Wait until the real crisis gets here
Kesler's absence isn't exactly good news, but it restores the earlier lineup
In the Coen Brothers classic No Country For Old Men, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell and his deputy happen upon an ugly crime scene.
The deputy looks at the bodies, the abandoned, burnt-out trucks and a trail of blood in the desert, then pronounces: "It's a mess ain't it sheriff?"
"If it ain't, it'll do till the mess gets here," Bell answers.
This, naturally, brings us around to the Vancouver Canucks.
As they prepare for their 20th game of this abridged NHL season, it's hard to think of the Canucks as a team in turmoil - a mess, if you will. They sit atop the Northwest Division, four points ahead of their closest pursuers.
They maintain the core of back-to-back President's Trophy winners.
True, the loss of Ryan Kesler isn't exactly a positive development but it basically restores the same lineup the Canucks employed at the start of this season.
Just so you know they were 8-2-2 when Kesler rejoined the team two weeks ago. They went 2-3-2 with him back in the lineup.
So, as far as crises go, this one is lacking a certain desperation.
But, to borrow Sheriff Bell's line, it'll do until the real crisis gets here.
The past couple of days have produced a series of events which have sent a current of uneasiness through the faithful; events which, individually, might not be troubling but, collectively, raises questions about the team's direction.
As luck would have it, the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings are coming to town, the team which was last seen in Vancouver rudely ending the Canucks' 2011-2012 season.
That playoff series exposed a number of vulnerabilities in the Canucks' lineup and if you were wondering what they were, pay attention.
It's likely you'll see them all over again on Saturday night.
By now, it was hoped the Canucks would have laid to rest the concerns about their roster.
Their start bought them a month to address the issues within the team; a month to trade a goalie, a month to get Kesler healthy, a month to find a long-term answer for the team's centre-ice needs.
When Kesler returned, there was a delicious sense of anticipation; a sense that with Zack Kassian, Chris Tanev and an upgrade in team toughness, the 2013 Canucks could be better than the 2011 team that came within one win of the Stanley Cup.
Now? Well, the Canucks have never let anyone get comfortable with their success and they're not about to start.
Kesler is likely gone until April.
That leaves Henrik Sedin, Jordan Schroeder, Andrew Ebbett and Max Lapierre at centre, which isn't good enough. Given the Kesler situation, maybe it's understandable there were reports on Thursday the Canucks were about to extend an offer sheet to Colorado's Ryan O'Reilly. Those reports, sadly, didn't explain how the Orcans were going to fit O'Reilly's contract into their carefully ordered payroll.
Kesler wasn't the only story to emerge from the team this week. There was also the quizzical decision on Aaron Volpatti and a new chapter in the Manny Malhotra saga for the faithful to contemplate.
Volpatti was a headscratcher. Relative to his job description, the kid from Revelstoke was as effective as any Canuck. Granted, that was a limited job description but he brought something to the table.
That job now falls to Steve Pinizzot-to, who turns 29 at the end of April and still hasn't played a career game in the NHL. Sorry. Me confused.
As for Malhotra, that one is equally puzzling. He was retired as a Canuck by GM Mike Gillis a couple of weeks ago but is now - what? - a coaching intern? A management trainee?
We'd further point out the Canucks are still trying to fill the hole left by Malhotra which doesn't exactly explain the Volpatti decision but maybe we're missing something.
The backdrop to all this, of course, is the Canucks' place in the Northwest. It seems as long as their principal challenge is holding off Minnesota, they can take their time with the weightier decisions - read goalie trade - confronted by the organization. But there's also something about playing in the Northwest that gives this team a false sense of security.
This year, they're 6-0-1 against Northwest teams and 4-5-3 against the other teams in the West.
That's great if the road to the Stanley Cup final runs through St. Paul or Edmonton.
But it's likely this season, as last season, only one team will make it the playoffs from the Northwest.
Maybe that team is the Canucks. But, maybe, there are enough Northwest Division pennants hanging from the rafters.
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Lauri Korpikoski, front, of the Coyotes, gets knocked down by the Canucks' Ryan Kesler during first-period action Tuesday at Rogers Arena. The Canucks will be without Kesler, who now has a broken right foot, for up to six weeks.
Photograph by: Rich Lam, Getty Images, The Province