There’s a line of thinking that the Vancouver Canucks must acquire a defenseman ahead of this month’s trade deadline, to provide insurance in the event of another – and likely inevitable — Sami Salo injury. However, after watching the Canucks game on Saturday night in Calgary, it seems that Mike Gillis should be looking to pull the trigger on a deal to acquire someone who can play ahead of Salo, even when the veteran defenseman is healthy and in the line-up.
Read on after the break!
Salo is hardly hurting the hockey club – at 37 and coming off the concussion suffered when he was submarined by Brad Marchand in Boston last month, he continues to play relatively error-free hockey. Salo rarely takes penalties (just 8 PIM all season) and is about as low-maintenance a player as you will find in the NHL. But watching him on Saturday night, it seems that Salo is giving the Canucks everything they’re looking for in a depth defenseman, except for the fact that he remains in the team’s top four.
Even at his advanced age and stage, Salo proved last month that he can still fire the puck, as he successfully defended his "hardest shot" title at the team’s annual skills competition with a blast of 102.7 miles per hour. The problem is that Salo just isn’t shooting the puck enough any more. The Finnish defenseman has just five shots in seven games since returning from his latest injury, and he hasn’t registered more than a single shot in any game since he had four against the Bruins.
Saturday night in Calgary, Salo didn’t just lose his spot on the top power play unit, he barely saw any power play time at all – hitting the ice for just 34 seconds with the man-advantage. Dan Hamhuis led all Canucks defensemen with 2:54 of power play time while Aaron Rome (30 seconds) saw almost as much power-play ice-time as Salo did. Dan Hamhuis is a versatile and well-rounded defenseman, but he is hardly a power play quarterback, and shouldn’t be leading the team in power-play time.
Still, it’s understandable why Alain Vigneault is making the decisions he’s making right now: Sami Salo just isn’t bringing anything to the power play party these days. He hasn’t scored in the past 21 games he’s been in the line-up, and has just one goal (December 8th at Montreal) in his last 26 games. It’s not all about adding offense, but when you have a weapon like Salo does, you simply must use it. He rang a puck off the post in Minnesota on Thursday with perhaps his most-menacing shot attempt in months! The Canucks need to see more of that from Salo.
While Sami Salo won’t always score, teams have no choice but to respect his heavy shot, especially when the Canucks have the man-advantage. If he can get blasts on net, goalies will have trouble controlling rebounds which should produce second-chance scoring opportunities. As it is right now, Salo has just four assists during his goal-scoring drought. That’s simply not good enough on a team that stresses offensive contributions from its defenders.
The second half of February is always a fascinating time of year with the trade deadline rapidly approaching. With each passing game, it looks more and more like the Canucks have already added a depth defenseman to their stable. His name is Sami Salo. Now it’ll be interesting to see if Mike Gillis can find someone capable of joining the team’s top four.