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.

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4 comments

  1. Dawn Duck
    October 8, 2011

    TWIS
    (This Week In Sports)

    Chicago lost I’m sure you saw
    The Yankees too ha ha ha ha*
    Carpenter beat Doc Halladay
    The Red Birds still have games to play

    The Indy Colts are O and four
    Without Manning they can’t score
    The Rangers got by Tampa Bay
    The Lions play the Stamps today

    The Brewers beat the Diamondbacks
    The Cowboys lead their league in sacks
    Vancouver next will play away
    Columbus on Thanksgiving day

    On Tuesday morning I will scan
    Words by Mooney and Skeeter Dan
    Just to enjoy what they’ve to say
    Their humorous insightful way

    Dawn Duck

    *to be read with an iambic beat!

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  2. Geoff
    October 8, 2011

    I love how the one of the Penguins D saw it coming and points out Ballard to his partner, who still manages to be 10 feet behind Ballard when he scores

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  3. peanutflower
    October 8, 2011

    I watched that play several times thanks to the PVR, and several more times just now — man, can Ballard fly. That was beeyootiful. Hoping to see that lots more.

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    • peanutflower
      October 10, 2011

      “A perfect elixer for Ballard to come late and deposit that puck”. Oh, memories of Weekes. And out of nowhere and with no apparent connection to anything, “this is what you see so much of in the international game.” huh? Are the Canucks playing an international game? Oh, is it because there are players of many nationalities on the team? I’m lost…

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