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Stumbling Canucks get Kassian back against Blues

Mar 19, 2013, 2:54 PM EDT

Zack Kassian Getty Images

As the level of panic continues to rise in Vancouver, the stumbling Canucks will at least get power forward Zack Kassian back in the lineup tonight when they host the St. Louis Blues.

Kassian has missed the last two games, both losses, with a sore back.

Granted, how much he can help is questionable, given the 22-year-old hasn’t scored in 19 games — a slump that began after kicking off the season with five goals in seven games.

In the net for Vancouver will be Cory Schneider, who gets the nod following four straight Roberto Luongo starts.

Luongo didn’t fare particularly well in those starts, surrendering 13 goals in total. The veteran’s save percentage has since fallen all the way to .904 — not exactly the best-case scenario for general manager Mike Gillis, who’s been trying to trade Luongo for help in other areas, such as a third-line center.

Gillis, along with head coach Alain Vigneault, have been facing more and more criticism as the two-time defending Presidents’ Trophy winners have faltered. After last night’s home loss to the Wild, Vancouver sits two points behind Minnesota in the race for top spot in the Northwest Division.

The Blues, meanwhile, have won three straight.

Related: Canucks label Booth as out ‘indefinitely’

  1. loinstache - Mar 19, 2013 at 3:02 PM

    The next few games should be interesting. No doubt injuries have been a major issue, but they were worse during the 2011 run. The team has arguably failed to post a 60 min game this season, and has been lackluster since the Boston game last year. You know the higher ups have noticed this, and so it’s time to see if affirmative action is taken or if its going to be brushed aside as bad puck luck and injuries.

  2. 19to77 - Mar 19, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    Man, Gillis’ moves have really taken a lot out of this team these last few years. He let Ehrhoff and Salo go for nothing, traded for David Booth and Keith Ballard, and tossed Cody Hodgson for Kassian. Now they have no centre depth, their D can’t drive their power play and their offense is failing to click because of it. Even their wing depth is awful compared to two years ago.

    Gillis hasn’t made many successful moves since 2010 and it’s really showing now.

    • ikillchicken - Mar 19, 2013 at 8:43 PM

      “He let Ehrhoff and Salo go for nothing”

      And what would you have done? Signed Erhoff to a ten year deal like Buffalo did? This is the worst kind of armchair GMing. You sit back and talk about all the people we should have signed. Except you never have to actually balance a salary cap. You look at nothing but the benefit of resigning guys and ignore the consequences. Being a real GM means making tough decisions though. Every guy you sign takes up space that could be used one someone else in the future. If you never let anyone go “for nothing” then you quickly find yourself with too many bloated contracts and can’t make the obvious no brainer deals when they’re available.

      “traded for David Booth and Keith Ballard”

      Booth scored at a 20 goal pace last year. He looked real good this year too despite coming in with no training camp or preseason after a massive layoff against guys already in mid season form. The only real problem for Booth is that he can’t stay healthy and that’s just bad luck. There’s nothing tangible there. In the long run he’ll be a solid addition when he gets healthy. And as for Ballard…well yeah. He sucks. Trading for him was Gillis’ biggest mistake. But that trade was made at the start of 2010 so it really doesn’t fit with the narrative you’re trying to create.

      “tossed Cody Hodgson for Kassian”

      Still a smart move. Yeah, obviously with Kesler hurt it would be great to have a replacement scoring center but long term Hodgson still doesn’t fit with the team. The fact is that Hodgson was never going to work as a two way center and that’s what we need long term. And keep in mind if we didn’t have Kassian we’d be looking thin at wing. It’s not fair to criticize the trade just for what it lost us and not take into account what it gained.

      “Even their wing depth is awful compared to two years ago.”

      Not really. We’ve essentially got a pretty comparable lineup except we swapped Booth and Kassian for Samuelson and Torres. I’d make that trade again in a heartbeat. Say what you will about Booth, he’s had more goals than Sammy since leaving the Canucks. Also, Torres and Kassian are a toss up in terms of actual numbers but it’s hard to argue with Kassian’s superiority in size and speed and propensity for NOT getting suspended. And regardless of which was “better” there’s no way you can call a team’s depth awful with guys like Hansen, Higgins or Raymond on their third or even fourth line when everyone is healthy.

      “Now they have no centre depth, their D can’t drive their power play and their offense is failing to click because of it.”

      Yeah well, losing both your Selke candidate 2nd line center and your stellar 3rd line checking center to injury will do that to you. Can’t really blame Gillis there. And I think Garrison will get the PP going now that he’s finally being given a chance. He fills exactly that role you’re complaining about. You’re not entirely wrong though. With Malhotra done we have a huge gap on the third line. We need to add a checking center to replace him. It falls to Gillis to get us that player and so far he hasn’t. If he doesn’t rectify that soon it will become a legitimate knock against him.

