Vancouver Canucks: 3 Players Who Need to Step Up

vancouver canucks

Sep 30, 2016; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Philip Larsen (63) shoot the puck against Calgary Flames during a preseason hockey game at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Vancouver Canucks are winning hockey games, against everyone’s expectations. But that doesn’t mean everything is perfect.

We tend to get negative feedback when we say something negative about the Vancouver Canucks during their best start into the season since 1992. Fair enough. But, not everything is perfect in Vancouver. Just look at this as a “what can get even better” post rather than one that aims at bashing a winning team.

Now, let’s get to the point.

The Vancouver Canucks won their first four games of the season, including one in a shootout and two in overtime. Needless to say, there are things that need to be improved if the Canucks want to lead games a little more often.

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For example, the Canucks got just one power-play goal out of 15 opportunities, ranking second-last in the league. They are also tied for 25th in goals scored. To be fair, eight of the teams that rank higher have also played one more game, but 10 goals in four games is not outstanding anyway — you aren’t likely to win half of your games or more if you score just 2.5 goals per 60 minutes.

Single players obviously won’t change any of the things mentioned. But, some of them have a larger impact than others.

Here are three players that need to step up soon for the Canucks to keep on rolling.

vancouver canucks

Sep 30, 2016; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Philip Larsen (63) shoot the puck against Calgary Flames during a preseason hockey game at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

D Philip Larsen

The Vancouver Canucks signed Philip Larsen mostly for one reason: create offense from the blue line. More particularly, they were looking for a right-handed two-way defenseman who can ideally quarterback the power play. They thought they had found that in Larsen, who recorded 11 goals and 36 points in 52 KHL games last season.

Unfortunately, things aren’t quite that easy. Being good in the KHL doesn’t necessarily equal being good in the NHL. Plus, on the power play, players need to work as a unit to be successful. There is more to it than finding a good puck-mover and saying “go set up goals”.

Nevertheless, Larsen has to do more to help the Canucks. He has been solid defensively, but that’s not what he is here for — he needs to produce offense.

At this point, Larsen is one of just five Canucks who are still without a point. Two of those five are Jake Virtanen and Jack Skille, who only played two games each. This needs to change.

One can argue that it has only been four games and his offense will come soon. However, Larsen hasn’t done much to suggest that. On the power play, he seems to stay at the point and dish passes left and right, but does little to create danger, other than the occasional shot.

According to corsica.hockey, Larsen is second-last on the team in Corsi-for per 60 minutes and dead-last in Corsi-for percentage. He really needs to step up, or the Canucks might have to consider bringing Troy Stecher back.

vancouver canucks

Oct 6, 2016; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward Loui Eriksson (21) skates with the puck against Calgary Flames defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon (26) during the third period during a preseason hockey game at Rogers Arena. the Vancouver Canucks won 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

RW Loui Eriksson

Like Larsen, Loui Eriksson was signed to create offense. He even gets to ride shotgun with the Sedin twins, Vancouver’s most consistent scorers of the 21st century, but he is a part of the struggling power play as well, and he has yet to record a goal.

For Eriksson, the Canucks’ power-play strategy might actually be what’s preventing him from scoring. The coaching staff decided to put Brandon Sutter out on the top unit and he is often the guy in the crease attempting to cause trouble. With Team Sweden at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, it was all about the Sedins’ cycle game and getting the puck to Eriksson to finish. Now, Sutter is there to ‘interfere’.

There is no doubt that Eriksson is an incredibly talented forward, but he needs to show more than he has so far. Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins seems to agree, as he took Eriksson off the top line to play with Bo Horvat and Jake Virtanen.

Will that work better? Who knows. But it’s time to find out.

vancouver canucks

Oct 20, 2016; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler (23) defends against Buffalo Sabres forward Johan Larsson (22) during the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

D Alex Edler

The third and last player on our list is defenseman Alex Edler. The veteran is currently the Canucks’ leader in shifts and ice time, but he hasn’t looked great on the job. Playing on the top pairing alongside Chris Tanev, Edler is on the ice for many of the toughest match-ups, but he might not be the right person for the job anymore.

Edler was once a sure-fire first-pairing player, but times have changed. Now in his 11th NHL season with the Canucks, the 30-year-old often looks too slow to follow the play. Instead of anticipating what’s going to happen, he has to chase after the play, often being one step too late. His decisions with and without the puck have often been questionable.

That trend started in the 2015-16 campaign. Both Edler and veteran teammate Dan Hamhuis were heavily criticised by fans. “They are overpaid and terrible players”.

Now, it isn’t quite that dramatic. Edler is still on the Canucks top pairing while Hamhuis plays a top-pairing role with the Dallas Stars. Both are more than solid, but neither one is an elite player anymore.

The problem for the Canucks is that they lack alternatives. Ben Hutton got some time with Tanev last season, but that might be too much pressure for the sophomore. Plus, Edler with Erik Gudbranson probably wouldn’t make things better.

The Canucks don’t have enough depth to make major changes in the top four, so the players they have need to play well. Especially Edler needs to step up — just like Larsen and Eriksson.

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