Looking In The Face Of Adversity

The passing of time can often be a cruel occurrence, on March 15th Canucks.com proudly reported that Mikael Samuelsson had been named the NHL’s first star of the week, for the week of 8-14 March. During that time Samuelsson accrued some impressive stats, ten points six goals and four assists in four games. Then on 17th March the site reports that Samuelsson will miss at least two – three weeks with an upper body injury. In seventy games the Canucks RW has a total of thirty goals placing him second in that category for team stats, he also has fifty-three points. With just twelve games left on the regular season schedule this could cause a rather problematic situation for Vancouver, or could it?

With approximately five weeks until the start of the playoffs, barring any complications Samuelsson should be fighting fit by then. What is also worth noting is that the last time the Swede spent any considerable time recovering from an injury was in 2007 when he was inactive for eighteen games nursing a broken foot. Of course his presence will be missed.

One thing that the current version of the Vancouver Canucks has often faced is adversity, at times enduring more than most. When dealing with hardship nature usually dictates that people or in this case a team of athletes will either be overcome by the challenges forced upon them and fall by the wayside, left forever lamenting what could have been. Or fight the continued battle whilst gaining strength and determination. The latter may best describe Vancouver’s season so far.

Consider a few things that The Canucks have conquered since the initial puck drop to open the 2009 – 2010 campaign on October 1st: Throughout the month of October eight players suffered various injuries missing a combined total of sixty five games. Some of the injured were key players like Daniel Sedin and Luongo. In fact each month since October there has been at least one Canucks roster player re-habing from injury. People like Edler, Salo, Demitra and most recently Bieksa have all been a victim of some kind of ailment this year, and yet the Canucks have still been able to turn its fortunes around. While other teams like Detroit and Anaheim have perhaps suffered more, with fewer injuries. Not to mention Vancouver managed to complete the grueling road trip with their heads held high. Such a schedule may have spelled disaster for some lesser clubs?

Of course getting the better of bad luck or misfortune doesn’t build champions, and success can only be measured by performance on the ice. That said Vancouver currently sit in third place in the Western Conference and will likely win the North West Division title again, giving the team another chance to win the real and most important title, The Stanley Cup. Before such a title can be awarded the team may have to remedy some other problems.

Recently Luongo’s play has been somewhat inconsistent, he has been pulled four times in the last thirteen games. That’s certainly not what you would expect from an Olympic gold medalist. Is Luongo just feeling the affects of the Olympics, or is the problem much deeper? Either way Luongo and his coaches will have to address this issue soon.

One other concern for Canucks coaches and fans alike might be whether the current defensive core really has what it takes to help carry the team through the playoffs, especially if Willie Mitchell’s return isn’t soon. In the last nine games the team has given up a total of twenty-eight GA, but other teams have similar numbers. Colorado has a total of twenty-seven GA in nine games, and San Jose has also allowed twenty-seven goals, but in fewer games, just seven. Neither of those teams are having to patch up their defense due to the gap left by the absence of a key defenseman like Mitchell. For a new addition to the Canucks back-end like Andrew Alberts, he is faced with the task of learning an unfamiliar coaching system, so far he has played in seven games, is that enough? Also Bieksa may still be trying to find his feet (no pun intended) after sustaining an ankle injury that saw him on the IR for almost three months.

Like most teams at this time of year the Canucks have a few injuries, and perhaps a few problems on the ice. With the playoffs likely starting April 14/15 the Canucks should have time to iron out any future obstacles that could come their way.