Jealous of Chicago
It is time for the Canucks overachievers and underachievers update as the half season approaches, and there are some marked differences from the first list we produced.
The Canucks’ meek start gave way to an extended strong run, mainly on the backs of the goaltenders, but Vancouver now finds itself mired in a slump once more.
The team remains in the top ten of the NHL, but will need to recommit to playing a stronger game in order to secure a higher playoff place.
Mason Raymond has been a terrific surprise. He has maintained his exciting speed post injury, but has also exhibited a greater willingness to skate through the middle of the ice, rather than opt to wriggle along the boards.
He leads the team with four power play goals, providing the second PP unit with a threat, and has also demonstrated an affinity for ably covering the centre position when required.
Jannik Hansen is the rare Canucks player who has progressed significantly every season for Vancouver, and his grit, speed and determination have put a charge in the team.
He has tallied 6 goals already and boasts a healthy +8 rating, despite bouncing between the second and third line.
The great Dane will also be the mentor when the exciting prospect and fellow Dane Nicklas Jensen eventually makes his way to the Canucks first team, as soon as this year.
Kevin Bieksa is the one defenseman who has been steady on both ends of the ice.
Tanev continues to provide a reliable defensive presence, but Bieksa also supplies a solid shot (5 goals) and the necessary snarl to bring an edge to this so-called ‘soft’ team.
If only he could assure he would make it through every game injury-free.
Keith Ballard looked like he had it all sorted out at last, skating well and moving the puck crisply, then Chris Tanev moved up in the defence pairings and the familiar error prone Ballard was once again back in the Coach V doghouse.
Ballard tantalizes the fans with his potential, but 4.5 million dollars per year screams out higher expectations.
David Booth is back from injury, granted, but he has yet to really impress as a Canuck this year or last.
He looks the part with the great skating ability and imposing size, but cannot seem to make those raw tools produce in any consistent, meaningful manner.
I would take Chris Higgins in a heartbeat over Booth at left wing. Newell Brown is known as the Vancouver Canucks power play guru, but in reality he has underperformed in this coaching role since the Canucks Stanley Cup run.
The Canucks have now dropped as low as 20th in the league with the man advantage.
The success of this unit was a hallmark of the team’s identity, but that former strength needs a few sessions on the shrink’s couch in order to get going again.
What about it Vancouver fans?
Who do you see as the best and worst players right now for the Canucks?
The sprint for the 2013 Stanley Cup is underway. Every 6-7 games I’ll weigh in with my overachievers & underachieving Nucks.