Vancouver Canucks defenseman Chris Tanev (8) fights for control of the puck with St. Louis Blues right wing T.J. Oshie (74) during the second period of NHL action in Vancouver, B.C. Friday, Jan. 10, 2014.
Photograph by: Jonathan Hayward, CP
The absence of scoring has had an enormous impact on the way the Vancouver Canucks are perceived these days. The scrutiny has dwarfed a lot of what would otherwise have been laudable stories.
Colleague Jason Botchford eloquently highlighted the quiet success of goalie Roberto Luongo, who has refined his game to the point where he can come back from minor injuries without a crisis to begin each return to the lineup.
And there are others, not the least of which is the slow but sure restocking of the team’s defence, given the outstanding improvement of Chris Tanev this season and the inclusion of Ryan Stanton, picked up for nothing from Chicago on waivers at the outset of the season.
Throw in Frank Corrado, who is working on his game in Utica, and what was once an outstanding but aging back end has shifted to a diverse group of solid players; good enough to perhaps allow for a trade of one of the core veterans should a major rebuild be considered either at the trade deadline or in the off-season.
There have also been some minor horror stories obliterated by the same lack of scoring issues — like the total meltdown of Jannik Hansen’s game right before our very eyes.
But what’s happening on the back end is a little more significant given at some point most people expect the Dane to awake from his prolonged sleepwalk. The same cannot be said of David Booth who appears destined for a buyout, assuming he doesn’t get hurt between now and the end of the season.
“It’s obviously been pretty exciting, coming here and getting an opportunity with the great guys on the back end like (Kevin) Bieksa, (Alex Edler) Eds, Hammer (Dan Hamhuis) and Garry, (Jason Garrison) who’ve been in the league a while and are showing me the ropes,” said Stanton Saturday. “It’s exciting to be here. It’s kind of weird circumstances. I’d been in that organization (Chicago) for three years and then going on waivers there and picked up here I was just trying to make the most of it. They’re both great organizations with great D corps and it’s fun to be part of it.
“I’d only played one game before I got here so it’s just a matter of trying to get more comfortable with the league. Knowing mentally you can play here and having confidence in your ability ... that’s the big thing.”
Tanev is going through the same smoothing out process as Bieksa went through and his partnership with Hamhuis has been excellent. While Hamhuis, the Canadian Olympian from Smithers, has struggled on the power play, his defensive game is always an art form, as is his ability to help his partner develop his game.
“I definitely feel I’ve taken strides and continue to improve,” says Tanev. “The new coaching staff has definitely helped by noticing things in your own end you can pick up and use. And playing with Hammer for the majority of the year is going to help anyone. He’s such a smart player, he talks to you and keeps you level headed. He’s been awesome.
“Stants is a huge, huge pickup for us too, he’s been so good all year. He got hurt there for a while but he’s a very good player and it’s nice to have him back. And Frank, he’s a great guy with a solid future.”
As for all the older D-men with market value having no-trade clauses, what remains to be seen is whether management will have the jam to approach one of them about the possibility of a trade, if such a move might help. They have indicated in the past they are extremely reluctant to do that for fear of hurting this team’s reputation among the players by appearing to pressure players to waive their no-trade deals. They fear it may impact free agents’ choices to come here.
But if this team doesn’t improve and change the appearance of it’s fading status as one of the league’s better teams, nobody is going to want to come here anyway?
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