By Elliot Chan, Staff Writer
More than half of the season is over, and the Canucks are teetering uncomfortably in the standings. On one hand, they are leading the division with a slight edge over the Minnesota Wild; on the other hand, the slightest slip up will send them plummeting out of the playoff picture.
The Western Conference has always been competitive, but with six points separating 13 teams, the shortened season has made the race to the finish line even more dramatic. Few teams love drama more than the Canucks. So if we expect them to pull their game together and race away from the pack to join Chicago and Anaheim as un-touted division champions—don’t, because things are about to get messy.
Failing to exceed expectations, the Canucks are playing cool with all their unfinished business, namely the business in the crease. Cory Schneider is having a respectable season sharing the net with Robert Luongo, but respectable is not winning complete confidence from upper management. As trade deadline looms around the corner, everybody is anticipating the inevitable. But will it happen in April or will it happen in June? Luongo’s stock hasn’t been higher since the season started and that’s usually a sign that something will happen sooner rather than later.
It’s also apparent that the Sedins won’t be challenging for any scoring titles this year with their underperformance on the top line—an area the Canucks have to look at as they plan for the future. Jordan Schroeder has shown potential of one day becoming an elite forward, but it is a work in progress. And since Mason Raymond, Zack Kassian, and David Booth are all having a horribly-mediocre season, Canucks fans can only hope that someone in the organization will step up or a team with a top offensive prospect will be enticed by Luongo.
For a while, it looked as though the team could thrive without Ryan Kesler’s leadership and grit, but with so many games ending in one or two goals, the Canucks are hoping there is no delay with his healing foot. But the question is worth asking: will Kesler be the same player he was before? Will he go the extra mile to finish his checks? Will he have the same intimidating net presence? All questions aside, it is time for him to adjust his style. The ever-changing Canucks need him to become less of a two-way player and focus more on powering through opposition’s defense—as well as photo bombing his teammates during interviews.