Alain Vigneault's recipe for disaster
If there are silver linings perhaps the biggest one is this: There’s just enough time to fly Ryan Kesler to Lourdes and back before the Canucks next game on Wednesday night. If opening weekend is any indication though, they might plunk him on the wrong flight and forget the return ticket.
We jest. To a point.
The sky is not falling, the goalie controversy is overblown, and this team is still too talented to be taken down by some (lots of) lockout rust. But shortened seasons are unforgiving to late-comers, and while the sample size is small and the panic has come comically early there’s a tiny margin for error this season before it will quickly be too late. The Canucks have already lost out on three of four points when they need to be clipping steadily along at the opposite pace to guarantee a playoff spot.
Yes, they’re already in a hole. Absurd as that fact is.
There’s no time to find your sea legs here. The waves are high and only getting higher. 46 games left, and the Canucks will need points (more wins than overtime losses) from between 35 to 40 of them. Less than 10 mulligan’s left before it’s time to run the table for four straight months without so much as a misstep.
And that’s why opening weekend was so alarming.
There's no time to play out the kinks, and the nagging questions that surrounded this team heading into opening night all flared up in the worst possible way against the Anaheim Ducks and then again — to a slightly lesser extent — Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers: The lack of a second line, the absence of Ryan Kesler in the faceoff circle and as a shutdown specialist, the distraction of beginning The Cory Schneider Era with Roberto Luongo watching from the bench, an all-too-predictable power-play, moving Alex Edler to the right side with Jason Garrison, and having had only one skater playing competitive games during the lockout (Dale Weise, of all players — and believe it or not, that showed on Sunday, with Weise being one of more noticeable Canucks not named Zack Kassian).
But above all else, the loss of Kesler reverberates through this team like a spinal cord injury. The collective effort level, faceoff prowess, and ability to shutdown some of the top players in the game (Ryan Getzlaf, Jordan Eberle) were all in short supply against the Ducks and Oilers. After two games the team is lifeless, starting more shifts than not without the puck, and struggling to contain the players they need to defuse in order to win consistently.
Meanwhile Alex Edler — for all his offensive accolades this weekend — is trying his best to adapt to the right side with newcomer Jason Garrison, and so far the transition isn’t pretty. Neither is the all-too-often paint-by-numbers power play — predictable drop-pass and all — despite going 2 for 4 against the Ducks. The “new” makeshift second line saw less time together than the fourth line of Malhotra, Volpatti and Weise — a line which, at one point early in the first and beyond all comprehension, was being matched up against speedsters Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.
This team is cooking up stinkers with a recipe for disaster, plain and simple.
There are clear mitigating factors (injuries, the effects of a delayed season due to the lockout) but head coach Alain Vigneault needs to do better. He still has too much talent at his disposal to excuse the nonsense seen this past weekend.
The crosshairs of coaching-change come quickly, and they materialize anytime a team is not playing up to its potential while under the weight of great expectation.