Vancouver has been carrying only 12 healthy forwards for a week now, a situation that almost got weird in California when Alex Burrows was a game-time decision and it looked as though Aaron Rome might have to play as a forward. Granted, Aaron Rome is a goal-scoring dynamo these days, but the Canucks have actual forwards under contract, right?
Right. But due to a string of seriously bad luck, they don’t have any they can use right now.
Let’s start with Steven Pinizzotto, the rugged winger whose season officially ended yesterday when the Canucks announced that he would be undergoing surgery on his shoulder. After five years in the AHL, Pinizzotto looked poised to make his big-league debut in 2011 but, while he made the Canucks out of training camp, he couldn’t make it out of training camp healthy.
(As an aside, this is the second time Pinizzotto’s NHL dreams have been stamped out mere moments from being realized. In March of 2009, while on a 2-year, entry-level deal with the Washington Capitals, Pinizzotto was called up because of an injury to Alex Ovechkin. He took the pregame skate in front of upwards of 30 friends and family members, but when Ovechkin decided to play through the pain, Pinizzotto was scratched at the last moment. It was his first and last NHL callup.)
This is immensely bad luck for the 27-year old winger, who is only on a one-year deal and may never be as desirable to NHL teams as he was this summer. Last July, he a 2-time Calder Cup-winning, undrafted diamond-in-the-rough coming off two consecutive 40-point seasons. There were as many as nine teams interested in him. This July, he’ll be a 28-year-old career AHLer coming off a full year of hockey missed due to injury.
There will be fewer phone calls.
And Pinizzotto isn’t the only bubble guy whose opportunity in Vancouver has been stifled by bad luck. Byron Bitz (right), who missed all of last season due to injury, never even made it to training camp before having to undergo surgery. He’s still out indefinitely.
Andrew Ebbett’s not immune to the thirteenth forward curse either. He managed to make it into the lineup, even scoring his first goal as a Canuck in his fifth game. But what might have been a momentous occasion for the depth forward turned sour in a hurry: later in that same game, he broke his foot blocking a shot. He too is out indefinitely.
Okay, well the Canucks have forwards in the farm, right? With Wednesday morning’s news that Eddie Lack has been recalled from Chicago, one might wonder why they didn’t put a forward prospect aboard the same plane.
More bad luck in the depth forward department: all the potential call-ups are playing some truly poor hockey right now. Or, as Alain Vigneault put it yesterday when asked, “Nobody is standing out at this time.”
He’s being delicate. Apart from Darren Haydar and Tim Miller, both of whom are signed with the Wolves, not the Canucks, Chicago’s forwards have been incredibly disappointing to start the year. Through 13 games, their 32 goals for are tied for the worst in the league with the Worcester Sharks, who have played two fewer games.
Jordan Schroeder, who was told he would have to dominate at the AHL level before getting a look in the NHL, has 2 goals, 3 assists, and is a team-worst minus-8.
Darren Archibald, who impressed at prospects camp and looked like he might make an impact this year, has 1 goal and no assists. Anton Rodin has the same statline, albeit in fewer games — he’s been a healthy scratch seven times. Suffice it to say, they’re not ready.
Mark Mancari could be a callup. He had a decent training camp, and he has 3 goals and 3 assists on the farm, but he’s a minus-6 and his defensive play has been questionable at best. That’s more off-putting to Alain Vigneault than a lack of offense.
Mike Duco has been expected to be more effective than he’s been, and clearly, the Canucks feel Victor Oreskovich needs more time, or they wouldn’t have waived him in the first place.
What is going on down there?
Adjustments. Like crazy. Not only do the Wolves have a brand-new coach in Craig MacTavish, but they have a bushelful of new prospects to acclimatize both to his system and the AHL as a whole. There are more growing pains in Chicago than on ABC during primetime in the ’80s.
The timing couldn’t be worse for Vancouver, who could really use a standout forward on the farm right about now. But that’s just the luck the Canucks have been having.
Granted, it’s not all bad. Better to have problems at the thirteenth forward position than, say 1-12. Plus there’s an easy fix here: if I’m the Canucks, I’m treating my forwards like hotel floors and going straight from 12 to 14.Tags: bitz, Chicago Wolves, curses, ebbett, Pinizzotto, schroeder