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Canucks at the deadline

by Jeff Paterson / Vancouver Canucks
For the second straight year, the Vancouver Canucks reached the 60-game mark of their regular season with a record of 30-22-8.

But there is no one in the organization – or among the incredibly loyal fan base – who wants anything to do with any similarities from here on in.

Last year’s team stood pat at the trade deadline with the exception of a swap of not-so-welcome Matts (Cooke for Pettinger) and hoped the rest of the players on the roster had what it took to get the job done to qualify for the post-season.

Obviously, nine wins over the final 22 games wasn’t what management or the coaching staff had in mind and as a result the Canucks were on the outside looking in when the playoffs rolled around.

That was no fun for anyone – least of all those who lost their jobs because of the tailspin.

Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight.

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Twelve months later, the Canucks stand in the same spot with the same record and with the stretch drive upon them and the trade deadline less than a week away.

The biggest differences from one year ago are the fact that there is a new man calling the shots and that the hockey team he has put together is in considerably better health than the one that limped its way toward the finish line last season.

The Canucks are poised to make a playoff push, but they may need a little help from Mike Gillis to ensure they get where they want to go. The first-year general manager has said repeatedly that he’s willing to play Let’s Make A Deal and has some money to spend.

But Gillis has also cautioned that he’s in for the long haul and won’t forsake the future of the hockey team just to meet the exorbitant asking prices it’s expected to take to land a high-profile player.

In watching the Canucks in recent weeks, it seems clear that this is a team that could still use a finisher. While the Canucks have won eight of their last 10 games, in those two games they’ve lost – and in almost every game last month – the Canucks had plenty of scoring chances, but weren’t able to find the back of the net.

As well as Alex Burrows has played with the Twins, the question must be asked: Is Burrows the long-term solution on the wing on the team’s top line or would he better served bringing his new-found confidence to a third line in desperate need of a jump start?

Burrows has never had to face the grind of a playoff push or the post-season itself as a top-line forward facing shutdown defencemen on every shift. This is not to say that he can’t thrive (the guy seems up to every challenge thrown his way), but Mike Gillis and the coaching staff have to decide whether the Canucks want to roll the dice on Burrows as a top-liner or go into the marketplace and try to find someone else to play with the Twins.

If the price for a sniper is prohibitive or the Canucks simply elect to keep the current top-line intact, then it seems that there is ample room for an upgrade to the third line – perhaps a veteran with playoff experience who still has a little offensive pop.

The Canucks have been able to get by in February with virtually no scoring from a variety of third-line combinations (Taylor Pyatt and Steve Bernier each have one goal this month while Kyle Wellwood and Mason Raymond have both gone weeks now without a goal). It’s been proven time and again that teams that go far in the post-season get scoring from throughout their line-ups and they certainly have to be three lines deep.

The Canucks are about to enter a portion of their schedule where they play four straight and eight of their next 10 at General Motors Place. The addition of a player or players to the line-up via trade would bolster their line-up and, in theory, should give them a better chance of strengthening their grip on a playoff spot.

If the next six weeks are going to be different than the final six weeks a year ago, things will most-certainly have to change for the Vancouver Canucks. And that may have to start with a few of the names in the line-up by the time the March 4th trade deadline passes.
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