With another loss, Vancouver Canucks limp to midway mark of shortened-NHL season
After falling 4-2 in Minnesota Sunday night (March 10), the Vancouver Canucks stumbled to the halfway point of their 48-game National Hockey League schedule.
And for the first time in years, there is a legitimate question about whether this hockey club will make the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The loss to the Wild was the team's fourth straight and bumped the Canucks from top spot in the Northwest Division. The sputtering Canucks have one win in their past seven games and just three victories in their past dozen outings.
After starting the season with an 8-2-2 record and showing signs of balanced offense and an air-tight defense, the Canucks have taken on water. They reach the midway mark with a record of 11-7-6, good for 28 points in the 24 games they've played.
But the issues plaguing this team are piling up. The club has just 18 goals in its past eight games. The power play has not scored in that span and is now in a zero for 24 funk.
Defensive breakdowns are killing the the Canucks on a nightly basis and goaltending that covered some of those miscues earlier in the season isn't there right now either.
The Canucks are a better team than they are showing right now, but it's clear there are issues that must be addressed. There are howls from the faithful for changes to almost every part of the organization.
General manager Mike Gillis has been unable to peddle Roberto Luongo in order to address other areas of need. Alain Vigneault seems unable to push the right buttons to stop the spiral. And too many players—Alex Edler, Alex Burrows, David Booth, Zack Kassian, Max Lapierre—aren't playing anywhere close to the expectations the hockey club has for them.
Toss in injuries to key cogs Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa—although all teams have to deal with injuries at different times throughout the season—and the Canucks have lost their way. They'll get Kesler and Bieksa back, but there's no guarantee the Canucks will find their form. They've already lost the division lead and if their slump continues they will soon lose their grasp on one of the eight playoff spots in the Western Conference.
The second half of the season starts Tuesday night (March 12) in Columbus where the Canucks fell 2-1 in overtime on March 7. The current make-up of this hockey team seems incapable of getting the job done and so something will have to change. Will it be a minor tweak or a major overhaul?
The NHL trade deadline is April 3 and beyond that the Canucks will move forward with the players they've got.
If you think the past few weeks have been bumpy, strap yourself in for the final six weeks of the season. There are big potholes ahead. It's up to the Canucks to avoid them.