#15: Weathering the Sturm
By: John "Canorcas" Jang
Marco Sturm is a pretty smart guy. The veteran of 14 NHL seasons knows he's going to have to start producing results to help turn the team's slow start around. Don't be fooled by his calm and steady demeanor- Sturm is a fierce competitor who is known as a true team player and a respected leader. Currently sitting five games away from 900 regular season games in the NHL, the native of Dingolfing of former West Germany has had more experience in his lifetime than most on the team.
Consider this: since being drafted 21st overall by the San Jose Sharks in the 1996 NHL entry draft, Sturm has played through 5 different teams, 4 Olympic Games and 3 World Championships. Furthermore, he has an additional 61 playoff games though currently has no ring to show for it. Hoping to change that fact, Sturm signed with the Canucks to a 1-year, $2.25 million-dollar contract on July 1st-- Canada Day and the first day of free agency in the National Hockey League.
So far, with zero points and a miserable minus-four through five games, Sturm has had trouble finding a comfort level with a new team and new linemates. After starting the season on the second line with Mikael Samuelsson and rookie Cody Hodgson, the trio was split up to the point where Sturm is currently seeing third line duty with rotating partners. Despite these early struggles, there is hope the 33-year old veteran can provide something more than just numbers-- an intangible element that experience, leadership and hard work provides that are impossible to judge by any statistic.
The 2010-2011 regular season was a write-off for Sturm who played only 35 games before being shut down with a torn ACL. The injury required surgery-- marking it the second time he had a major operation on his knee within three years. Largely considered a risk signing due to his questionable durability, Gillis wasted no time by signing the former Washington Capital on the first day of free agency.
While most general managers might have waited out for bigger or better fish, Gillis clearly sees something in Sturm that can help his team. For anyone who watched the Stanley Cup Finals, they would know there were numerous reasons the Canucks fell apart to the Bruins. In addition to a myriad of injuries, the Canucks seemed to collapse under the pressure and their inability to beat Bruins braun. While likely not an answer to better physical play, Gillis made his first significant off-season transaction by signing Marco Sturm.
Clearly coach Vigneault has no issues with utilizing Sturm in a variety of ways and that is likely to be a key factor down the stretch when players are in and out of the roster due to injuries or cold streaks. The fact is, Vancouver fans likely should not expect a big offensive output from Sturm this season at any point. It is more likely the Canucks brought Sturm on board for his versatility through the roster and his intangibles.
It simply may not be fair to label Sturm as the early scapegoat for the team's slow start. With Kesler and Raymond out with injuries and goaltender Roberto Luongo playing sub-par as usual in the month of October, Sturm is the easy choice. In truth, the whole team is guilty of playing lacklustre hockey and it seems Sturm is simply miscast as the villain.
As the team begins to get into the groove and after weathering the early storm, the Canucks and Marco Sturm may look for sunshine and better days ahead.
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