by PuckStopsHere on 02/08/14 at 03:29 PM ET
The Vancouver Canucks were supposed to be a contender this season, but over the short-term they have been the worst team in the league. They have lost their last six games. They have one more to go before the break as they play Toronto today. This would drop the Canucks out of the playoffs. They are currently ninth in the West Conference. They are one point back of eighth place Phoenix. So what is going wrong?
The first answer to that question is that short-term streaks and slumps mean little. It is easy to put too much attention into short-term trends. However, there are meaningful reasons why they have struggled lately. Injuries are the biggest one. Henrik Sedin is out indefinitely and will miss the Olympics with bruised ribs. Their defensive depth has been tested with Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis and Chris Tanev all missing time with injury. In Henrik's absence, Daniel Sedin has struggled. He hasn't scored a goal since December of 2013. He has gone 19 games without a goal. Another player the Canucks have relied on in the past is Alexandre Burrows. He hasn't scored a goal yet this season.
A big part of the reason the Canucks are struggling now is travel. The new NHL alignment has more travel than any season in recent memory. This hurts Vancouver more than any other team in the NHL. The west coast teams are the most isolated and have to spend the most time travelling. Vancouver is more isolated than the California teams and has an even bigger travel burden. The Canucks are feeling this. They have less time to rest and rehab injuries and that shows on their injured list. As their stars start to age, this will be a more and more significant burden to the team.
An Olympic break will be a chance to rest and reset things. It might be exactly what the Vancouver Canucks need. They have the toughest travel in the NHL and it has hurt them this season. If they can get back into the race, this break will help.
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