Vancouver Canucks' performance looks very familiar
After all the changes the Vancouver Canucks went through during an eventful off-season and for all the ”˜outside the box’ thinking the club’s new regime has tried to instil, it’s worth noting that after last night’s 3-2 loss in Columbus, the hockey team hit the 25-game mark with the very same record it had after 25 games a year ago. Yup. With Dave Nonis at the helm and with Markus Naslund, Brendan Morrison, and Trevor Linden in the line-up (alright Linden wasn’t always in the line-up), last year’s Canucks hit the 25-game mark with a record of 14-9-2. Now with Mike Gillis in charge of a new management group, new assistant coaches in place and a host of new faces in the line-up—all wearing sleep-monitoring bracelets and many having healthy meals prepared for them by team chefs—the new-look and apparently new-age Canucks are, well, they’re exactly where last year’s team was. They have 14 wins, nine losses, and a pair of shootout losses.
So is this year’s version of the Canucks any better than a year ago? Statistically speaking, it’s hard to tell. This year’s team has scored 75 goals compared to 68 at the same time a year ago, but this year’s group has surrendered 62 goals compared to the 58 it had allowed at this time last season. And, interestingly enough, both teams went 9-2-2 in the month of November.
A year ago, the Canucks were 7-6-1 on home ice and 7-3-1 on the road at the 25-game mark. This year, the tables have been turned, and the Canucks are 7-3-1 at home and after back to back losses in Calgary and Columbus to start their current seven-game road trip, the 2008-09 Canucks are now 7-6-1 on the road. The good news is that the Canucks have been pretty solid at home this season and they’ve played far fewer home games that road contests. Starting on December 15, they begin a run of seven of eight and 17 of 22 games on home ice. That is bound to be a pivotal stretch for the hockey club.
From the 25-game mark, last year’s Canucks went 25-24-8 the rest of the way. So from this point in the season one year ago, the Canucks were basically a .500 hockey team—that wasn’t good enough to get them in the playoffs and led to sweeping changes at the end of last year. Those changes weren’t made because of what happened in the first 25 games of the season, but rather what took place over the course of the final 20 games when the Canucks went 7-11-2. And that’s where this year’s team gets a chance to be much better than last season’s.
It’s no longer ”˜early’ in this hockey season—what you see from the Canucks line-up (barring a major trade or the signing of Mats Sundin) is what you’ve got. And it’s exactly as most people figured it would be at the start of the season. When healthy, the Canucks have a great goaltender, a decent—but at times over-rated—defence, and they’ve got forwards who are challenged to score on most nights. What this group has shown in the first 25 games has been good enough to get the Canucks to first place in the Northwest Division—and for that they should be commended. But it’s highly unlikely their play of late will keep them atop the division through the end of the week let alone the end of the season.
Off the ice much has changed with the Vancouver Canucks, on the ice, however, things look very familiar. It’s okay to say that 25 games in, but Canuck fans certainly don’t want to be muttering those words four months from now.