August 23 2010 02:32PM
Sergei, it's time to step your game up.
A report out of Russia today indicates that Sergei Shirokov has his eyes set on making the NHL this year as a member of the Vancouver Canucks. From Dmitry Chesnokov on Twitter, "#Canucks' Shirokov tells SovSport he is focused on breaking into the NHL with Vancouver; didn't consider KHL offers this summer.".
So... do I think Sergei Shirokov has a shot at making the Vancouver Canucks this year? Well...
Here's the good news about Sergei Shirokov. Every year that he has played pro hockey, his point production has steadily increased. The bad news is that he is starting his NHL career from a pretty low point (stat-wise). So he's got a tough climb up to warrant serious consideration.
He played a full season with the Manitoba Moose last season and had a respectable year on a team that was essentially a .500 club. Shirokov finished second in team scoring with 22 G and 23 A for 45 points in 76 GP (courtesy hockeydb.com). However, in Manitoba's first round playoff series loss, Shirokov had only 2 assists in 6 games, tying him for 11th in team scoring with 42-year-old Mike Keane. So overall, he had a pretty good season, and you couldn't pin Manitoba's first round exit on Shirokov's lack of output.
That said, his brief foray into NHL hockey has been less than impressive. In his 6 games to start last season with the Canucks, he had no points, only 4 shots and ended up -4 and was on-ice for 5 goals against (stats courtesy hockey-reference.com). To put it mildly, that's unimpressive. To put it harshly, it's bloody terrible. More importantly, during those 6 games, Shirokov was hardly ever a threat or even a presence while on the ice.
So where does Shirokov fit into the Canucks' mix?
The top 2 lines are done and dusted. The Sedins, Burrows, Raymond, Kesler and Samuelsson are locked in as the top 6. So Shirokov is looking at the bottom 6 to make the team. Here is the list of problems with Shirokov making the team as a bottom 6 player.
1. Shirokov is not a big guy and the Canucks are trying to get bigger and stronger on the third line.
2. Shirokov is not an overly physical player and the Canucks are trying to increase their grit on the bottom 2 lines.
3. There are approximately 285 players in the Canucks system trying out for the bottom 6 forwards. Ok that's a slight exaggeration. Regardless, all of them are either bigger, stronger or grittier than Shirokov (or all of the above).
So what does Shirokov need to do to make the Canucks and play in the NHL this season? Well he has two options, really. He can either change his game to fit the Canucks immediate needs, or request a trade so that he can play somewhere that needs more of a finesse player. If you've played 6 total NHL games, requesting a trade is not a smart career move. So he would server himself VERY well by changing his game. He certainly needs toadd some hitting and nastiness into his game to get the Canucks seriously looking at him for the coming year.
Does Shirokov have it in him to shift his playing style? Can he come out hitting and grinding? Could he be a good complementary player on the third line with Manny Malhotra?
We'll find out soon enough when we see him at training camp and the Young Stars tournament in mid-September in Penticton.