With the Canucks’ 2011-12 season more than half over, it’s time for some midseason report cards. Who passes? Who fails? (Hint: nobody fails. We have a strict “no player left behind” policy.)
Full disclosure: We don’t really like giving the players grades. It’s not that we’re hippy liberals that subscribe to a no-grades, let-the-students-teach-the-teachers model of education. We just think it’s silly to grade the players when they all have such different roles and skillsets. How can you possibly judge Dale Weise and Daniel Sedin on the same curve? You can’t.
But this post was requested by superiors, and we at PITB are acquiescent to a fault.
These grades are therefore based on our observations both of what players are capable of overall and of how close they’ve come to that this year. There are, therefore, a lot of subjective assumptions, so please bear that in mind when spewing your rage-filled disagreement in the comments.
Finally, just as in school, grades range from A to F (with E conspicuously absent from a system that rates a students’ knowledge of the alphabet). But, unlike grade school (and perhaps in homage to advanced statisticians), there are no pluses or minuses in our system. You simply get an A if you were excellent, a B if you were good, a C if you were average, a D if you were poor, and an F if you fail.
Manny Malhotra – C
Malhotra’s not scoring like last year, but it doesn’t quite seem fair to blame him. Last season, he was the third line checking centre. This season, Cody Hodgson has bumped Manny to the fourth line, where he starts nearly every shift in the defensive zone and is relied on to do little more than win the faceoff, take the puck past the red line, and get off the ice. But his faceoff win rate is down ever-so-slightly, and that’s unforgivable.
Alex Burrows – A
Through 47 games, Burrows has 32 points, 18 of which are goals. He’s playing in all situations, he’s staying out of trouble, and he hasn’t bitten a guy, speared a groin or grabbed a chunk of hair all year. Progress.
Daniel Sedin – B
The reigning scoring champion and players’ MVP gets a B for simply being ho-hum excellent. Oh, he’s eighth in NHL scoring? Yawn. Why not first? We know he’s capable of it. And if you ask me, he hasn’t done enough to distinguish himself from his brother.
Henrik Sedin – B
Surprise, surprise, Henrik gets the same grade as his brother. In case you hadn’t noticed, they’re very similar.
Jannik Hansen – B
Hansen has taken something of a step back in terms of his physicality, but he’s scoring more, so it balances out. “B” is for “Balance.”
David Booth – B
“B” is for “Booth.” I don’t have much else to go on. He hasn’t been here that long and he missed a month of action, so it’s hard to get a read on him. Here’s what we know for sure: He shoots from anywhere, and like a death in the first act, he drives the play forward. He also has the best hair on the team.
Andrew Ebbett – C
The “C” stands for collarbone, which was broken in Boston. Here’s to a speedy recovery.
Mason Raymond – C
The good news: Raymond’s broken back hasn’t changed his playing style at all. The bad news: that means all the same criticisms apply. Raymond has speed and he can stickhandle remarkably, but, like a man that hates yoga, he also tends to disappear for long stretches.
Apart from a brief period in which he was made sluggish by anti-infection antibiotics (dude got bit by a zombie), the man we call “Kiss Huggins” has been the Canucks’ go-to energy guy all season. Also, the “A” stands for “Abs.”
Ryan Kesler – C
Few would argue that Kes didn’t rush his return from surgery, and he’s struggled from the outset as a result. But don’t get down on him just because he’s not scoring. Get down on him because he set the bar so high last year.
Aaron Volpatti – D
Volpatti scored his only goal of the year and threw out his shoulder in the same game, so those two things cancel each other out.
Cody Hodgson – A
When was the last time the Canucks boasted a top 5 NHL rookie forward like Hodgson? Trevor Linden? Pavel Bure? Petr Nedved? Okay, Nedved kills the point a bit, but Hodgson has proven that he’s a special talent.
Maxim Lapierre – B
Anyone unhappy with Lapierre’s play is crazy. Not only has he been excellent defensively and chipped in with a few goals here and there, but he’s even shown a newfound willingness to drop the gloves. Granted, he doesn’t win a lot of fights, but considering his strategy is curling into a ball and screaming “Not the face!”, you could argue he’s also had very few outright losses.
Dale Weise – B
Weise has his detractors, but if you remember that this is his rookie season, he’s been fantastic. He’s chipped in a few goals and, unlike previous fourth liners, He’s not a defensive liability. Sure, he doesn’t win a lot of fights, but he wasn’t claimed off waivers to win fights. He was claimed so there was an excuse to demote Victor Oreskovich, and he’s filled that role to a T.
Kevin Bieksa – A
His erratic play sometimes drives fans bonkers, but Bieksa also drives possession better than anyone else on the backend. Though he always draws the opposition’s toughest assignment, he’s still on pace to record 40 points for the first time since 2009. Plus he’s the team’s best quote, and in the media, that gets you a pass.
Aaron Rome – B
Unsurprisingly, the goals he was scoring in bunches in November have dried up, but Rome has never been the guy counted on to produce offense from the back-end. He has, however, been as reliable and steady as expected, with the exception of his tendency to break his hands. Knock it off, Rome. “B” is for “Brittle bones”.
“A” is for All-Star, as Edler is the first Canucks defenceman to go to the All-Star game since Ed Jovanovski. He is in the top-five in scoring among defenceman and is on-pace for a career-high 57 points. It’s hard to miss Christian Ehrhoff when Edler has twice as many points.
Keith Ballard – C
It’s hard to separate what we’ve observed of Keith Ballard’s skillset from what his contract indicate, but by either metric, he hasn’t been good enough. Ballard hasn’t scored since opening night, and he still can’t crack the top-4, primarily because, like the bakery two blocks from my house, he can always be counted on for one good turnover. But he’s the best bottom pairing defenseman in the league, right?
Dan Hamhuis – A
Hamhuis is the heart of the Canucks defensive corps. Not only does he limit more scoring opportunities than a chastity belt, but he has capitalized on his increase in power-play usage and is providing more offense this season. And yet, he’s hardly noticeable.
Andrew Alberts – B
Alberts finds himself the odd man out at the moment, but he’s quietly having his best season as a Canuck. His short-handed effectiveness is severely under-rated, and his ability to separate opponents from pucks has reared its head more often this year than in the past. Also, he’s partnered surprisingly well with Keith Ballard, and their success together allowed the Canucks to weather Sami Salo’s injury without taking too much of a hit in the standings.
Sami Salo – A
Before going down with a concussion, Sami Salo had been the most consistent Canucks defenseman. He’s the rock on Edler’s right-side, and his presence helps allow the gifted Swede to freelance on the offensive side of the puck. Salo is still on pace to score 10 goals for the first time in five seasons, and you’ve got to give the guy credit: this season, it took a dirty hit to injure him. In past seasons, certain sea breezes did the trick.
Alex Sulzer – C
He’s hardly stood out and I’d wager that many of you have no idea he even plays for the Canucks. As a defenceman, sometimes that’s good, though, right? When he has been noticeable, however, it’s been for the wrong reasons.
Discounting October, Schneider has been just as good as Luongo this season. Counting October, he’s been better, and picked up the win in an emotional game against the Bruins. He’s 6th in the league in save percentage, but he has faced easier competition overall.
Roberto Luongo – B
After a typically terrible October, Luongo has been solid enough to dismiss all talk of a goalie controversy in Vancouver, which is in and of itself an impressive accomplishment. He’s still a ways away from the league’s best, but he’s been as good as he’s needed to be.
Tags: Canucks, Questionable Grading Standards