Few teams in the NHL were as grateful for the Olympic break as the Vancouver Canucks — a battered, one-time contender that’s hit the mat hard and barely stumbled to its corner at the end of a brutal round. Take a deep breath Vancouver. Get some water. Tend to those wounds. If you don’t regroup, you’ll be down for the count come March. No one saw this coming. The Canucks had a rough start to the season under new head coach John Tortorella, but the New Year has been disastrous. Vancouver dropped seven of its first eight games in January before Tortorella decided to storm the Calgary Flames dressing room after an ugly linebrawl. The ill-advised antics earned Torts a six-game suspension — a gut shot to his already-battered team. Heading into Sochi the Canucks dropped seven games in a row, carrying the ignominious distinction of having the worst losing streak in the league.
No one expected the Canucks to be a top contender in the Western Conference this season, but few predicted an implosion like this. The Canucks blueline has been plagued by injuries all season. Dan Hamhuis spent some time in the infirmary. Chris Tanev is still there, nursing a broken thumb. Kevin Bieksa has been plagued with foot troubles. The team’s offence is equally hobbled. Alex Burrows has played terribly, still goalless this season and skating with a face shield after breaking his jaw in December. Centreman Mike Santorelli is out for the season with a shoulder injury. Henrik Sedin has suffered from a rib injury and skipped the Olympics hoping to heal.
Those are a lot of broken parts, but the miracle is that the Canucks sit just outside the eighth spot in the West. If they manage to get healthy, the season can be somewhat salvaged in the final stretch. It’s one last round, battered and bruised — a final chance to land a knockout, before the Canucks flop to the mat for good.
Click player positions to see depth chart
Areas to address
The Canucks picked up little-used defenceman Raphael Diaz from Montreal for forward Dale Weise a week before the Olympic break. Diaz is more of a temporary patch on the Vancouver blueline than a long-term fix. The Canucks might be in the market for another defenceman, depending entirely on the progress of Kevin Bieksa and Chris Tanev. Both are expected back in the lineup by the end of February. If both are truly healthy and Dan Hamuis returns from Sochi unwounded, the Canucks’ defensive woes should be eased. Still, general manager might look for another reliable body on defence — considering the luck the Canucks have had this season.
Up front the Canucks should be searching for a centreman to fill the gap left by the injured Santorelli. Vancouver is hampered with a series of big contracts with no-trade clauses. The team lacks depth, but these are long-term problems that will need to be fixed in the off-season and coming years. In the short term, another insurance policy on defence and a replacement for Santorelli are possible areas the Canucks will look for at the deadline. Vancouver might also look to bolster their staggering offence, which has been particularly bad in the third period of late.
Possible trade targets
Ryan O’Reilly, Colorado Avalanche
Mike Cammalleri, Calgary Flames
Matt Moulson, New York Islanders
Dmitry Kulikov, Florida Panthers