Cormac McCarthy’s brilliant western novel No Country for Old Men, about an aging sheriff struggling to understand society’s decaying values and escalating violence, begins with a drug deal gone bad in the scrubby West Texas desert.

There are a lot of dead desperados, and both the drug money and dope are missing, which will attract more bad men. As lawmen examine the crime scene, a deputy observes: “It’s a mess, ain’t it sheriff?”

And the wary sheriff says: “If it ain’t, it’ll do till a mess gets here.”

Thankfully, the only conflict around the Vancouver Canucks is about winning and losing, and how to do more of the former and who’s responsible for the latter these days.

But as the Canucks hobbled off on to the road Thursday, losers 11 times in 15 games and serious injuries nearing a critical mass, that old sheriff’s warning seemed appropriate.

Interim head coach Mike Sullivan confirmed that key defenceman Kevin Bieksa would not make the trip, possibly due to a foot injury, about two hours before the National Hockey League club announced that second-line forward Mike Santorelli had undergone season-ending shoulder surgery.

The previous day – before the Canucks lost 5-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks and after they lost 4-2 to the Edmonton Oilers – we learned defenceman Chris Tanev has a fractured thumb and will not play until at least the end of the Olympic break in four weeks.

This is a mess for the Canucks.

And if it ain’t, it’ll do until the mess gets here — probably on the difficult, five-game road trip that starts Friday night against the Winnipeg Jets.

The Canucks appear to be teetering, in danger of collapsing and losing control of a season that looked pretty good only a month ago.

And barring an intervention from under-fire general manager Mike Gillis or some miracle work by head coach John Tortorella, who couldn’t have picked a worse time to get himself suspended for 15 days, it’s difficult to see how things will get better before they get worse for the Canucks.