The Vancouver Canucks have used eleven different defencemen this season. That’s related to both injuries and ineffectiveness. That number does not include 25-year-old lefty Travis Dermott, who hasn’t played yet this season due to a concussion suffered in training camp.
In a perfect world, shortcomings of the roster included, the line-up would have looked like this on a nightly basis when the season started:
Quinn Hughes Luke Schenn
Oliver Ekman-Larsson Tyler Myers
Travis Dermott Tucker Poolman
Extra lefty: Jack Rathbone
Extra righty: Kyle Burroughs
Only two of these Canucks D-men have played in all 17 games, that would be Schenn and Ekman-Larsson. Hughes has missed four games, Myers three.
Unfortunately and not unexpectedly, Poolman’s headaches that knocked him out of stretches last season have returned, preventing him from playing in more than three games this season. His career is in jeopardy as he and Dermott sit on long term injured reserve.
Oddly enough, while the right side was the biggest question mark before the season, four righties were active in the line-up along the blueline in the last Canucks game against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night. Burroughs, always a gamer, played his off-side with mostly Myers to his right.
Band-aid measures in the form of Noah Juulsen (R), Guillaume Brisebois (L), and Riley Stillman (L) are just that, plug-ins. Highly touted 23-year-old Rathbone still hasn’t quite figured things out. He’s upper echelon at the American Hockey League level, still managing the speed and the instinctive decision making that comes fast and furious in the NHL.
Recently acquired Ethan Bear could be a solid depth piece moving forward on the right side, especially at a $1.8-million price tag. His deal expires in the spring.
Some of the problems date back to the previous Canucks regime and a general manager who left the current brass in a salary cap bind. Current management has indicated they tried to bring in some quality depth in the off-season, but couldn’t make it work.
At the same time, money committed up front, a.k.a. Brock Boeser, may have been better spent emphasizing the back-end. There’s still a chance to remedy that, sooner than later would be good, depending on how long this scramble to get back into playoff contention continues.
Maybe one makes a deal while the market is a bit more passive, just as teams jump ship on the season and make players available, as opposed to waiting closer to the NHL trade deadline.
There have been issues all over the ice, but it’s not brain surgery, the main problem is one that’s been pointed to since the spring. One must build from the (goal line) blueline out.