Some Thoughts on a New-Look Lineup

Dimitri Filipovic
November 16 2013 01:05PM

The Vancouver Canucks have only played one hockey game since last Sunday, which has allowed them to get healthy and go back to the drawing board in practice. Due to a litany of injuries up-front, we've seen all sorts of different line combinations over the course of the first 6-7 weeks of the season. Some have been good, and some haven't. 

This morning it was reported that, with Jannik Hansen set to be activated from the LTIR, we'd see a lineup that was probably much closer to the one we envisioned prior to the season. I've put a fair amount of time into thinking about how I'd personally like to see the 4 lines shake out, and will get into that just past the jump.

Line 1: Sedin - Sedin - Burrows

Line 2: Higgins - Kesler - Kassian

Line 3: Booth - Santorelli - Hansen

Line 4: Archibald - Richardson - Weise (/Dalpe, if anyone ever sees him)

I guess I can't take too much issue with the lineup we'll most likely see on Sunday evening against the Stars, since it's fairly close to the one I listed above, but still. My one issue is the way Zack Kassian has been used since, quite frankly, he came to the team.

Based on his size, and the torrid 8 game stretch he had to start last season while riding shotgun with the Sedins, he has been miscast as a finisher. I've watched him really closely this season, and I just don't see it. What he is though, is an above average passer who has soft hands and good vision. He's more of a distributor than anything. A recent example of what he can do with the puck came on Thursday against the Sharks, when he sauntered into the offensive zone and made a wicked backhand saucer pass to a streaking David Booth (who unfortunately missed the net).

It's this particular set of skills that leads me to believe that he'd be best suited to play with guys like Kesler and Higgins, who know where to go and love to shoot it. I'd love to see what would happen were those three to be given an adequate amount of time to make it work.

On a grander scale, though, I like this lineup because it can flat-out play two-way hockey. There's something of a hierarchy in that lineup that makes sense, spreading things out and making the team a more difficult one to play against. If that's your 4th line, you'll feel okay seeing them play close to 10 minutes if the circumstances dictate it. It would also take some of the onus off of the Sedins who have been playing an absurd amount of minutes through the first quarter of the season (largely due to the fact that they've had to because of the injuries, to be fair).

I'd still like to see Mike Gillis and Co. make a move to bring in someone who is a bit more offensively creative and gifted to help put the puck in the back of the net, but if that doesn't happen, at least this team would still be a nearly elite possession team. I know, I know.. Corsi this, Corsi that.

I'd love to hear what your ideal lineup would look like in the comments section below. And if you'd be so kind as to provide reasoning beyond "you're stupid Dimitri, go to hell", that would be swell.

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Dimitri Filipovic writes about hockey on the internet, and is the Managing Editor of Canucks Army. You can follow him on Twitter @DimFilipovic, and email him at dimitri.filipovic@gmail.com.
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#1 LukeyB
November 16 2013, 01:27PM
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I like splitting up the twins, if only because they're the two best playmakers the Canucks have, and they could each drive a separate line. Yes, you'd lose out on some jaw-dropping Sedinery, but you'd gain a whole other line of headaches for the opposition.

To me, that's a more noble experiment than BeastModo ever was.

Instead of moving the Sedins to separate lines when games are going poorly, you'd move them onto the same line, maybe even with Kes, and attempt to overwhelm for a shift or three, in pursuit of the tying goal, or what have you.

Higgins - Henrik - Burrows

Daniel - Kesler - Kassian

Booth - Santorelli - Hansen

Archibald - Richardson - Weise

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#2 That's Offside!
November 16 2013, 01:52PM
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your stupid dimitri go to hell trade booth garison nd 5th for malkin maybe we throw in schrader to sweeten deal then we go sedins-burr kassian-malkin-higgins hansen-kessler-santorali sestito-horvat-richards

fire gillis

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#3 That's Offside!
November 16 2013, 02:07PM
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Seriously though, I'd like to see them experiment with Kassian as a C between Booth and Hansen. I agree with your view on Kassian's strengths as a hockey player being his vision and passing ability and somewhat ironically, I think he's best suited to be more of a perimeter player.

