The Vancouver Canucks are bit by the injury bug once again. As the trade deadline approaches, what does this mean for the team?
The Vancouver Canucks are now 54 games into an 82-game season. Still 28 games to go and the playoffs still a possibility. Through those 54 games, they’ve spent a collective three and a half periods injury-free. A whole 70 minutes. Less if you consider Henrik Sedin still looks like he’s playing hurt, but that’s an argument for another day.
Only one game after the team got healthy again, Brandon Sutter suffers a fractured jaw from a deflected puck and Alexander Edler suffers a fractured foot from blocking a slapshot. Not again. This team just isn’t having any luck this year.
As reported on twitter by Bob McKenzie, Edler is out for likely 2-3 weeks. A fractured jaw for Sutter I would imagine is at least just as long.
So, it’s probably safe to assume right now that both are gone until at least the Feb 29th NHL Trade Deadline. What does this mean for the Canucks going forward?
On the one hand, we can say that the tank dream and a top-five pick is on. Hello Jacob Chychrun, Matthew Tkachuk, Patrick Laine, Jesse Puljujarvi, or maybe we really luck out and get our hands on the coveted Auston Mathews. But, on the other hand, the Canucks have gone most of the season without Sutter anyways and before Edler was out with injury, Dan Hamhuis was.
So, the team can continue on without them. It sure doesn’t look like Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi, Ben Hutton, Dan Hamhuis, and Jake Virtanen are willing to go down without a fight, so that alone could stop them from getting a nice, high pick.
Is that the best option though? Jim Benning has repeatedly stated that the playoffs are the goal. As is developing our young guys in a winning environment. The Canucks did ok without Hamhuis and I think they can do ok without Edler. Could they do ok without both, though? I’m thinking no.
Right now, Hamhuis can step into the top pairing with Christopher Tanev, Ben Hutton goes back with Luca Sbisa, and Matt Bartkowski and Alex Biega get reunited for the third pairing. I can live with that.
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Radim Vrbata, the other much-discussed pending unrestricted free agent should be as good as gone, regardless of how the team does. Bumping him down to the bottom six really reinforced that idea. Jared McCann, Adam Cracknell, or anyone from the American Hockey League’s Utica Comets can move up and fill a bottom-six role just as well. So, I won’t talk much about him because I believe he’s already halfway out the door.
If the Canucks trade Hamhuis though, then who plays on the top pairing? Sbisa? That’s a scary thought. Hutton? That’s a lot to ask from a rookie. Bartkowski? But he’s barely hanging on to the third pairing. It’d be pretty impossible for Benning to continue saying playoffs are the goal if the defence suddenly becomes Tanev and Sbisa as being our seasoned, veteran defensemen.
Maybe Edler makes a hasty recovery and comes back in two weeks, but foot injuries are tricky. Could be two weeks, could be two months.
If Vancouver loses the next few games, or even just the next one, then it’s pretty likely they become sellers (assuming, of course, Hamhuis is willing to waive his no-trade clause). But if they win, Benning is faced with a pretty difficult situation. He has to either hurt the team and their postseason chances (however unlikely they already are) in order to secure draft picks or prospects for the future — which would also contradict himself and what he says is the goal of the team, to always make the playoffs. Or he holds on to Hamhuis for a playoff push and the Canucks do the best that they can being the best equipped that they can be.
Either choice is going to have a very vocal part of the fanbase calling for his head, though. Such is life for a Vancouver GM.
So, what do you think Benning does? Pack it in, trust Edler will be back soon, and go forward with a D-core something like Hutton-Tanev, Sbisa-Pedan, Bartkowski-Biega? Or hold on to Hamhuis and give the rest of the team a considerably better chance of finding success from now until the end of the season — and maybe beyond?
I say sell. Screw this season, chalk it up to development and a ridiculous amount of injuries we could never really recover from. Next year matters more than this one. But, an argument can be made for holding on to Hamhuis, too. Especially if Vancouver winds up re-signing him anyway.
What would you do? Don’t forget to let us know in the comments!