By Caleb Harder – CanucksCorner.com
It has been a week since the preseason has commenced for the Vancouver Canucks and fans have, through trial and error, seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. In their four games played, the Canucks camp pulled off an impressive 3-1-0 record. Many players have been cut but 28 players remain in the main roster. There are still a lot of questions regarding the majority of the group. If the roster was announced tomorrow on who will stay and who will go, what would the line-up look like? Here’s my take on what the team will look like for the upcoming season.
Sedin – H. Sedin – Vrbata
Burrows – Vey – Shinkaruk
Higgins – Bonino – Hansen
Kassian – Richardson – Dorsett
Hamhuis – Bieksa
Sbisa – Tanev
Edler – Weber
FIRST LINE: D. SEDIN – H. SEDIN – VRBATA
The first line of the roster is a no brainer. Henrik and Daniel are the faces of the franchise and Radim Vrbata is the greatest thing for the twins since the invention of sliced bread. On Friday night against the Calgary Flames the trio proved the veterans are just as good as the young stars. They were able to take shots from every angle, pass the puck, and put the pressure on the opposing team. Expect the fountain of youth to strike the first line because they are ready to show the NHL what they’ve got.
SECOND LINE: BURROWS – VEY – SHINKARUK
Over the span of the preseason, Willie Desjardins has paired Alex Burrows, Nick Bonino, and Zack Kassian in what is considered to be our second line for this season. In the two games they have appeared, the players looked incompatible with each other and could not produce a positive result. The play between the three has been sloppy and is not suitable to be a top six line. In order to fix this problem, there will need to be a massive shake up in the second line and that includes a touch of good hockey knowledge and consistent scoring.
Linden Vey shows the potential to become an elite player and averaged over a point a game when playing with the Manchester Monarchs in the AHL last season. The star studded center has scored four points in the two games he played in the preseason and with his speed and power knows how to deliver.
Hunter Shinkaruk has been the most impressive player in this preseason and has proven above and beyond that he is ready to take on the NHL this season. The Ryan Kesler style play of Shinkaruk brings is exactly what the team needs in the top six line-up. He can snipe the puck and he can pass unlike his second line predecessor. Even if the first round pick does not make the main roster this season, expect him to be the first player that Jim Benning decides to call up from the minors.
Last season, Alex Burrows was struck with injury after injury and wilted under the John Tortorella regime. This July Radim Vrbata signed with the Vancouver Canucks to play with the Sedins thus stealing Burrows’ first line role. The great thing about Alex Burrows is that he can be placed on any line and flourish with whomever his line mates are. Shinkaruk and Vey are young and smaller than the average NHL pro but with the presence of Burrows, they will have their veteran counterpart providing more grit when necessary.
THIRD LINE: HIGGINS – BONINO – HANSEN
When Jim Benning came into management, he set into place a series of trades to fix the wreckage that Mike Gillis left behind. Every player was randomly placed into the line-up and some of the former choices were questionable. Last season Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen played on the second line but clearly did not belong on that pedestal. Now the two Canucks can be moved from those positions and be part of a solid third line where they can provide steady back up and become a major component to Desjardins’ four line system.
Bonino has been anointed by the brass to become the new second line center, but it is problematic due to the fact that he does not look like he can hold that position firmly in his grasp. If he were to be the second center, the role would come with a lot of pressure to potentially lose the spot to prospect Linden Vey. The former Ducks player needs more time to develop with the third line to show he is ready to take on a top six position in the roster.
Though it sounds like a line not much faith would be held in, the three team mates would prosper and could score some serious points and help fill the body of the roster.
FOURTH LINE: KASSIAN – RICHARDSON – DORSETT
In the Western Conference, the fourth line always matters if a team wants to be a serious cup contender. The Canucks are currently in a very good position with their fourth line as they have ripe crop of players to select from. Brad Richardson without a doubt will be the center for this line in the upcoming season. He is a great faceoff player and is physical every time he steps on the ice. Derek Dorsett makes an excellent line mate for Richardson because he can scrap, skate, and score when needed. Lastly, Zack Kassian needs to start back at the bottom and work his way back up through the team. The wild card player is too inconsistent to skate on the second line and he could possibly put the Canucks’ game in jeopardy with a primary role. Playing on the fourth line would let Kassian re-establish his worth to play in the top six. In the meantime he will have to work a whole lot harder in every game or it is goodbye, Vancouver.
THE HORVAT QUESTION
Bo Horvat has been the top of the talk within the Vancouver hockey community. What is problematic is that he is too good for the Ontario Hockey League but is only 19 years old. Horvat is too young to play in the AHL and the options are having him spend the whole season as a Vancouver Canuck or returning him his junior team, the London Knights. The dilemma becomes fostering the proper development for the budding star. If he spends the year in London, Horvat will not have the challenge that he needs in order to move forward in his career. The danger of Bo Horvat playing the season in Vancouver creates the challenge of the team holding too many centers on their roster. In order for him to make the team another center would have to go and he may spend the year on the third line. If he were to stay in Vancouver it could possibly harm his development as a player. The answer to this quandary lays in the hands of the team management and will be no easy choice.
The centerman was acquired in a trade for goaltender Roberto Luongo last march. Since landing in Vancouver and it has been uncertain on his future with the franchise. In the congestion of centers, Matthias will be a healthy scratch for the team.
Sestito became the primary odd man out when Derek Dorsett joined the Vancouver Canucks. Tom Sestito as a player is everything that Dorsett is not. Dorsett works as an upgrade from the brash fourth liner who will most likely be placed on waivers this season.
FIRST PAIRING: HAMHUIS – BIEKSA
This first pairing is an easy one to predict. Bieksa has been the leader of the defensive charge for the past few season while Dan Hamhuis has played the supporting role. Though a Brent Seabrook-like defenseman would be preferable for a top pairing, the duo will plausibly create a solid front line in every game.
SECOND PAIRING: SBISA – TANEV
The second pairing is not a flashy group of blue-liners. Luca Sbisa in the preseason plays a classic style of defending the zone and dumping the puck out for players to chase. Sbisa makes a large impact on the ice when delivering hits and he always finishes. Tanev as well is a classic defenseman and will be a compatible piece with the newly acquired player.
THIRD PAIRING: EDLER – WEBER
Last season Alex Edler was worst in the NHL in plus/minus with a rating of -39. The Swedish star struggled all of the 2013-14 season and needs a restart with the team. Like Kassian, Edler was inconsistent in his play and will need to earn his trust back with management if he want to regain his top pairing role. Yannik Weber will play as the support to the ailing Edler to help nurse back into the defenseman he used to be.
In the preseason Ryan Stanton has been everything but good in the game. Every time he steps onto the ice he looks like a lost puppy wandering the arena. Stanton cannot defend, he fails to provide any support to his team mates and on Thursday night he kept crashing into cut defenseman Kent Huskins over the majority of the game. Ryan Stanton has one year remaining on his contract and if he seeks for an extension, he will have to get his head back in the game.
What is seen here is what I project the Vancouver Canucks line-up will look like for this coming season, and I firmly believe with a balance of both young stars and veterans will overall look best in the managements favor during the long run.
Follow me on Twitter @cjaharder