Hey guys, remember when this blog was about hockey?
I promise, that's not a euphemism. Instead, I want to talk about our defencemen and the lack of scoring we've seen from them so far this season. It seems like an odd time to bring this up, considering Alex Edler is tied for 8th in scoring amongst defensemen with 13 points in 17 games, a 62-point pace. The Kurtenblog wrote a piece today praising Edler for his play thus far, and rightly so. Christian Ehrhoff is not far behind, with 10 points so far this season. But what I want to talk about is goal scoring.
Through 17 games, the Canucks defense has scored a grand total of 6 goals. This puts them on pace for 28.7 goals in 82 games. Last season, the Canucks defense scored 42 goals, 14 of them from Christian Ehrhoff. After 2 goals in the first 3 games of the season, Ehrhoff hasn't scored since. The second-leading goalscorer from the blueline, Sami Salo, may not even play this season. Those 42 goals were a big chunk of the Canucks' Western Conference leading 268 goals-for.
Fortunately for the defense, the forwards have stepped up in a big way to pick up the slack. Indeed, despite the lack of goalscoring from the defense, the Canucks are still on pace for 261 goals-for this season, with Daniel Sedin leading the way. His 12 goals in 17 games puts him on pace for 58 goals this season, which would shatter his career high of 36. Last season, Steven Stamkos and Sidney Crosby shared the Rocket Richard trophy with 51 goals.
Still, this lack of goalscoring from the defense is a concern. As much as we hope that Daniel Sedin will continue his goal-scoring prowess and that the Canucks' leading goal-scorer last season, Alex Burrows, will round into form as he gets settled into the season, the Canucks need scoring from the defense in order to remain a well-rounded team that is difficult to shutdown.
So why hasn't the defense been scoring? Ehrhoff's stall at the beginning of this season and the lack of Sami Salo are definitely the main contributors, but neither Dan Hamhuis nor Keith Ballard have been able to improve their offensive game upon coming into Vancouver and have been hampered by injuries. Kevin Bieksa has clearly been told to focus on his defensive abilities rather than scoring and was only able to score 3 goals last season in any case. Quite frankly, the defense has been a bit of a mess over the last couple weeks. I am confident that this will change. This is why I'm not too worried yet, even though they're on pace for 13 fewer goals than last season.
Ehrhoff is capable of being better, Edler is showing steady improvement while playing 25 minutes per game, and Hamhuis and Ballard can only improve as they complete their recovery from injuries and, in Ballard's case, off-season surgery. With more steadiness surrounding him, Bieksa will have room to open up his offensive game and, while I doubt he will return to 40 points, could certainly score a few more than the 3 goals he managed last year.
As always, I am optimistic about the Canucks and their abilities, but I do not want to be blindly optimistic. The Canucks defense has been shaky defensively on this road trip, but they also have been questionable offensively. I am confident the goals will come (Edler and Ehrhoff are in the top-15 in the league in shots), but if the trend continues throughout the season, it will be troubling come playoff time. A team that relies too heavily on scoring from forwards is more easily shutdown.