The Tort Report
After a long summer of anticipation and a training camp full of promises, we’re finally at a point where we’re able to get an initial impression of the John Tortorella era in Vancouver.
After 10 games, the Vancouver Canucks are 5-4-1, which is good enough for fifth in the Pacific. It’s not a great start, as they’re out of the playoffs currently; but it’s important to remember how bad the Canucks were in October under Alain Vigneault.
This is actually improvement.
The penalty kill has seen the biggest boost from last year, sitting first in the league at 91.4 percent. The powerplay, however, is again at the bottom of the league.
Individually, there haven’t been many surprises outside of Mike Santorelli‘s hot start. Henrik Sedin is putting the team on his back, sitting second in league scoring behind the supremely talented Sidney Crosby, while Jason Garrison is behind only PK Subban in the defensive scoring race.
Case Of The Struggles
So it’s a mixed bag of success and disappointment as the Canucks continue to slog through their longest road trip since the Olympic eviction. The team has rarely taken a night off, but the results, again, aren’t playoff-worthy when compared to their division.
Not only are the Sharks the only undefeated team in the league, but Calgary and Phoenix have started strong, which complicates the playoff race if they can continue their pace.
Could Be Tight All Year
The Canucks have been good, but they haven’t been great. Their goals against, for instance, is the worst in their division save for the lowly Oilers.
If they’re going to secure a playoff spot, and get over their first-round hump, they need to get better, and that will have to come internally (paging David Booth).
It’s the same trick Torts was talking about all summer, finding a way to get an extra gear out of this roster. As good as Santorelli has been, the Canucks can’t continue to rely on him for game-winning goals.
That has to come from the core that still talks the talk about how they can be as good as they were back in 2010-11. It falls on players such as Alex Edler, Jannik Hansen and Kevin Bieksa who need to have career years if the Canucks want to play with the big boys in the West.
It also falls on Zack Kassian, a player who will continue to feel the pressure to put it all together until that magical day that he does. I truly believe he will. Just think back to how long it took Todd Bertuzzi to become the dominant power forward he was at the height of the West Coast Express.
There’s two pressing needs on the Canucks roster right now: a game-breaking scorer and a third line centre option that’s more than a stop-gap. Sounds a lot like Hunter Shinkaruk and Bo Horvat, but those two are still at least a year away from being full-time Canucks. They, along with the other youth toys, will be here soon enough, but this isn’t the type of market that will easily accept a bridge year until help comes.
We want to win now, we want to win yesterday. That will fall on Mike Gillis to make the necessary moves at the deadline to help the Canucks compete without gutting the much promised youth movement.
And oh yeah, Roberto Luongo. For all the drama of the summer, there hasn’t been a peep of distraction since the puck dropped a couple weeks ago. Luongo is still Luongo, and he has given the Canucks a chance to win every night. They say your best penalty killer is your goalie, and the Canucks, again, have the best kill in the league.
As the season progresses, the trick for the Canucks is to get better, become more familiar with the new system, and above all, fix that powerplay. Vancouver is fourth best in the league for shots per game, but just fifteenth in goals for.
That could mean they’re simply snake-bit to start the season, or it could be the problem of a forward corps short in finish.
That’s what the next 10 games will answer: Can the Canuck be better? They’ll have to if they want to go deep into the spring.