      • 19to77 - Mar 20, 2013 at 12:17 AM

        1. Yes, I would have signed Ehrhoff. His cap hit is absurd for a guy who had back-to-back 50-point seasons in the ‘Nucks system. No reason to believe he wouldn’t have stayed a 40+ guy there. Bargain cap for a few years, given the consistency they’d be able to trade him down the road. Besides, that’s secondary to the goal – Vancouver was supposed to be in “win now” mode. You have to do what it takes to keep a proven roster (and win or lose, a finals appearance means “proven”) together.

        2. Uh, yeah, Keith Ballard didn’t score at a 20-goal pace, friend. If you don’t know the player I’m talking about, please don’t pretend. And Booth projected to 42 points on the year if he were healthy, and is currently projecting 12 for this season. Again, key detail – IF he were healthy. Which he’s never been, at least not in a Canucks sweater. He missed 26 games last year, he’s at a dozen this year already. He simply does not earn his $4m+ cap hit. And Ballard, the #6D/regular healthy scratch doesn’t earn his $4.2m either.

        3. It’s fair to criticize the trade on the basis that dealing a productive centre with potential two-way upside (and if you don’t give a 21-year old time to develop, that’s just foolish) for an unproven one-way winger whose projection was at best a high-level grinder who drops the gloves a bit is a lopsided, wasteful trade. One asset is simply worth more than the other. Centre depth is like defensive depth – invaluable late in the season and during the playoffs to deal with injuries. Oh, by the way, have you noticed how the deflating Canucks are running Lapierre, Schroeder and Ebbett in roles way above their talent levels even as their D injuries force them to use Ballard, Tanev and Barker in rotation at #4-5D? Depth is what wins teams Cups. Gillis squandered his.

        4. Meh, fair enough, point conceded.

        5. Yeah, but I can fault him for dealing obviously useable centre depth for unproven talent. Bear in mind, Malhotra was already looking slower post-injury and Hodgson was looking great in a very limited role. A smart and patient GM would have held his cards just in case. You can’t even act like both injuries were freak chance. Malhotra looked like a worse player for a long time before they pulled him off the ice. He should have held on to Hodgson. Skilled centres are just guaranteed useful talent.

      • ikillchicken - Mar 20, 2013 at 8:54 PM

        1. And what does that do to the rest of the team? If you overpay a guy that much you break your whole salary structure. You think Bieksa is going to take the deal he did when Erhoff gets handed a deal like that? And good luck signing Burrows or Edler to the reasonable deals Gillis did. And forget any kind of discount for guys like They’re gonna see Erhoff cash in and realize they can do the same. Everything Gillis has done to create an atmosphere where players take less money is gone. So no, even if you take this attitude of focusing only on our supposed “window” and not worrying about 5+ years in the future, throwing money around recklessly like this will end up biting you.

        2. Yeah. Obviously Ballard didn’t but that’s not what I said. I said Booth did. I’m not gonna defend Ballard. That was a bad trade. But Booth was a good acquisition. The team needed a top 6 winger to play with Kesler and Gillis went out and got one. The only reason that hasn’t worked out is repeated fluke injuries. You can’t possibly fault Gillis for that.

        3. Two way upside? Are you joking? Hodgson epitomized the one dimensional, one way player. He had a lot of scoring ability (which is certainly a valuable asset) but brought little else to the table and his defensive game was by far his biggest weakness. Kassian isn’t exactly a great defensive player either but he’s way better than Hodgson. Also, if you think Kassian is projected to be nothing but a grinder you haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about. Kassian has the potential to be a fast, dynamic power forward who also has great hands and a surprising passing ability. I’m not saying he was worth more than Hodgson but both are tremendously valuable assets.

        5. See #3. Hodgson was never a workable two way 3rd line player and therefore never a replacement for Malhorta. If you want to fault Gillis for failing to find an actual replacement for Malhotra then that is fair but it was never gonna be Hodgson. He was a pure scorer that needed to play in the top six and that spot just didn’t seem to exist on a team with Sedin and Kesler. Sure, now with Kesler hurt he could fit temporarily but hindsight is 20/20. And really, I’ll take someone who can contribute year round to an insurance player for when somebody is injured. Come playoff time, when Kesler is back, we’ll be better off with Kassian than with Hodgson.

  3. profsudz - Mar 19, 2013 at 3:21 PM

    The alien twins have been invisible in that games that they’ve played against my favorite team. Maybe the nucks just aren’t that good anymore?

    • loinstache - Mar 19, 2013 at 3:40 PM

      Way to state your favourite team, real hard hitting analysis. After a shaky start the twins have been the most consistent and productive forwards. There is some regression (they’re “only” ppg players) but the secondary scoring that carried the team at the start is now absent.

      • profsudz - Mar 19, 2013 at 6:26 PM

        I’m a Wild fan. You know, the guys who have kicked the nucks in the ballz that last couple of times they met

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