Up until December, the Canucks were extremely fortunate with their injury situation on defence — they didn’t have one. The Canucks had been able to keep a stable 6-man defence corps consisting of Alex Edler, Kevin Bieksa, Jason Garrison, Dan Hamhuis, Chris Tanev, and Ryan Stanton. The only game action Yannick Weber and Andrew Alberts received was as forwards on the fourth line.
In the last two weeks, that has all changed, leaving the Canucks with a somewhat unstable defence. Meanwhile, Frank Corrado, who many expected to make the Canucks roster out of training camp, has yet to receive a call-up from the AHL.
On December 3rd, Edler suffered a lower body injury against the Nashville Predators and has since been placed on injured reserve. For all the criticism he’s received this season, he was leading the Canucks in ice time and had positive puck possession numbers against the toughest competition among Canucks defencemen, judging by opposition Corsi rates. While the Canucks have rallied in his absence, going 5-1-1, it’s tough to lose a defenceman who plays those big minutes.
Then, on December 17th, things got a little worse. Stanton, who has been a quiet revelation since getting claimed off waivers from the Chicago Blackhawks, got taken hard into the end boards by Zenon Kenopka, injuring his left ankle. He was seen in a walking boot after the game and is out indefinitely. While Stanton has been relatively sheltered on the third pairing, he’s been steady and reliable, even putting up 11 points through 36 games, impressive totals for a rookie defenceman.
Those injuries meant the Canucks had to ice a third pairing of Weber and Alberts on Thursday against the Dallas Stars, something they don’t seem entirely comfortable with. Both saw under 14 minutes of ice time and Weber ended up minus-3, thanks to some defensive blunders. Alberts had a reasonable game, all things considered, but was still tagged with two giveaways.
What was most interesting is how little time Weber and Alberts actually spent on the ice together. Tortorella seemed loath to actually use them as his third pairing. Instead, Weber was matched with Garrison, while Alberts skated with Bieksa. This is understandable, since Weber and Alberts were disastrous together in the pre-season, but it seems inelegant to break up your top-four defencemen in such a way, as it makes both Bieksa and Garrison less effective.
The Canucks have another option, of course: Frank Corrado, who made his NHL debut last season in three regular season games and all four playoff games against the San Jose Sharks. Corrado gave every indication that he was NHL ready last season, but the Canucks preferred to see him play big minutes with the Utica Comets in the AHL than get minimal ice time and shuffle in and out of the lineup in the NHL.
But with two major injuries, there’s room now for Corrado to play significant minutes with the Canucks. After all, the defenceman with the fifth highest ice time on the team is Chris Tanev, who is averaging over 20 minutes per game. Corrado could certainly step in and play 17-18 minutes a night alongside Garrison and be an upgrade on Alberts or Weber.
That would also keep the ice time down for Hamhuis, who played over 30 minutes against the Wild when Stanton got injured and nearly 28 minutes against the Stars. If the score in Dallas had been tighter, Hamhuis likely would have broken the 30-minute barrier again, this time in a game that didn’t go to overtime. He was already up over 20 minutes by the end of the second period.
The most that Mike Gillis would say is that “Frankie will be here at some point,” but the Canucks could use him in the lineup right now.
The Comets have one more game before Christmas — tonight against the Binghamton Senators — while the Canucks play tonight against the Blackhawks then again on the 22nd against the Winnipeg Jets. Will we see Corrado against Winnipeg or will Gillis wait to call him up until after Christmas. Unlike trades and waivers, call-ups are unaffected by the holiday roster freeze, so the Canucks could call him up at any time.
Yep, any time now. Any time at all.Tags: Frank Corrado, Frankie Corrado