March 09 2011 09:19AM
Yesterday, we saw the public re-emergence of Canucks centre Rick Rypien, after a lengthy absence. Rypien, by all accounts, looked and sounded healthier and said it was the best he'd ever felt about hockey.
Unfortunately, I think it's time for the Canucks to pull the cord on Rypien. They simply don't need him, and the Canucks are a better team without him.
I could pick on Rick Rypien and spew his stats and prove that the Canucks are statistically a much better team without him. However, I'm just using Rypien as an example of the type of Canucks player simply don't need anymore.
The Canucks do not need a fighter anymore. And they've proved that.
General Manager Mike Gillis has said many times that he is looking to model the hockey team after the Ken Holland-era Detroit Red Wings. It's easy to see why he would do that. The Red Wings are perennial contenders, they draft amazingly well, they let their prospects develop until they are ripe for NHL time, and constantly attract some of the best players from outside to come play for them. And oh yeah. They don't have a fighter.
Now I'm not suggesting that just because a team doesn't have a fighter, that they automatically become the Red Wings. That's ridiculous. But ignoring the supposed need for a fighter and focusing on players who can play multiple roles is what Detroit has done. And it's what Gillis. Vigneault and the rest of the Canucks brass and management have done all year.
If you look at the players who have played regularly on the fourth line this year, they have all killed penalties at some point. Tanner Glass sees regular PK time. It's not a lot by any means, but he does it. Max Lapierre had not killed penalties at all in Anaheim, but when he was picked up by the Canucks, he started killing penalties. When Chris Higgins makes his way into the lineup, on the fourth line to start, he will very likely kill penalties. He did it very well in Florida, and will be expected to do it in Vancouver.
And that's why Rick Rypien just doesn't fit in this organization anymore. He's never killed penalties, or played on the power play. His average ice time was around 7 minutes. He went out and he fought. He did it admirably. He answered the bell every time. But the time for a fighter on the roster has come to an end.
Sure, he's a tough player. But fighting does not equal toughness. If the Canucks don't have a fighter on the roster, that doesn't mean that they aren't tough. Ryan Kesler is tough. Jannik Hansen is tough. Raffi Torres is tough. Kevin Bieksa is tough. Keith Ballard. Dan Hamhuis. Tanner Glass. There's more. You get it.
The best example lately is Jannik Hansen. In the game against Anaheim on Sunday, he got into a scuffle with Corey Perry. Perry shoved Hansen's face 5 or 6 times in succession, and took a penalty. Hansen just took it and laughed at Perry. THAT's tough. Those are the type of players that the Canucks have shown they have now. Depth players with versatility will always have a place on the Canucks roster. Players who can move from the fourth line to the third or even second line. Those are players that the Canucks have and want going forward. These are players like Jannik Hansen, Raffi Torres, Max Lapierre, Chris Higgins, Tanner Glass. Players like Rypien are just not versatile. They may have skill and some fighters have more skill than others. But pure fighters do not possess the versatility that NHL teams need to build a deep, ultra competitive roster. And it seems that Gillis has figured that out.
I do wish the best for Rick Rypien. He's a battler and a warrior, both on the ice and off. Canucks fans will probably never know the extent of the personal issues from which he was suffering this season. And we all should know that it's none of our business. I think we do. I hope he finds his way back into professional hockey as soon as possible. I just don't expect that it will be with the Canucks.
But for right now and into the future, the Vancouver Canucks are now better without him.