He has more Joe Thornton in him than he has Milan Lucic (which is to say he doesn't have much of either in him apart from a 6'4 frame so it's an insane comparison to make) so I think they're wasting the talents he does have as a part of this gigantic fetishization the hockey world seems to have with the mythical 30-goal POWER forward. I think it's safe to say he probably won't be a consistent 20-goal scorer, but I see no reason why he can't be a 15g/35a guy if they let him make plays.

Sedin - Sedin - Kesler/Higgins - Santorelli - Burrows/Booth - Kassian - Hansen/Archibald - Richardson - Welsh

They're probably best served trading for another C though for that 2nd middle-6 role. Either that or putting Kassian on the wing with Booth and Kesler and playing Hansen/Burrows with the twins.

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#4 Ted
November 16 2013, 02:16PM
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Uh,I am quite sure Gillis would love to get another top 6 player. I have no doubt he's been trying to get one for quite a while. Unfortunately the asking price is likely large and we're up against the cap.

I don't mind the new line combos. I'd still like to see something a bit different because Daniel isn't scoring like he used to. I think we may have to accept he isn't a top line LW anymore. So, why not try Burr with Henrik and Kes?

The lines noted in this article have 3 solid lines that can be trusted in most situations. Does this mean Torts is going to ease up on the minutes for the top guys? Hopefully. I think he's witnessing the fatigue issues. Finally, I still don't like Hansen in the top 6. I don't think he's a guy that has quite enough finish.

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#5 Unknown Comic
November 16 2013, 03:12PM
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I would go with what has already proven to be effective.

Burrows-Santorelli-Higgins has been great so I would personally keep them together.

The Sedins can go no matter who plays with them and Kassian did did Ok with them to start last year. So I'd go Sedin-Sedin-Kassian.

That leaves Hansen-Kesler-Booth. Kesler and Booth have a history of really driving play and Hansen was a possession monster before he got hurt.

That looks like a top line and 2 second lines.

Richardson/Weise/Welsh/Dalpe could make up a reasonable 4th line. All but Weise can play all forward positions.

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#6 Ted
November 16 2013, 03:31PM
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Unknown Comic wrote:

I would go with what has already proven to be effective.

Burrows-Santorelli-Higgins has been great so I would personally keep them together.

The Sedins can go no matter who plays with them and Kassian did did Ok with them to start last year. So I'd go Sedin-Sedin-Kassian.

That leaves Hansen-Kesler-Booth. Kesler and Booth have a history of really driving play and Hansen was a possession monster before he got hurt.

That looks like a top line and 2 second lines.

Richardson/Weise/Welsh/Dalpe could make up a reasonable 4th line. All but Weise can play all forward positions.

I don't mind your suggestions either but I have to disagree with the part where you say go with what's working. We're in a mini-slump and haven't really scored much in the last few games. The Shark game was winnable but we couldn't get the insurance goal. Time for a change. There's nothing saying the team can't switch back to the combos that looked good before at some point.

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#7 Origamirock
November 16 2013, 04:35PM
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I'd really like the AmEx line to get another chance together now that Booth is healthy again (at least for the next couple hours.) Also, I think almost everyone universally would like Tom Sestito out of the lineup but he somehow maintains his spot (even if he plays very few minutes.) The man is doghouse proof.

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#8 van
November 16 2013, 04:38PM
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Sedin-Sedin-Burrows is one of the best lines in the league. Crazy not to put them together.

I like to work in pairs rather than threes, so I'd keep Higgins and Santorelli together and put Hansen with Kesler. Hansen's a good playmaker and our 3rd best winger.

I'd put Kassian on Santorelli's line because I'd like to think their work ethic and consistency would rub off on him - one of his biggest issues. That leaves Booth with Kesler by default. I'd like to think he can get back to what he was when he first joined the Canucks, but he looks like he's lost so much speed since his last injury. It's possible he's holding back a little to prevent re-injury (sometimes that's the only thing that works).

