Numbers Game: Canucks Get Defensive

Scott Cullen
8/28/2009 4:07:14 PM
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In one busy August day, the Vancouver Canucks re-shaped their blueline, adding three NHL veterans at no cost to their current roster.

Numbers Game looks at the new Canucks blueliners and what kind of impact they might have.

The Canucks Get: D Christian Ehrhoff, D Brad Lukowich and D Mathieu Schneider.

Ehrhoff, 27, is coming off a season in which he scored a career-high 42 points, including 25 on the power play.  At the same time, he finished with a career-worst minus-12 rating, the lowest mark on the Sharks, so he's not without his shortcomings.

A strong skater with a heavy shot from the point, Ehrhoff has the size and skills to be a quality top-four defenceman in the NHL, and he played more than 21 minutes a game last year in that role, but he hasn't necessarily been aggressive enough to take charge in that kind of role.

Playing on a deep Canucks blueline, Ehrhoff may not be asked to play quite as much as he was in San Jose, but he'll surely see some time on the power play.

Ehrhoff is signed through the next two seasons, at a cost and cap hit of $6.2-million.

Lukowich is a solid veteran stay-at-home defenceman.  The 33-year-old plays a more limited role now, as injuries have started to catch up with him, but he's a reliable third-pairing defenceman and will give the Canucks excellent depth on the blueline.

Lukowich is signed through this season, during which he will earn $1.8-million at a cap hit of less than $1.6-million.

The Canucks power play will get a major boost with the addition of Schneider, a 40-year-old who still has plenty of game left in him.  While Schneider struggled in Atlanta last season, he's been very productive as part of a strong team recently in Detroit, Anaheim and, even late last season, Montreal.

A strong finish in Montreal (17 points in 23 games) allowed Schneider to surpass 30 points in 2008-2009; a total he has surpassed in every full season of his career (excluding 12 points in 26 games in 1996-1997, 29 points in 43 games in 1994-1995 and 21 points in 44 games in 1989-1990).

The Canucks wouldn't bring Schneider in without expecting him to be a part of their power play, as he's put up at least 17 power play points in each of the last eight seasons and Vancouver's power play ranked 17th in the league last season. 

That being the case, Schneider and Ehrhoff may cut into the PP time afforded to a left-shooting defenceman like Alexander Edler, who ranked second among Canucks blueliners with 21 power play points last season, as opposed to last year's top power play producer from the blueline, Kevin Bieksa, a right-handed shooter who scored 25 points with the man advantage.  

No matter how the Canucks allocate their minutes, there is no doubt that their defence is much deeper and clearly improved with these additions, to the point that -- barring future deals -- Lukowich and Shane O'Brien could be struggling just to get in the lineup.

Scott Cullen can be reached at

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