With success, comes greater expectations.
That is often followed by disappointment.
Take the Vancouver Canucks for example. Last season the Canucks returned to the playoffs after a year on the sidelines, won a round before exiting; had a 13-point increase over the year before; had the coach of the year in Alain Vigneault and acquired the best goalie in the NHL in what will go down as one of the most lopsided trades in NHL history.
Everything seemed rosy on Canada’s west coast.
Now, though, the bloom is off the rose. It hasn’t been a great start for the Canucks and getting back to the playoffs in the ultra-competitive Western Conference is going to be a chore.
In a nutshell, the Canucks failed in the off-season to add to their scoring arsenal. Daniel Sedin has become the team’s only consistent scorer and even his 84 points last season ranked just 20th in NHL scoring. Not bad, but hardly breath-taking. Brother Henrik is a nifty playmaker, but will never be confused with Adam Oates.
And Markus Naslund, well, it’s hard to say what has become of a player who as recently as 2003-04 finished fourth in NHL scoring, one season after placing second. Through 12 games Naslund has four goals and nine points, but no longer plays with the authority that caused people to lump him in with the best skaters in the game only a few years ago. And his minus-5 is a concern.
The Canucks hoped last season’s 23-goal explosion from Taylor Pyatt was an indicator of better things to come as opposed to an aberration, but only time will tell if that is the case. After 12 games Pyatt had four goals and was on pace for 27. His five points, however, had him tracking for a total of 34; three less than the 37 points he accumulated last year.
The Canucks love their defense, even if they are concerned with its play thus far. They believe the group that includes Sami Salo, Kevin Bieksa, Mattias Ohlund, Willie Mitchell and Aaron Miller is among the best in the NHL. The Hockey News ranked the group seventh-best in the league last week in a poll of pro scouts.
When you combine Vancouver’s impressive defense with Luongo’s ability to steal games, the Canucks should be a shoo-in to make the playoffs. But unless they think they can win every game 2-1, it will not be the case. And with each loss the team’s lack of firepower puts more heat on the defense.
It is one thing to fall in love with a particular element of your team; quite another to go down the drain clinging to the notion a certain strength will be enough to compensate for an obvious weakness.
GM Dave Nonis missed the boat by failing to add offense in the off-season and now that the year has begun, it will be decidedly difficult for him to make amends. Unless he thinks Anson Carter has sufficiently recovered from a pre-season concussion and can rediscover the magic he produced with the Sedins two years ago, or that after a year and a bit out of hockey slow-skating Jason Allison is worth the gamble, it could mean trading one of his beloved defenseman to get more goals.
The Rangers are looking for blueline help. Perhaps Nonis should start there.
Mike Brophy’s Double OT appears regularly on The Hockey News.com.
One of THN’s senior writers, Mike Brophy gives you insight and opinion on the world of hockey like no one else. Subscribe to The Hockey News to get Mike’s expertise delivered to you every issue.