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Wrapping up at the deadline

by Jeff Paterson / Vancouver Canucks
I have to admit I’m a little surprised the Vancouver Canucks were unable – or unwilling – to make some sort of deal ahead of Wednesday’s National Hockey League trade deadline.

I understand that the Canucks have won 11 of their last 13 and have rattled off victories in six straight on home ice. But prior to the wins over Columbus and Minnesota, an argument could be made that the positive results were the best thing about a number of recent outings.

The last two wins, though, have been fairly complete and perhaps gave the organization reason to believe that what they’re seeing now is what they’re going to continue seeing over the final six weeks and into the games that matter most.

In the big picture, aside from Calgary and Phoenix, the rest of the West was relatively quiet on deadline day. So in that sense, the teams chasing the Canucks for one of the top eight spots in the conference and an invitation to Lord Stanley’s year-end party didn’t do an awful lot to bolster their rosters.

That leaves the Canucks in a favourable position to nail down a playoff spot with 19 games to go and only three against teams currently ahead of them in the standings. And after being on the outside looking in two of the past three seasons, returning to the playoffs will certainly be welcomed by the faithful members of Canuck Nation.

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

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But with a team that’s rolling the way the Canucks are right now, should this season be about making the playoffs and rolling the dice once they get there?

Or should this season be about much more than that with management rewarding the players on the roster with an even better chance to make some noise once the post-season rolls around?

The Canucks are clearly looking at the addition of Mats Sundin, the return from injury of both Roberto Luongo and Sami Salo and the sudden emergence of Alex Burrows as four boosts to the line-up. And based on the way the hockey club has played over the past five weeks, it’s hard to argue with that logic.

But wins against teams like Toronto, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Phoenix are one thing. Trying to knock off any combination of Chicago, Calgary, Detroit and San Jose in a best four out of seven series to make it deep into the playoffs is another matter altogether.

And that’s where the surprise comes in that the Canucks didn’t address an opportunity to add size, strength and/or scoring to their third line.

Jannik Hansen not withstanding, the Canucks are as healthy as they’ve been all season and it’s such a risky proposition to think that there won’t be some new bumps and bruises picked up along the way. That’s why, in a perfect world, it would have served the hockey club well to have depth and options among the top nine forwards.

Steve Bernier has shown some recent signs of life offensively and has been a fairly consistent physical presence for the hockey club. The Canucks need that to continue down the stretch and have to hope that linemates Kyle Wellwood and Taylor Pyatt (or Mason Raymond when he’s given the chance) can follow Bernier’s lead and collectively raise their games.

By not making any moves prior to the deadline, the message from Canucks management is loud and clear. Obviously, it likes the group is has assembled and has full confidence in the current roster to build off what has been accomplished since the start of February.

The Canucks won’t have to wait long to see how they stack up against the best in the West. With San Jose in town Saturday, the Canucks have the very definition of a statement game with a healthy and confident line-up going up against a team they haven’t been able to beat in the last seven attempts dating back to last season.

A win on Saturday and the Canucks will surely have other clubs sitting up and taking notice. A loss, however, and the Canucks may get an indication of which areas of their game perhaps should have been addressed at the trade deadline.

Either way, what’s done is done and the guys that have got the Canucks to this point are the ones they’re going with the rest of the way. And the hockey club has to hope the old adage applies that sometimes the best deals are the ones that don’t get made.
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