The Vancouver Canucks played tonight’s game in Nashville without Alex Edler, Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, Andrew Alberts and, as we found out this morning, Kevin Bieksa. That’s 5 of their top 7 defencemen out of the lineup. To make matters worse, minor leaguer Lee Sweatt broke his foot in practice. Even the Manitoba Moose have injury troubles on the blueline, with Nolan Baumgartner suffering an injury last week. He might have been one of the recent call-ups.
So panic in the city right? No. Wait, what?
This is an issue that in years past would have just crippled the Canucks and caused panic in the streets. But this year is different. Sure, there’s concern, but the club is showing incredible defensive depth at the moment. The latest call-up, Evan Oberg, played two NHL games last season. Not a lot of teams can go to number 12 on the depth chart and have a player with any NHL experience. The Canucks will try to get by with the likes of Christian Ehrhoff, Sami Salo (*cringe*) and Aaron Rome getting huge minutes. The most impressive youngster, Chris Tanev, will see his minutes climb also.
Of course, you can only get by with injuries like these for so long, and the Canucks are fortunate to have a healthy cushion on first place in the Western Conference at the moment.
But it wasn’t always this way on the west coast. Can you believe the Canucks used to go into seasons with 7 defencemen, rather than 8? Can you believe that they were counting on the health of Sami Salo at one point in time? Remember when Rory Fitzpatrick was an everyday player? Lets take a trip down memory lane…
Top 6 defencemen to start the season: Mattias Ohlund, Ed Jovanovski, Sami Salo, Bryan Allen, Nolan Baumgartner, Steve McCarthy
Key injuries: Ed Jovanovski injured his groin December 28, came back too early, and re-injured it January 24. He remained out until April 8. Sami Salo suffered a season ending injury during the Olympics in February. Mattias Ohlund also got injured during the Olympics but only missed four games.
Result: Dave Nonis panicked and acquired Keith Carney, Sean Brown and Eric Weinrich at the trade deadline. They were all terrible, and the Canucks continued to slide down the stretch, missing the playoffs.
Top 6 defensemen to start season: Willie Mitchell, Mattias Ohlund, Sami Salo, Kevin Bieksa, Lukas Krajicek, Aaron Miller
Key injuries: Mattias Ohlund was lost for the season on March 12. Sami Salo missed the first 10 games of the regular season, played 4 games and then missed most of November. A bizarre skate cut kept Kevin Bieksa out of action for 4 months. Lukas Krajicek had a season ending shoulder injury he suffered on January 23. Aaron Miller missed most of February, March and April.
Result: Not surprisingly the Canucks struggled with a depleted blueline and had to call-up the likes of Zach Fitzgerald and Nathan McIver. They missed the playoffs and the Aquilinis were not pleased. Dave Nonis was fired, Trevor Linden retired and Markus Naslund left to play in New York.