Canucks and Beyond

The Defense Rests

02/05/2008 at 4:14pm EST

The Canucks have recalled Zack Fitzgerald, yet another defenseman from Manitoba who gets his first shot at discovering life in the NHL this season. As Brad Ziemer via Canwest News pointed out this morning, things are beyond desperate:

Can anyone out there skate backwards?
Good, because you may be able to help the Vancouver Canucks, who are giving new meaning to the phrase, “the defence rests.”

A couple of these d-men might be back, but here’s the current status of the Canucks top-6, as they were projected to be last October (to paraphrase Ziemer):

  • Mattias Ohlund (returned to Vancouver for “personal reasons” Monday and may not make the game in Dallas tonight)
  • Sami Salo (groin injury the other day; possible return tonight, depending…)
  • Aaron Miller (foot injury from blocking a shot last week; morning skate determines if he can return tonight)
  • Willie Mitchell (back)
  • Lukas Krajicek (shoulder)
  • Kevin Bieksa (lacerated calf)

There’s reason to hope for Ohlund, Salo and Miller in Dallas tonight… but no certainties.

Regardless, this AHL team of ours is getting ridiculous, and J.J. at Canucks Hockey Blog agrees:

Alex Edler and Luc Bourdon as a top pairing would have been great if we were talking about the Manitoba Moose. Heck, a blueline that consists of Edler/Bourdon/Weaver/McIver/Fitzgerald isn’t bad really if we were talking about the Moose. That these guys might form the Canucks blueline tonight is lame (pardon the pun).

Switching to the topic of offense, Adam Proteau printed this in his mailbag article in The Hockey News today:

I was just wondering if you think it’s time the Vancouver Canucks say goodbye to Markus Naslund, Brendan Morrison, Matt Cooke and start looking to rebuild, because I think so.
Travis Ryan, North Vancouver, B.C.

I think you’re onto something. However, as long as the Canucks are in the midst of a playoff race, there’s little to no chance GM Dave Nonis goes bananas in the next month and strips his roster in the name of starting over.

The Canucks are like a lot of post-season-bound teams in that there’s extensive pressure on them to win, at minimum, two playoff rounds this season.

If that doesn’t happen – and if they don’t get any scoring help prior to the Feb. 26 trade deadline, I don’t think it will – Vancouver’s team next season will look significantly different than this year’s group. And unrestricted free agents such as Naslund, Cooke and Morrison almost certainly will be goners.

Given the circumstances, I’m not sure many are expecting Vancouver to even make the playoffs, much less win two rounds. So that means more pressure on Dave Nonis than ever, and that February 26th deadline is a critical and loaded situation.

I think Proteau jumps the gun being so quick to dismiss what might happen there.

As for vanquishing Naslund, Morrison and Cooke… Should they all be scrapped? I don’t think that makes a ton of sense in Morrison’s case—just my opinion—but certainly Naslund is likely to be gone. And the non-renewal of his contract alone frees up $6 million for next season.

So… if you were GM of the Canucks, what would you try and buy for $6 million this summer?

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