When something stinks, it’s comforting for people to turn to a single scapegoat to create the illusion that greatness is a tweak away. Some teams try to live that lie by arbitrarily firing assistant coaches; other fan bases throw a struggling goalie under the bus.
Roberto Luongo has been that easy target during a sleepy start to the Vancouver Canucks’ season, but the St. Louis Blues made it clear that he isn’t the team’s only problem by beating Vancouver 3-0 on Wednesday night.
Quietly streaking Blues backup Brian Elliott earned his first shutout since Dec. 1, 2010 while boy wonder Cory Schneider allowed three goals in defeat. (Maybe Luongo destroyed morale by picking his nose on the bench at one point, but that hasn’t been confirmed.)
The game seemed to follow a discouraging trend of slow starts by the 2011 Western Conference finalists, as they only sent 15 shots at Elliott threw the first two periods before erupting with 17 in the final frame. It’s hard not to look at the lack of penalties as another sign of a flat evening, too; the game included just one two-minute minor through the first 40 minutes before there were four in third period.
Beyond sleepwalking through the beginning of games and Luongo’s panic-inducing struggles, the Canucks have some other issues.
- They’ve already been shutout three times this season.
- Ryan Kesler might be back, but he isn’t quite Ryan Kesler yet. The two-way center has just two points in five games after returning from off-season surgery.
- The Sedin twins simply aren’t getting enough support. The team’s top scorers are (in order): Daniel – 12 points, Henrik – 11, Sami Salo – 7, Alex Edler – 6 with Alexandre Burrows and Chris Higgins are tied at 5. Their star doppelgangers are doing fine, but they can’t do it alone.
- After taking a “hometown discount,” Kevin Bieksa has one assist and a -9 rating in 10 games.
- I know that he absorbs a lot of tough matchups, but great defensive center Manny Malhotra’s -6 rating makes me wonder if Kesler isn’t the only Canucks center who’s far from 100 percent.
So yeah, it’s probably more fun to blurt out “Luongo!” when explaining the Canucks’ troubles, but the more disturbing fact for Vancouver fans is that there are plenty of other issues at hand.
On the bright side, the 4-5-1 Canucks play in the mediocre Northwest Division, so there’s plenty of time for them to get their acts together – whether it’s with Luongo or Schneider in net.
Even with all the young players that have been healthy scratches this season, don’t expect the NHL to change its waiver rules.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly told PHT in an email that it’s not something that’s “ever been considered.”
“For better or worse that’s what waiver rules are there for,” Daly wrote. “They force Clubs to make tough decisions.”
Today, Montreal defenseman Jarred Tinordi became the latest waiver-eligible youngster to be sent to the AHL on a two-week conditioning loan.
Tinordi, 23, has yet to play a single game for the Habs this season. If he were still exempt from waivers, he’d have undoubtedly been sent to the AHL long before he had to watch so many NHL games from the press box.
In light of situations like Tinordi’s, some have suggested the NHL change the rules. Currently, the only risk-free way for waiver-eligible players to get playing time in the AHL is via conditioning stint, and, as mentioned, those are limited to 14 days in length.
So the Habs will, indeed, need to make a “tough decision” when Tinordi’s conditioning stint is up. Do they put him in the lineup? Do they keep him in the press box and wait for an injury or some other circumstance to create an opportunity for him to play? Do they risk losing him to waivers by attempting to send him to the AHL? Do they trade him?
Your call, Marc Bergevin.
Related: Stanislav Galiev is stuck in the NHL
Joni Ortio has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Stockton, the Calgary Flames announced today.
The 24-year-old goalie was always likely to clear, what with his dreadful numbers this season (0-2-1, .868),
But we suppose there was always the chance he’d get picked up, so it’s a relief for the Flames all the same. With a little more time to hone his game in the AHL, Ortio could still turn out to be a quality NHL netminder.
In a related move, veteran goalie Jonas Hiller has been activated from injured reserve. Hiller and Karri Ramo are the only goalies on the Flames’ active roster now.
Two injury updates in one post.
First, the situation with Montreal goalie Carey Price, who was hurt last night versus the Rangers.
According to Canadiens coach Michel Therrien, Price has been placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury. That means he’ll be out at least a week, though no exact timeline was provided.
“We don’t know how long Carey will be out, but for us it’s business as usual,” said Therrien.
Mike Condon will get the start tomorrow in New Jersey.
As for Oilers forward Nail Yakupov, he’ll be out 2-4 weeks after spraining his ankle last night in Carolina while getting tangled up with a linesman.
Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf wasn’t impressed with at least two things last night in Arizona:
1. His team’s performance in a 4-2 loss to the Coyotes.
2. The atmosphere inside Gila River Arena, where the announced attendance was just 11,578.
“It’s hard. When you come into a building … it’s dead,” Getzlaf told the O.C. Register. “Nothing against the fans. It’s hard to fill a big building like this and have the amount of people in it to build your energy. So you have to do it yourself. You have to be ready when you step on the ice. I thought we came out flat.”
Anaheim’s record fell to 8-11-4 with the defeat.
The Coyotes’ average attendance also fell, to 13,144 in eight games.