Last month, when asked if the Canucks would miss Christian Ehrhoff, Henrik Sedin said no, confidently explaining that the team had other guys capable of taking Ehrhoff’s place. Let’s take a look at what the first game of the regular season tells us about who these guys might be and how they might be utilized to mitigate the effects of Ehrhoff’s departure.
Alex Edler is… the Shooter.
Little known fact: the blastiest point blast on the Canucks belongs not to Sami Salo, but to Alex Edler. Prior to last season, Edler had won the Canucks’ Superskills hardest shot competition three years running. It was only because he missed the most recent event due to injury that Salo was able to reclaim the title, uncontested.
Edler shoots as hard as he hits; the knock against him, however, is that he doesn’t shoot as often. His booming cannon is one of the Canucks’ most underutilized weapons, and if the 2011-12 team wants to avoid taking a step backwards offensively, that has to change. This season, the Canucks need Edler to shoot the puck. A lot.
Why? Someone has to. While Christian Ehrhoff had his defensive deficiencies, he also put the puck on net 209 times, leading the Vancouver defense corps in shots on goal by a wide margin. If you’re wondering just how wide, consider that Edler was second in the category with 121 shots, and his season ended in January.
The Canucks will be asking everyone on their back end to shoot more often, but Edler will be especially relied upon. As Ehrhoff’s replacement as the wild card on the powerplay, he’ll have to be almost as aggressive as he is in this animated gif:
Via Blue Soup.
The season opener was a good start. Versus Pittsburgh, Edler had six shots on goal, with another two blocked and none missing the net. Granted, he probably won’t remain on pace for 480 shots, and he’ll probably miss once in a while, but over 200 isn’t just attainable — it’s expected.
Keith Ballard is… the Jumper.
With his goal on Thursday night, Keith Ballard is now only six points from last season’s point totals, and one away from last year’s goal-scoring totals. It seems reasonable to expect him to top those numbers (and not just because they’re sort of pathetic). Ballard appears to have a green light to jump into the rush, as he did on this lovely scoring play:
The man we call Hips loves to go end-to-end, and while he was somewhat discouraged from doing so last year in the conservative, bottom-pairing role, the Canucks expect him to do it this season. That, too, was a Christian Ehrhoff specialty, and with Ehrhoff elsewhere, the Canucks need a defenseman eager to jump in his place.
It’s only been one game, but Alain Vigneault appears to be deploying his defensive pairs differently, spotting all three pairings for shifts with the Sedins, rather than trying to match them with a specific defensive pairing to ice dedicated a five-man unit. If this remains the case, Ballard will have plenty more opportunities to finish off Sedin passing plays, and if he can make a habit of capitalizing on them, he’ll be a lot harder to scratch.Tags: Ballard, Edler, Hips