November 03 2011 09:21AM
Every few weeks, I will share three positive bits of news regarding the Canucks. And to prove I am not a total homer, I’ll do the same for the negative stuff. This week is an extra special edition, as it features Kyle Wellwood!
Maxim Lapierre and Chris Higgins have been Vancouver’s two best forwards this season – most consistent, most physical, most responsible defensively, best offensively relative to expectations, you name it. Higgins is playing like the two-way beast many expected him to develop into a few years ago in Montreal, while Lapierre is outperforming anyone he lines up against.
It is always enjoyable as a fan to see players take less money to win, and it is even more enjoyable to see two deadline rentals stick around for the long term. In the past, Vancouver has seen its share of awful deadline pickups come and go. Those wasted draft picks really add up after a while. Lapierre is an ideal bottom six center, and Higgins has the versatility to play any position on any line.
The skilled winger is well on his way to a full recovery. He began skating a few weeks ago, and his dry land off-ice training has been extremely intense. He has experienced no setbacks, but the team is obviously going to continue to take his progression back into the lineup very, very slow.
Where will he slot in upon returning? Assuming Cody Godgson Hodgson keeps up his recent level of play, it would be a stretch to assume Raymond would immediately slide in to the first line. My guess – he pushes Aaron Volpatti off of the fourth line, and sees limited even strength action mixed in with some second power play unit time.
Obviously a huge downgrade in size and physicality, but I can’t see Higgins or Hansen being supplanted on the third line, either. This has the potential to be one of those “good” problems…
I don’t know about you, but I always enjoyed watching Wellwood play during his time with the Canucks. He was such a cerebral player, and one of the most underrated playoff performers we have ever seen. He got flack for his off-ice conditioning and lack of size, but he played without fear.
With the Jets, he’s leading the team in goal scoring, and playing a larger offensive role than he did in Vancouver or San Jose. He’s great on the faceoff circle and he consistently makes smart, safe passes that help out the teams he plays for (especially on the breakout).
But not for the reasons you would think. Luongo must lead the league in the “shutouts lost in the final few minutes” statistic. (Anyone out there keep track of it?) He played a solid game last night, but once again lost his shutout bid with only a few ticks left on the clock. He had zero chance on the play, as it was a beautiful redirection by Alex Tanguay.
Justin Goldman, one of my fellow writers for DobberHockey, and known to many on the net as the Goalie Guild, made a note after the Washington game regarding Luongo. He wrote that often times goalies are able to gain a lot of confidence after making a big save. Saying a player can turn around an entire season based off of one single play may seem a bit of a reach, but Goldman knows his stuff.
I have pretty much been a Keith Ballard "apologist" for much of his tenure in Vancouver, but he needs to turn his level of play around quite quickly if he wants to stick in the lineup. Unknown defenseman Alexander Sulzer has come in and outperformed Ballard in a limited role, looking much more consistent and capable defensively.
For whatever reason, Ballard seems to lose his positioning on a shift-to-shift basis. He looks more mobile and stronger physically than he did last season (a summer spent training instead of rehabilitating is likely the reason why), but he still struggles with gap control and defensive zone assignments.
Ballard has so much natural skill and ability, but he looks like he’s thinking too hard on the ice. At a cap hit of $2 or $3 million, inconsistent play wouldn’t be a huge issue (frankly it would be expected, considering what it costs these days to land a capable defenseman). However, at $4.2 million, the Canucks need to get more from Ballard – at both ends of the ice.
What was with Jackman going after Dale Weise at the end of the Calgary/Vancouver game on Tuesday night? If he wanted to spark his team, he was about 59 minutes late. If he wanted to prove his toughness, he should have gone after Volpatti. The bigger question – why didn’t he get an instigator? Skates behind Weise, slashes him, and then drops his glove to engage. Weise is a capable fighter, it’s not like Jackman went after a Sedin, but the issue still stands.
What exactly was he trying to prove?