Thursday, March 02, 2006

Canucks Defence Limps Out Of Olympic Break

In October, I noted that the Canucks defence will crumble this year because their big three defencemen Ed Jovanovski, Mattias Ohlund and Sami Salo are some of the most overplayed defenders in hockey. I predicted they wouldn't be able to play at a high level all season with that kind of workload.

For Vancouver, the worst has happened. The players were overplayed and got hurt (Ohlund, Salo and Jovanovski are 5th, 6th and 7th respectively in shifts per game in the NHL). Ed Jovanovski had abdominal surgery before the Olympics. During the Olympic games, Mattias Ohlund and Sami Salo both suffered injuries on the same day. The Canucks are now stuck with a defence where Bryan Allen and Steve McCarthy have suddenly become front line defencemen. Its a bad situation.

With their depleted defence (and goaltending with Dan Cloutier hurt), the Canucks managed to win their first game 2-1 against Calgary, but they won't continue to be successful for long with as clear a weakness.

This is a consequence of the salary cap. In order to stay beneath it, Vancouver had to let Marek Malik and Brent Sopel leave. Vancouver may be able to rent a player for the stretch run to fill in for their injuries, but likely it wont be as good a player as they would have had with Sopel and Malik in the lineup.

Isn't this salary cap great? Big market Vancouver cannot keep their defence together because small market New York took some of their defensive depth.

It looks like Vancouver GM Dave Nonis made a mistake this year. He gambled that his frontline players would remain healthy because he had no salary cap room for any depth and it has turned out to be a bad gamble. But given the circumstances of the CBA its not clear how many better choices he had.

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