The headline of this Jason Botchford story states that the Canucks are “desperate for a second line”, an assertion that is clearly ridiculous. The Canucks are not desperate for anything. How many teams in the NHL would like to have Vancouver’s problems? What problems? To be fair to Botchford, he probably did not write the headline. The story itself isn’t quite as ridiculous.
When Pahlsson’s on, he doesn’t stand out, and neither do the players he’s up against. When he generated a pretty good scoring chance in the first period in Phoenix, it was a bonus. Any offence from his line will be…
This doesn’t have to have a drag on offence. The theory, and it has merit, is that a checking line, whether it’s centred by Pahlsson, Manny Malhotra or Max Lapierre, will clear up offensive zone opportunities for Ryan Kesler’s line, the Canucks’ so-called second line.
Just one problem. The Canucks don’t have one.
I do agree that Ryan Kesler will get more offensive opportunities, but that’s about all I could buy in the entire article. First, Sami Pahlsson does stand out when he is playing well. He is easy to notice. He is the guy who is around the puck all the time. If he does not stand out in this respect on the Canucks it will only be because the Canucks as a team swarm the puck.
Second, the Canucks generate offense with their speed and transition game rather than with individual creativity. (Sedinery excepted.) They get goals from all over their lineup including a large contribution from defensemen. Hansen, Higgins and Pahlsson will get scoring chances. Worrying about offense with the highest scoring team in the West?
Third, the Canucks have a quality second line no matter who plays with Kesler. Vigneault has several options – none of them bad – and there is nothing wrong with competition for ice time. That’s healthy. I also don’t think the Canucks have a checking line. They have three players who have succeeded in that role as a third line centre. Vigneault will let them decide who gets the most ice time.
What the Canucks also have is an outstanding first line and three lines that – among other things – are all excellent defensively. The Canucks score lots of goals, but there are some teams that you can’t beat with scoring. The key for the Canucks against teams like the St. Louis Blues, Phoenix Coyotes and Nashville Predators is to be every bit as disciplined and every bit as good defensively. Vigneault (and Mike Gillis) thinks Sami Pahlsson gives the Canucks a better chance to win against those teams than Cody Hodgson.
I think they’re right.