Jordan Schroeder should be the 2nd line centre to start the season

Patrick Johnston
January 18 2013 08:40AM

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There's no denying the apparent chemistry between Jordan Schroeder and Mason Raymond. (Photos: Patrick Johnston)

We're all thinking it. The kid's time is now.

While there's been a lot of obfuscation on this one, Ryan Kesler appears to be ahead of schedule. The first ten games of the season features seven games against teams that should finish behind the Canucks. 

The table is set to run out the young guy and see if he's got the stuff as an NHL player. This needs to be qualified by all of the tabel salt, but he certainly appeared to in Thursday night's scrimmage.

For most prognosticators, Andrew Ebbett's maturity and actual NHL experience has kept him a the presumptive fronter to be the short term number two centre to begin the season. But that's the risk-averse pick, and I hate risk-averse decisions. The best picks are the educated risks and Jordan Schroeder would be an educated risk.

Relatively easy schedule to start with

Here's the opening ten games for the Green and Blue:

19-Jan Ducks Canucks
20-Jan Oilers Canucks
23-Jan Flames Canucks
25-Jan Canucks Ducks
27-Jan Canucks Sharks
28-Jan Canucks Kings
30-Jan Avalanche Canucks
01-Feb Hawks Canucks
04-Feb Canucks Oilers
07-Feb Canucks Wild

By my count, there are three really tough games in there - the Sharks, the Kindg and the Hawks. But there are also some games in there where a young player like Schroeder could thrive. Home games to start against the Ducks, the Oilers and the Flames? Schroeder's not exactly a slouch in his own end, but it's fair to assume that the likes of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Jordan Eberle, Jarome Iginla, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan will be up against the Sedins and Max Lapierre. There will be plenty of soft minutes, and slower third pairing defenseman (Matt Greene, Mark Fistric, Sheldon Souray, for example) for Schroeder and Mason Raymond to exploit. With Zack Kassian riding shotgun, it could be fireworks. Of course it could also be a lot of goals against, but let's ignore that for now.

He's already in great shape

Remember, Schroeder's in mid-season form. He's played 30 games for the Wolves already. He's picked up 19 points. At his rate of scoring this campaign, he's good for 52 AHL points in an 82-game season. As a comparison point, Cody Hodgson and Jordan Schroeder spent the 2010-11 season as teammates. Hodgson recorded 0.57 pts/gm while Schroeder managed 0.45 pts/gm. We always knew that Schroeder would be on a slower development curve, ahd he's also a different kind of player player. This season he's increased his production to 0.63 pts/gm and has earned compliments for his strong two-way play.

Rob Vollman's AHL-NHL translations suggest he'd produce at a 0.34 pts/gm clip, not great for a second line centre. But a 30 point scoring rate from a sheltered young player is nothing to sneeze at.

He's also been playing games for three months, while his older teammates (and the rest of the league) were getting rusty. There's a lot of NHLers won't be up to speed until nearly ten games out anyway; so Schroeder's got the chance to build some NHL self-confidence while much of the league is simply looking to find its legs.

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Building chemistry

Yes it was just a scrimmage, but Schroeder's Thursday night matching with Mason Raymond shows potential. Raymond bagged a hat trick; two of the goals came from outstanding passes by Schroeder.

Despite our persistent belief in the 'make the team out of training camp' narrative, successful teams don't pick their lineups based on a small sample size that consists of less-than-full strength lineups. But with Schroeder as an NHL player there's little to go on. He's never made it out of training camp and he's never skated in a regular season or playoff game. What we do have to go on is his display of skill and on Thursday night this shone through. The potential is there, anyway, and he's already got one winger he's familiar with (potentially Zack Kassian) on top of the new one in Raymond.

Hiring the guy who can grow outside the box 

That guy is not Andrew Ebbett. We know what he can do, he won't let the team down. But he's also thirty years old.

A family friend who worked for Air Liquide told me when I was young about what he looks for in a new hire. He told me that if he were presented with two equally qualified candidates, who interviewed equally well and appeared to have equivalent experience, both with MBAs; if one of them had a history or political science or other such humanties degree, he would choose that candidate, even if the other candidate had an undergraduate business degree.

