bait the Canucks have down on the farm and who are quite possibly ready to make the jump to the NHL are players such as defenseman Kevin Connauton, centre Jordan Schroeder, left winger Billy Sweatt and goalie Eddie Lack.
GM Mike Gillies is always weighing options on how to make the Canucks a better team and to this point he has made some very good moves while not disrupting the chemistry the team has developed. I expect him to look over this years trading deadline possibilities and if he does make a move it could well be for someone bigger and stronger who can go hard to the net. That is something the team does lack.