A lot can happen during 60 minutes of battle night in and night out, so every week Canucks Army will bring you a quick player assessment: who is are doing well enough that you should slap their names on the back of your $250 jersey, who’s been so bad they should be jettisoned down to the Wolves before you reach the end of this sentence and the guys caught in the murky middle, giving you just enough good to make it palatable to ignore the bloody awful.
This week we celebrate two guys who had their own luxury suites in AV’s doghouse last season while casting a shameful eye at a pair of slumping wingers (there’s a more than slight chance you can guess who one of them is).
Living High Off The Hog (The Good)
> Cody Hodgson: There may be room left on the Silent G bandwagon if you ask nicely. Hodgson has done everything asked of him so far, from being saddled with dead weight wingers in training camp (conspiracy!) to, well, dead weight wingers in the first few games of the regular season. By comparison however, Hodgson has shown great speed and good puck decisions in the process, earning him the right to slide to wing when Kesler returned in the 4-0 losing effort to the Rangers. With luck Hodgson gels with Kesler and the two can pick up where perhaps Kesler/Raymond left off in 2009; after two games together they have had spots of brilliance. Nevertheless, Hodgson has easily been one of the bright spots so far this season and, knowing how far he had to come, makes it all the more pleasing.
> Keith Ballard: Not to jinx the fun, but what a difference a year makes. In his first six games of 2010-11, Ballard averaged 13:58 TOI in 113 shifts and had no shots on goal. In the same span now he’s averaging nearly two more minutes per game in 132 shifts with ten shots and one pretty, pretty goal. Granted with the absense of Ehrhoff such a promotion in icetime was a given, but Ballard has put last year far in the rearview and has played admirably with his increased responsibilities. Against New York he was promoted to the first unit with Bieksa and arguably had his finest game yet as a Canuck. On top of blowing up Hordichuk, his happy hips have already sent at least three players arse over kettle. It’s early, but there’s hope he may help us forget that whole "we lost Grabner for you" mindset if he continues the strong play.
Your Sins Will Find You Out (The Bad)
> Marco Sturm: The German has become the early season magnet for every piece of criticism you want to throw at the wall (seriously, even Luongo is shocked). The box cars are ugly: 6 games, 0 points, -5, 3 shots and a TOI that has been (a) sliced down a third from what it was at the opener to (b) being a healthy scratch. Sturm admits he’s probably gripping the stick too tight and it hasn’t been all his fault either, but rocky starts in vibrant hockey markets don’t permit much wiggle room. Sturm needed an ailing Samuelsson to get back into action against Nashville but if he doesn’t find his speed or the back of the net soon (he did have a goal disallowed against Nashville), it wouldn’t be shocking to see him land on the waiver wire.
> Jannik Hansen: When Jank scored his new three-year deal this summer, Laurence Gilman said "he could be a guy who could score 15 to 20 goals in a year." Laurence may not have used those words if he knew Hansen would again be pegged into the checking role and the Kesler ripple effect on the offense would mean only one assist and a -5 in seven games for the Dane. Sure you don’t look to the checking line to score, but with the top six slumping you need a burst from somewhere and that’s where Jank is supposed to factor in. His PK efforts (where he excelled last year) have tanked along with the team’s bumpy start as well (11.34 GAON/60 as of Wednesday). Unlike Sturm he isn’t going anywhere but could find himself on the fourth line if he isn’t careful.
The Spirit Is Willing But The Flesh Is Weak (The Murky Middle)
> Mikael Samuelsson: At this rate we shouldn’t complain when anyone scores, so on that note thank you for rippling the twine. That said, his play on the point has been incredibly suspect, so much so I imagine the opposition’s tape review of Vancouver must go something like this: "If you see #26 with the puck just flap your arms, quack like a duck and scare the hell out of him and the odd-man rush is yours." When he does fire the puck on the man advantage, it’s as if he hates the jersey stitching because the shot end up right in the goalie’s chest. Oh sure, blame the injury. Actually, that’s fair, sports hernia’s suck. But still someone may need to dig up Bengt-Ake Gustafsson to stoke Sammy’s fire.
> Alex Edler: For the supposed bluechipper in training, Sir Edler has had a bit of rocky start this season. One game he’ll get abused (-3 against NY), the next he’ll find his offensive stride (2A against NSH). Speaking of offense, Edler was projected to be the main benefactor of Ehrhoff getting his Scrooge McDuck on in upstate NY, but his work on the man advantage has been suspect. Let’s be blunt: the dude needs some new sticks. His PPSE% (power play stick explosion) is hovering around a solid 90%. It’s not all bad: he’s tied for the team lead in hits (15) and third in blocks (11), but it’s really the special teams failure (of which he receives ample TOI) is when the E-train lands here this week.