No surprise that Vandermeer never got the call during the regular season. A couple games with the team wasn't really going to yield much information or change anyone's mind about what kind of player he is.
Vandermeer is a 33-year-old veteran with 9 seasons of NHL experience and nearly 500 games played in the bigs. We pretty much know what he can do and what he can't do. It's the "what he can't do" that likely kept him in Chicago.
The Canucks employ a highly demanding system for their defensemen and they basically require every D to be able to play a hybrid game where they can be used in every and all situations. Every defenseman on the Canucks needs to have strong puckmoving skills and needs to have good (or, at a minimum, passable) skating and mobility. Basically, they need to have top-four potential, meaning that they could, if needed, play 20 minutes per game, play special teams, and play a three-zone game during even strength. The Canucks require their Ds to be able to make strong breakout passes, be capable of delivering an accurate stretch pass, to skate well enough to join the rush, be able to pinch in the O-zone, move down to maintain offensive possession, and have the positioning and mobility to get back into position after a loss of possession.
Basically, while each of the Ds have their strengths and weaknesses, all are capable of playing a variety of game styles, from shutdown to offensive (to varying effects, of course, but almost every Canucks D has decent versatility), and to be able to shift from one style to another depending on game situations and the forward group they are playing with. That's why a guy like Dan Hamhuis might switch from playing a stay-at-home style with a bottom-six group to playing an highly offensive-minded style with the Sedin line (and possession).
Probably the D who brings something closest to Vandermeer's game (albeit lacking the same kind of pugilistic ability) is Alberts and, while Alberts can be that physical, stay-at-home guy, he can also skate fairly well and moves the puck better than most give him credit for (he's worked hard on improving his puckmoving and mobility since his arrival). Alberts has more than one side to his game and that's why he gets used on this team. Vandermeer only really has one side to his game and that's why he didn't get used.
That said, if the Canucks find themselves in a series where they feel they need someone with Vandermeer's gifts, they'll have him available. However, to actually use Vandermeer (beyond maybe 5 minutes per game), they'll pretty much need to change the systems they employ for that five-man unit (while he's on-ice) because I really don't think that Vandermeer can hang with the Canucks' typical gameplan and playing style.
And yeah, while guys like Barker or Joslin aren't the perfect matches for the Canucks' systems on D, they also aren't nearly as "one note" of players as Jim Vandermeer (not saying that that "note" doesn't sound good when it's played at the right moment