The midway point of the 48-game season schedule is fast approaching and the Vancouver Canucks have compiled an 11-5-4 record, but is this a Stanley Cup team?
In a word, no. This team is lacking in a few key areas—specifically holes at centre ice and on defence. These issues beg the question: what can the Canucks do to have a deep playoff run this season?
Canucks centre Ryan Kesler has gone from having bad luck with injuries to potentially injury prone. Since the 2011 offseason, he has undergone hip, shoulder, and wrist surgeries. Now, he is out indefinitely with a fractured right foot.
There is a big hole on the team when Kesler is out of the lineup. Maxim Lapierre doesn’t quite have the scoring prowess to move up beyond the third line. Rookie Jordan Schroeder is still a bit of a wild card as a first-year player in the NHL.
The Canucks will need to add a strong two-way centre that can anchor the third line and move up to the second in a pinch whenever Kesler’s absent. A left-handed centre that can take faceoffs in the defensive zone should be on the wish list as well with Manny Malhotra out for the duration of the season. The team only has one other left-handed centre and that is captain Henrik Sedin.
On defence, the Canucks are lacking a right-sided defenceman. The plan at the beginning of the season was for Alexander Edler to move over to the right-side following the departure of Sami Salo, but that hasn’t worked out. It was quite the adventure for the Canucks defence when Kevin Bieksa sat out two games with a strained groin and two left-handed defencemen had to play the right side.
The Canucks nearly have all the pieces to solve the NHL playoff puzzle, but general manager Mike Gillis will need to move either Roberto Luongo or Cory Schneider to secure a top-six forward and a solid defensive defenceman.
With the tough, hard-nosed play and increased physicality in the second season—the Stanley Cup playoffs, only teams with true depth and grip will have any chance of making a deep run. At this point, the current Canucks group probably don’t quite have enough depth. As fans, we will need to count on Gillis and the management team to come through and bolster the team’s depth prior to the trade deadline as the Stanley Cup window may be closing after this season.