This is a regular Friday feature combining a healthy mixture of observation, analysis, and foresight on the Vancouver Canucks. If you’d like to get at me about anything covered in this column, follow me on Twitter at @yyjordan and let’s start a textual relationship (wink).
1. There’s not much for me to add to the discussion on Jannik Hansen and Marian Hossa – like most sensible Canucks fans I saw it as a reckless but unintentional elbow by Hansen. The one game suspension was reasonable, given that you have to be responsible for your equipment and your limbs and Hossa was hurt on the play. Still, the whole incident was made worse by the fact that Hossa – despite his recent concussion history – was cleared to practice so quickly, and probably play, so soon after the Hansen hit. I don’t know much about Hossa’s particular issues, but the Blackhawks have a spotty history on this and if Hossa’s playing hockey with a head as soft as an overripe avocado going forward, I think that’s a scandal. And that’s the underlying issue here: are players league-wide receiving proper treatment and recovery time for serious concussions?
2. Here are three flat-out wrong opinions on the hit: 1) That Hansen (in a split second) decided to elbow Hossa in the head when he realized he wasn’t going to reach the puck, or 2) that the elbow was anywhere near as malicious as Duncan Keith’s on Daniel Sedin, and 3) that Hossa faked an injury to get Hansen suspended. C’mon.
3. Alain Vigneault, of course, had a good chuckle about the whole suspension thing. Wait, a portly guy prone to the chuckles who is frequently perplexed by medical diagnoses? Alain Vigneault is Dr. Hibbert.
4. David Booth returned to game action this week, and all things considered has looked quite effective. Unfortunately for Boothy, his return means he has to halt production on his upcoming cookbook "He Shoots, He Skewers! How to Grill What You Kill". I hear there’s a special chapter on how to catch and prepare the elusive Escape Goat. Look for it to drop in the Summer of 2013.
5. The Canucks have a record of 9-3-4 and are 7-1-2 in their last 10. If there’s an area of concern though, it has to be the team’s overall defensive play. The pairings have generally been a mess, and the Chicago game really exposed their weaknesses. Part of the problem is the Canucks are still missing a natural right-side defenceman, and so no matter what pairings AV and Bowness put together there’s always at least one square peg on the ice. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched a square peg play D, but it ain’t pretty; the circles go right around them while the squres just sit there, being inatimate objects.
6. Having too many defencemen playing out of position ultimately lands on Mike Gillis, who outside of Kevin Bieksa and Alex Edler has assembled this entire defensive core. But could Rick Bowness just not be the right guy for this group? It’s a fantastic-looking top six on paper, but is that potential being wasted by inept coaching?
7. This brings me to Jason Garrison, who I’ve been quietly worried about since Gillis signed him. Not because I think he’s bad, but because I knew most fans would have unrealistic expectations for the guy. His contract, while fair for the market, is high enough that fans are going to expect offense. The 16 goals he scored last season was an anomaly he’ll likely never repeat, and again, he’s a left-sided defenceman sharing the top-six with three other left-sided defencemen. Either he’s playing on his off-side or he’s playing with a guy on his off-side. Either way it’s not the ideal way to utilize his skillset. Speaking of which, the coaches need to find a way to effectively incorporate Garrison back onto the PowerPlay; they’re wasting one of the hardest shots in the league.
8. Drance wrote a very interesting piece yesterday about Garrison’s "demotion" and how negligible the difference is between the 2nd and 3rd pairings this season. We’ve been speculating that the coaching staff is trying to even out the distribution of minutes during a short season, and recently I came across a quote from a Globe & Mail article that confirms this:
"Deployment may evolve. The Canucks have looked at soccer research that shows players fade during games and during seasons. Studies from Liverpool John Moores University argue that better success – more goals – can be achieved if teams use more innovative substitutions. Vigneault has talked about this for the shortened season, resisting the temptation to use the Sedins more and instead giving the third line upward of 15 minutes a night, and even the fourth line eight to nine minutes, instead of five to seven."
9. That is a fascinating article, and even though it was published back in January, there’s another excerpt that is particularly telling now that Manny Malhotra has been shut down for the year:
"Gillis’s life in hockey is the philosophical underpinning of the human performance plan – doing right by players, who are so often treated as disposable and easily replaceable commodities."
10. I wanted to finish with this great piece by Jason Botchford on Alex Burrows and the Sedins. It is interesting to think back on the circumstances that put that line together in the first place, and the absolutely staggering success they’ve had since. The point about Burrows helping the twins become players who could create off the rush and not just their cycle is one I hadn’t really considered before, but it’s absolutely true. Plus, could this quote from Burrows be any more adorable:
“He’s made my career a lot more glorious than I made his,” Burrows said. “He’s a great player. He’s even a better person."
Aw jeez, gettin’ misty over here, you guys. See you next week.