The Canucks couldn’t have picked a worse time or a more important part of their team to be missing in the coming games. The Henrik Sedin injury that was a result of the Mikhail Grabovski hit on Sunday morning isn’t serious, but with the Canucks on the cusp of playoffs or not, every point matters and Henrik has been a workhorse for the team this year.
It was a seemingly regular hockey play. The puck was chipped harmlessly out of the zone by Matt Bartkowski and as Henrik Sedin approached the boards to pick up the puck he was pressured by New York Islanders forward Grabovski who didn’t shy away at all. As Sedin neared the boards Grabovski followed through with a hard shove to the numbers on Sedin’s jersey ultimately ending up in him falling awkwardly into the boards. Sedin went down hard and Grabovski had to answer to the other Canucks forwards on the ice, as well as the referees who sent him packing early for the night. It’s not often that Henrik Sedin’s injuries lead to missed time. The Sedins are notorious for playing through injuries despite their popular stereotype of being ‘soft’.
But it was a rough hit in a vulnerable position and that caused concern for the Canucks training staff who held him out of the remainder of the game. It was a scary moment for the Canucks who are still missing 26-year-old Brandon Sutter and will be icing a lineup that consists of centers Jared McCann, Bo Horvat and Adam Cracknell with the likely call-up of Brendan Gaunce. Luckily the Sedin injury doesn’t seem to be anything serious or longterm, however a timeline for his return is questionable.
Sure, Bo’s been hot and McCann has really been impressive in the circle, but having three guys in center ice positions, two of which are rookies and one who is in only his second year…the Canucks would be in trouble plain and simple.
Here’s the hit:
Unfortunately for the Canucks, they just lost a key piece to their only consistently producing line. Sedin, who has nine goals and 28 assists in 44 games has been an integral part of the Canucks ability to stay afloat this season and without him in the lineup the team will have to collectively step up to the plate. Especially guys like Horvat and McCann.
Horvat has been heating up. He’s got six goals and three assists in his last seven games. He’s earned a better look at top-six time. McCann has been soundly impressive all year. And although his stats won’t have him in the running for rookie of the year he has been one of the biggest surprises of the rookie class. But between the two of them so far this year they have combined for 31 points. Henrik Sedin has 37 himself, while Daniel has 41. It’s hard to imagine Horvat and McCann being able to pick up the slack that Henrik Sedin leaves behind during his injury.
Maybe picking up the slack won’t include them having to score at the same rate though. If Horvat and McCann can hold down the fort while Sedin recovers from what is being called a day-to-day injury by playing simple hockey and trying to win close games, the Canucks might be able to make it through Sedin’s absence without any catastrophic damage.
For Willie Desjardins the test will be how to manage the icetime of his depleted and incredibly young roster (which is still missing Brandon Sutter and Dan Hamhuis). A balanced approach to Horvat and McCann taking over Sedin’s ice will give the Canucks the best tools to compete.
It’s no secret that the Canucks are transitioning from the old to the new and young. They’ve kept some household names around as a proper group of veterans to mentor their new wave of young prospects but their clock is ticking as well. As Sedin slid into the boards and went down in a heap it was impossible not to think “well, it’s been an amazing run guys”. The twins are aging, and even though they are having incredibly productive seasons that will see them break the 70-point mark yet again, they’re time in the NHL…and possibly with the Canucks…is coming to it’s last leg.
Sure, Benning says that he and the rest of the Canucks staff are still interested in building a playoff contending team. But the moves he’s made don’t necessarily reflect that. And that’s okay. It’s understandable that Benning would say that…what general manager is going to tell one of the most passionate fan bases in the league that he’s thrown in the towel on playoff hockey for a few years while he tries to rebuild the heart of the group? None. At least not any with sanity left in their minds.
And maybe the Canucks are sitting in a position to make the playoffs this year. Maybe they do earn themselves a spot in the first round. Fantastic work. But the reality is that the team isn’t built for a deep playoff run right now. Behind a few veteran players with extensive playoff experience there aren’t many names on the roster that understand the grind that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The injury to Henrik won’t keep him out more than a few weeks at most, but it might derail some of the flow he’s collected this year…which could spell the end for he and his brother’s time in Vancouver, and the end of Vancouver’s outside shot at the playoffs.
That might just be a blessing in disguise.
Although they’ve expressed their loyalty to the organization and desire to stay in Vancouver, they’ve also said they wouldn’t stand in the way of the team trying to deal them. True professionals. An early exit this year would give the twins a chance to reevaluate where they are in their own career and what their last minute goals are. For the Canucks it would solidify Benning’s blueprint for continuing to refresh the roster in Vancouver with young players and quality fill-in veterans.
The Canucks have some sorting out to do, that’s for sure. When Sedin fell victim to an awkward hit Canucks fans were worried. Mayhem broke out with Canucks players, new and old, protecting the longtime leader of the team. After all that had been taken care of the team weathered the storm of being heavily outplayed and out shot to arise victorious over one of the better teams in the East. A sign that although times are rough in Vancouver, patience will be a catalyst in bring Vancouver back to elite form.