The rationale was that the the history degree gave the applicant skills that fell outside the box - he knew how to builid a well-researched academic argument, from front to finish. He figured the all-business applicant would be super reliable and a solid choice, but would possibly be lacking in the creative thinking department. 

Choosing Jordan Schroeder is like picking the history/political science applicant. We know he can do the job as well as Andrew Ebbett, but his youth speaks to a potential upside that should not be ignored. Neither choice, in the short term, presents much risk; in the long term, one has much stronger growth potential.

Time is now

Jordan Schroeder is 22. There's no better time to start your NHL journey. He's ready to learn about the next step. There's a window of opportunity for the Canucks to find out about what they've got, with very little risk. 

It's time to play the kid.

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Patrick Johnston is a Vancouver journalist. In addition to regular contributions here at Canucks Army, his work has appeared in The Province, Hockey Now and on the CBC. Check out his blog and other writing at http://johnstonwrites.wordpress.com or follow him on twitter: @risingaction
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#1 antro
January 18 2013, 10:04AM
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Great article, you've convinced me. Nice point about the soft mins available in the first few games. After reading this, I wouldn't be surprised if they do start Schroeder, and only sub in Ebbett if Schroeder has a very bad outing. I wouldn't be surprised also if the intention has been to start with Schroeder and AV's public statement that the two are battling for a spot is a way to push Schroeder.

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#2 Elsyium
January 18 2013, 10:19AM
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"While there's been a lot of obfuscation on this one, Ryan Kesler appears to be ahead of schedule." Who said this?

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#3 JDM
January 18 2013, 10:50AM
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@Elsyium

Exactly what I want to know. Has there been some update that gives us a timeline on Kesler's return?

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#4 EricCantona
January 18 2013, 01:21PM
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How will you fit him in while keeping Ebbett on the team? Cuz if we place Ebbett on waivers and he gets picked up, we're pretty fked...

Send Tanev down (if he's on a 2-way and doesnt need to enter waivers)?

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#5 Patrick Kelly
January 18 2013, 01:58PM
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Send Tanev down? Send Barker down. He is on a two way deal and no one is going pick him up. Vandemeer could even play the wing on the 4th if it was needed.

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#6 elvis15
January 18 2013, 02:13PM
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@EricCantona

2 way contracts have nothing to do with waivers. It's age and games played.

While we could keep 12 forwards and 9 defence, then use a D like Vandermeer as cover, it seems reasonable that we'd keep both Schroeder and Ebbett (13 forwards). That'd mean sending down one of our defence (most likely Barker or Vandermeer, both would have to pass waivers) but it might be a good choice.

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#8 Mack
January 18 2013, 02:15PM
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Agreed, I think now is the time to see what we've got in Schroeder. Give him the first few games and if he can't handle it just go with Ebbett. Personally I think we should give him the Hodgson treatment and try and boost his value since he's not a longterm fit here. Might as well try and get another prospect or player for him who will fit better.

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#9 elvis15
January 18 2013, 02:18PM
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@Patrick Kelly

Vandermeer's on a two way deal, but Barker is not. Either way, it's Aquilini's money, not ours, and it doesn't affect our cap as both are under $900K. My guess is Barker gets sent down.

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#10 elvis15
January 18 2013, 02:21PM
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@Patrick Johnston

If so, we could put him on the IR until he's ready, but he might be back too soon for LTI relief. Hard to say if they'll bring him back quickly though, might depend on how that second line does without Booth and Kesler or if we don't bring any upgrades back in a Luongo deal.

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#11 Patrick Kelly
January 18 2013, 02:22PM
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@elvis15

Youre totally right, and I am extremely suprised by that. I was under the assumption he was because he is barely worthy of an NHL contract as it is. May bad.

But your right even without the 2 way, Barker still is likely to go down. I cant believe they didnt sign him to a 2 way. I am totally perplexed by that.

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