This offseason the Vancouver Canucks expended considerable effort, to say nothing of the expense, to assemble a group of six defencemen that they felt would be among the best in the NHL.

That, at least, was the theory. And after five months and 72 games, that's still the theory because — due to unforeseen circumstances, mostly to do with broken feet — the Canucks haven't had their top six together.

They haven't, come to think of it, had their top eight together and have struggled to put their top 10 together on some nights, all of which makes their position atop the NHL standings all the more remarkable.

Kevin Bieksa, he of the metatarsal issues, was asked if the blueline fraternity is looking forward to the day when the top six are in the lineup together.

"Who are the top six?" he answered. "I'm not sure any more."

We know the feeling.

Wednesday night at The Rog, the Canucks topped a dispirited Colorado Avalanche team 4-2 with a version of their best six which has been intact for a dozen games or so. By the standards of this season, that might make this group the longest-serving blueline the team has employed, and they've been both reliable and productive in their limited time together.

For the Canucks, that's the sort of good news. The more interesting development, however, awaits in another week and, if everything goes according to plan, another three weeks when the troops might be fully restored.

All season long, Canucks' fans have fantasized what the defensive corps would look like with a full complement.

They're finally close to finding out.

Bieksa, who's missed 14 games with a fractured foot, is close to returning. We know this because, when he was asked on Wednesday when he'll be back, he became vague and evasive.

Some time during next week's road trip is a good guess.

Barring further catastrophe, that will also make Alex Edler the lone holdout from the core six and Edler has started off-ice workouts and skating on his own. Again, if it all goes according to the script he'll be back for the start of the playoffs, and that's when things will get interesting.