We Have Stars?
It’s early and the 2-3-1 Vancouver Canucks are off to their predictably slow October start.
So while the list of three star candidates is slim – the way Kyle Wellwood apparently showed up to the Winnipeg Jets training cap (Hard to imagine, I know) – here are the few noteworthy performers through six games of the Vancouver Canucks 2011-12 campaign.
First Star: Keith Ballard
Officially out of the doghouse, Ballard is hip-checking, hustling and looking like an outside Norris Trophy Candidate – okay that last statement is complete hyperbole. But the “Power” Ballard is doing a lot of good things so far, and it’s nice to see considering he had the most to prove coming into training camp.
Having fully recovered from knee surgery that plagued him all last season, the bruising defenceman is finally living up to the hype that saw the GM Mike Gillis surrender sniper Michael Grabner, Steve Bernier and a first-rounder to acquire him.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, how can you give a guy first star to a guy that’s a team worst minus-5?
Just Hear me out.
Consider all of these: his transition game is Paul Coffey-smooth, the accuracy and precision of his passes are Sedin-esque, and the breakneck speed at which Ballard’s been skating down the ice to get in the rush in nothing short of Mike Gartner.
Where was any of that last year?
Not to mention he’s the only defenceman at least trying to fill Christian Erhoff’s skates – so yeah he may be a minus-5 right now, but Ballard is still miles ahead of where he was a year ago and I can only see his game getting better.
Second Star: Henrik Sedin
Say what you will about the Sedins in the playoffs, when it comes to regular season play they are nothing short of brilliant. And while the play of the Canucks captain may not be vintage Hank, it’s certainly better than subpar. Obviously, the same can’t be said about the rest of the veterans who are struggling to find a rhythm.
Through 6 games the former Hart Trophy Winner has 2 goals and 5 assists and is plus-3 and a respectable 49% in the face-off circle, while logging 20:55 minutes of ice-time.
Third Star: Cody Hodgson
Hodgson has been stellar for a less than stellar Vancouver Canucks hockey club. The rookie is finally firing the puck on net and has amassed 16 shots in 6 games. And while his hard work and chances have not entirely been lost, he deserves better than what his one goal and one assist have to show for.
That being said, there’s still plenty of room for improvement with the 21-year-old from Brampton, Ontario. Last night for example on the Rangers fourth goal Ryan McDonagh danced around a flat-footed Hodgson en route to an easy pass to Marion Gaborik in front for the tap-in.
Like any rookie searching for consistency in an unforgiving NHL, you have to take the good with the bad.
Even with a hockey player as cerebral as Hodgson, the Canucks should expect to see more growing pains.