Get used to .500 hockey

BARRY MACDONALD -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

With the winds of change shredding the Vancouver Canucks as we previously knew them, it was difficult to really know what to expect heading into the current season.

There was a new head coach with a new system, a new goaltender, and a couple of notable free agent signings.

A variety of hockey people suggested it would take up 20 games, or a quarter of the season, to really know what GM Dave Nonis had put together here.

If what we have seen, is what we will continue to get, then get used to .500 hockey folks.

That's right where the Canucks were prior to last night's game against Detroit - 10-10-1 after 21 games. And upon further review, it's fair to conclude that you can glean something positive out of that level of mediocrity.

Let's start with the netminding. Has Roberto Luongo been lights out? As in red lights out? Not really. He hasn't been as good as he can be, hasn't really allowed the Canucks to "steal" games.

The defence in front of him has been beset by injuries, which may prove to be a blessing in disguise, given the emergence of Patrick Coulombe.

As for the forwards.... well, thank the Man above for Ornskoldsvik, Sweden.... birthplace of Daniel, Henrik and Markus.

So when you take the .500 record at the quarter-pole, and when you factor in the so-so goaltending, the injuries on the back end, and the dearth of scoring up front, it is not unreasonable to make a more optimistic projection for the rest of the season.

What happens if the puck starts looking like a beach ball to Luongo?

And if the defence stays healthy, with a top four of Ohlund, Mitchell, Salo and the emerging, rock steady Kevin Bieksa.

And just imagine the possibilities if the forwards can actually remember the object of the exercise is to put the biscuit in the basket.

Heading into the Motown Showdown last night, Vancouver forwards had scored 39 goals, with three players accounting for 24 of them.

That leaves the other 15 sprinkled among 10 players. Not good enough.

Add it all up and the MVP to date is pretty obvious: Alain Vigneault.

He promised a team that would work hard on a consistent basis. His message is getting through, despite plenty of obstacles. But the grace period is over.

He knows what he has to work with, and barring the unforeseen, there won't be any considerable changes. The salary cap restricts that from happening.

But based on the early reviews it not a stretch to suggest this edition of the Canucks is bound for at least one round of post-season play.

Barry Macdonald is co-host of BS in the Morning on the Team 1040 from 6-9 a.m. E-mail him: barry.macdonald@24hrs.ca 


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