Oct 6, 2013; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis (2) and Calgary Flames center Mikael Backlund (11) battle for the puck during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Vancouver Canucks won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Vancouver Canucks Defenceman Dan Hamhuis Struggling Defensively

Vancouver Canucks defenceman Dan Hamhuis appears to be struggling to grasp new head coach John Tortorella‘s system.

Both Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy and the Team 1040’s Jeff Paterson noted on Twitter how Hamhuis has been getting caught flatfooted in the first three games of the season.

Assistant coach Mike Sullivan (who is responsible for running the defense) also noticed that too and late in the first period juggled the defence pairings. He moved Hamhuis with Chris Tanev and Ryan Stanton paired with Kevin Bieksa.

It might have been seen as a move to balance out the defence pairings initially since Stanton only played 9:29 and 10:30 in his first two games. Pairing Stanton with Bieksa would have allowed him to play more minutes. Tanev has also paired with Hamhuis in the past and done well.

It wound up being a demotion for Hamhuis as he finished the night playing only 17:07, which was 48 seconds more than Stanton. Alexander Edler led the way playing 25:43 followed by Bieksa at 25:27, Jason Garrison at 22:43, and Tanev at 19:27.

Calgary Flames forward Sean Monahan‘s goal 1:47 into the third period epitomized Hamhuis’s struggle in the first three games of the season. He made an ill-advised pinch in the neutral zone and it led to a Flames two-on-one led by Monahan with Tanev the lone defenceman back.

Statistically-speaking, Hamhuis has done well in the first three games putting up a goal and an assist.

However, his goal on Edmonton Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk was on a routine dump-in that was mishandled by Dubnyk and partially deflected by Oilers defenceman Jeff Petry out at the blueline.

His assist tonight on Dale Weise‘s goal with 3:54 to go in the third period was from a cross-ice dump in that was retrieved by Brad Richardson and Weise behind the Flames net. The two forwards worked the puck down low to setup the goal.

Hamhuis might be feeling the pressure to make things happen offensively to secure a spot on Team Canada for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He is one of many Canadian defencemen trying to make it.

Here’s hoping Hamhuis finds his way out of Tortorella and Sullivan’s doghouse. As we saw with Keith Ballard, once you get in good, you won’t get back out.

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