Early Season Hardware

The Canucks have been predictably inconsistent through quarter mark of the 2011-12 regular season. A short summer combined with some key injuries have contributed towards the turbulent start. While it is premature to get a clear picture of how the rest of the season will progress, it is never too early to hand out some awards, especially those of the made up variety. 

The Keith Ballard award (given to the most recent former Panther acquired with a $4 million cap hit and an underwhelming start) goes to…

David Booth

Like Ballard, Booth was recently signed to a six-year extension in Florida before getting traded away. Dale Tallon only signs contracts for four years, so it was obvious that Booth wasn’t going to stick around. Also like Ballard, Booth has been slow to adjust to Vancouver’s system. He is young and has proven himself as a capable offensive talent, but for now the jury is still out on whether or not he can live up to his contract.

The Ryan Johnson award (given to the player who contributes the least aside from face- offs) goes to…

Manny Malhotra

Malhotra is clearly struggling from missing a summer of training. Johnson didn’t have a serious eye issue like Malhotra, but he played like he did. The comparisons between the two players are unfortunately numerous – trouble controlling the puck, zero offensive contributions, and a liability in the defensive zone. Malhotra has proven himself to be one of the best defensive centers in the game, and he should be given a long leash based on what he has gone through in the last year. Luckily enough for him Max Lapierre has quickly developed into a very, very good third line center. Hopefully this is the last time any current Canuck is compared to Johnson.

The Kevin Bieksa award (given to the defenseman who needs to pretend he is always in a contract year) goes to…

Kevin Bieksa

Bieksa was the defenseman everyone wanted traded away last summer. He proceeded to have an amazing season in 2010-11, skating primarily on the shutdown pairing with Dan Hamhuis. This season, his erratic play has returned. There is a fine line to his game – he is at his best when he plays with confidence and swagger, but he’s also at his worst when he is overconfident and over committing on the puck. The Canucks have 4.6 million reasons they need him to get back on track this season.

The Dana Murzyn award (given to the player who best resembles an actual pylon) goes to…

Andrew Alberts

Alberts is a much better skater than he used to be… which says a lot. He’s fine in spot duty on the penalty kill or in sheltered situations, but he’s a liability against quick offensive players on the other team. Murzyn was one of the slowest Canucks in history (although he surprisingly holds the plus-minus club record for defensemen at plus-78).

The Kyle Wellwood award (given to the best waiver pickup) goes to…

Dale Weise

Not much was known about Weise when the Canucks scooped him up just before the seasons started. He’s proving to be a nice find for the fourth line. Good speed, good hands, good instincts in all three zones, and he’s only 23.

The Alex Burrows award (given to the francophone who best agitates the opposition) goes to…

Max Lapierre

Now that Burrows is a top line winger, he spends less of his time yapping and disturbing the opposition (although Patrice Bergeron’s finger may tell a different story). Thankfully the Canucks have Lapierre to lean on. Fewer players in the league incite rage from opposing skaters on a more consistent basis than him.

The Daniel and Henrik Sedin award (given to the player who was a hyped prospect, then a bust, and now not a bust) goes to…

Cody Hodgson

Hodgson was a star in junior, both with his OHL club in Brampton and at the international level. A serious back injury slowed his development to a halt, but a summer of training with Gary Roberts and company seems to have worked wonders for his speed, strength, and overall health. He’s been the most consistently creative forward after the Sedin twins, and he seems to be getting more confident and comfortable each game.

Like the Sedin twins, many in the Vancouver market had begun to write Hodgson off as a bust. In previous seasons, he looked to be a few steps behind the play, and he lost puck battles on a regular basis. He looks like a brand new player this season. Not all star prospects are quick to learn the NHL game. That message will likely continue to fall on deaf ears, but Hodgson is just another example of a player taking a nonlinear path to becoming an NHL regular.

The Christian Ehrhoff award (given to the best German defenseman on the team) goes to…

Alexander Sulzer

Sulzer didn’t have much (any) competition for this award, but he has played quite well in a depth role. He’s a good skater and makes smart plays with and without the puck. Past winners include Ehrhoff and the immortal Sven Butenschon.