Struggling Canucks sinking fast

BARRY MACDONALD -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

"Headed nowhere fast."

That was a headline in Sports Illustrated about 30 years ago, trumpeting an article on Oakland Raider quarterback Kenny "The Snake" Stabler. Headed Nowhere Fast.

It chronicled the deliberate, yet savvy style of the man who led the black and silver to a Super Bowl title in January of 1977.

It was a complimentary tag about Stabler, who seemed as sure as he did slow. There was a purpose to his pace.

I am not convinced we can apply the same tag to the Vancouver Canucks, based on Monday night's no-show in the Show Me State.

If there is a purpose to this group's pace, I have yet to figure it out. But this is a team that is indeed, headed nowhere fast.

Happy New Year it ain't, not when the first loss of '06 is against a sorry collection of misfits called the St. Louis Blues, a team destined to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1981.

They might have some company, based on the recent performance of the most underachieving team in the entire NHL this season.

It doesn't take Dr. Phil to determine this group is a tad dysfunctional. We have heard for years about the core group, that it is among the most talented fivesomes in the league. Naslund, Bertuzzi, Morrison, Jovanovski, and Ohlund.

Surround this core with a bunch of gritty foot soldiers and you might just as well plan the parade route while you are at it.

Evidently there is nothing so uncertain as a sure thing. In my mind, there are now just two members of that vaunted core that are untouchable ... Naslund and Ohlund.

I would hate to lose Jovanovski because he plays with such passion and energy, but his contract is up at the end of the year and he would fetch something in return.

Morrison has been Marc Crawford's whipping boy for so long, a change would do him good. And no one can convince me Bertuzzi wouldn't be better off somewhere else, and now that he is more productive, there would be an appetite for him around the league.

All of the above of course, is easier said than done. This is the age of the salary cap and while a number of teams would love to take on many of the aforementioned players, few have the financial room to do so. Boston moving Joe Thornton to San Jose earlier this season was an aberration. Very few players in the $4- 5-million neighbourhood are going to have address changes. It's the new reality.

The goaltending situation will be addressed. It has to be. Alex Auld is a bright, articulate young man, with considerable potential.

The Canucks may well be served by Auld at some point down the line - but not now.

He has proved capable as a backup, but not as a number one goalie, and that is a void Dave Nonis knows he must do something about.

Olaf Kolzig's name keeps popping up, but so do his contract numbers. Roberto Luongo ... Nikolai Khabibulin ... Bernie Parent ... Spider Lockett ... the rumor mill is working hard, but reality is another matter altogether.

Nonis has made it clear that he has no intention of whacking Crawford. The possibility of making a major deal is remote.

The acquisition of a goaltender is more than a possibility - it's a probability. So there you have it folks.

As close as you all were to the panic button after the debacle in St. Louis, the people that matter in the Canuck organization are nowhere near it.

They believed in this core group last summer, and they still believe in it.

That faith might be rewarded, but nearing the halfway point of this season, you have to wonder. Headed nowhere fast? Or is there a purpose to their pace? Stay tuned.


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