Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Dude, Where's The Depth On Defense?

Perhaps more disconcerting than the Canucks' 0-4 preseason record - and really we're not that disconcerted - is their seeming lack of depth on defense. The average ice-time for the team's top-six defensemen last season:

Mattias Ohlund - 25:47 min/game
Ed Jovanovski - 23:11
Sami Salo - 22:14
Brent Sopel - 21:55
Marek Malik - 18:05
Bryan Allen - 16:51

If as expected, Bryan Allen is able to play top-four minutes (Brent Sopel's minutes or at least 5 more minutes per game) and free agent signee Steve McCarthy can play Malik's minutes (18 minutes), then the team can simply allocate the remaining minutes to whoever wins the 6th/7th defensemen spots:

Mattias Ohlund - 25:47 min/game
Ed Jovanovski - 23:11
Sami Salo - 22:14
Bryan Allen - 21:55
Steve McCarthy - approximately 18:00
Doig/Brookbank/Butenschon/Bieksa/Baumgartner - approximately 9:00

No problem, right?

But what happens if Ohlund remains injured or Jovanovski goes down? On last season's defense, anyone from the bottom-four were capable of playing in the top-four. When Jovanovski got injured, the Canucks' no. 3 and no. 4 defensemen - Salo and Sopel - were able to replace most of his minutes; their no. 5 and no. 6 defensemen - Malik and Allen were then able to step into the top-four.

This season's defense isn't as deep. Their no. 3 and no. 4 defensemen - Salo and Allen - are already expected to play big minutes. If Ohlund remains injured for any extended length of time, can Salo handle another 4 minutes per game? Can Allen, on top of the other extra 5 minutes he would already be playing? Consequently, can someone from the third pairing - McCarthy, etc. - play an extra 3-5 minutes per game in a top-four role? A better question - can they do so effectively?

So far in the preseason, no one has stood out and proved that they could.

posted by J.J. Guerrero, 6:34 AM


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