December 03 2011 05:51PM
Canucks’ depth winger Aaron Volpatti is finished for the season after suffering a shoulder injury. An MRI showed a labrum tear that will regrettably require surgery.
Over at the Vancouver Province, Jason Botchford notes that the injuries to fourth-liners have robbed the Canucks of toughness:
All three (Volpatti, Byron Bitz and Steve Pinizzotto) were expected to give the Canucks some backbone. Call it toughness, belligerence and sandpaper. The stuff the Canucks were flogged for not having in the Stanley Cup final. It’s hitting and fighting, too. And it’s nearly vanished. The Canucks look as physically intimidating right now as Angelo Mosca without his cane.
Realistically, though, if a team is going to lose three forwards to injury, it would be difficult to pick three that would have less impact on the team’s performance.
Alain Vigneault has, for years now, used his fourth line to soak up some minutes in the defensive zone. Of the 80 non-neutral zone starts Volpatti’s been on the ice for, just 17 have been in the offensive zone, while 63 have been in his own end of the ice. It’s the primary reason a player like Volpatti – who had just two goals in 53 AHL games last season – could make the NHL with a team like the Canucks: because an Alain Vigneault fourth line doesn’t need to have any offensive ability at all.
And in fairness, Volpatti has embraced his role. He’s played tough, and he’s played responsibly. The reality, though, is that a tough player who is responsible in his own end is pretty easy to find if it doesn’t matter how capable he is offensively. Those are the kind of players that live on the waiver wire. Just last week, Andre Deveaux, Joakim Lindstrom and Brad Mills all cleared waivers. Any of them could be plugged into the same spot.
Additionally, the Canucks have other options. Mason Raymond doesn’t fill the same role, but he’s going to take a spot in the line-up. Byron Bitz is skating again, and even though he’s still a little ways away he can take the job eventually. In the meantime, if the Canucks really feel the need they can recall Victor Oreskovich (who is healthy again after some time out of the lineup in Chicago) or Mike Duco or make a trade to pick up some marginally effective NHL’er with no offensive upside. Those guys don’t cost much.