Sedin-Sedin-Burrows Booth-Kesler-Hansen Higgins-Santorelli-Kassian Richardson-Schroeder-Dalpe

I quite like Torts lines too - it's very Torts with the strongest players at the top of the lineup. Santorelli might feel like he's playing alone on some nights though.

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#9 JFR
November 16 2013, 05:27PM
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This is the line up I believe will be the most successful over the long run. I like Kess w the Twins but that line up is too top heavy. If the other team has a good shut down pair of DMen or forwards, then the rest of the guys have to score . Balance will be the key to success. Also the lines have more balance defensively because Burrows is a faster skater than Kess and gets back on plays a lot better. Torts needs to stick with these lines over the next few games and not blow them up after a period. Three goals in three games is unacceptable!

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#10 Matt
November 16 2013, 08:49PM
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The Higgins / Santorelli / Burrows line has been such dynamite that it'd be a shame to break it up. My ideal lineup with everyone healthy would be:

Sedin/Sedin/Hansen Booth/Kesler/Kassian Higgins/Santorelli/Burrows Archibald(Jensen)/Richardson/Weise

Hansen's been great with the Sedins in the past and it keeps Burrows united with Santorelli and Higgins (and you can swap Hansen and Burrows in that lineup if you like). I've felt the same way about Kassian - he's a better playmaker than a finisher, so putting him with a pair of shoot-first play-driving forwards in Booth and Kesler would seem to be best for him. Playing with Kesler might give Booth a bit of a boost, too - they started to develop some chemistry in 2012 before injuries derailed them both for the past 18 months.

As much as I love the Sedins and Kesler, icing three lines that are legitimate scoring threats and drive play is better than icing 1.5 lines that do that. Plus a fourth line of Richardson/Weise and a Utica call-up who can actually play hockey in place of Sestito (I liked Archibald, and it'd be nice to see what Jensen can do once he's healthy) is always a bonus.

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#11 BrudnySeaby
November 16 2013, 11:43PM
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I agree with a bunch of you guys that I would like to see the line of Higgy-Santo-Burr stick together.

I would team up Kesler with Booth and Hansen. All three veterans and they'll figure it out.

For the next few games I would put Kassian with the Sedins. I agree that Kassian has good vision on ice and doesn't look like that power forward with a 30 goal finish that everybody wants hime to be. But I do think he also has some scoring touch. So I would pair him with the Sedins to force them to mentor him, to force Kassian to play big minutes, and occasionally teams will be surprised if Kassian does the set-up and the Sedins finish. Give this a try for the next 3-4 games of the home-stand. Then if nothing develops between the Sedins and Kassian, move either Hansen of Booth up and pair Kassian with Kesler.

I think that based on what we've seen so far this season, the Santorelli line with Higgins and Burrows is our 2A line. Kesler has dropped of in possession numbers and foot speed. Play him as the other 2nd line. That way, Torts can also spread ice time between 2A and 2B more evenly and not wear them out as much.

Moreover, the Canucks need to bring in a true sniper. Or a gritty proven 30 goal scorer. Thomas Drance really like Alex Steen, and who doesn't!? But it will be hard to acquire somebody like him.

In the meantime, the Canucks need to get the power play going as that would definitely help in winning games.

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#12 BrudnySeaby
November 16 2013, 11:44PM
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I agree with a bunch of you guys that I would like to see the line of Higgy-Santo-Burr stick together.

I would team up Kesler with Booth and Hansen. All three veterans and they'll figure it out.

For the next few games I would put Kassian with the Sedins. I agree that Kassian has good vision on ice and doesn't look like that power forward with a 30 goal finish that everybody wants hime to be. But I do think he also has some scoring touch. So I would pair him with the Sedins to force them to mentor him, to force Kassian to play big minutes, and occasionally teams will be surprised if Kassian does the set-up and the Sedins finish. Give this a try for the next 3-4 games of the home-stand. Then if nothing develops between the Sedins and Kassian, move either Hansen of Booth up and pair Kassian with Kesler.

I think that based on what we've seen so far this season, the Santorelli line with Higgins and Burrows is our 2A line. Kesler has dropped of in possession numbers and foot speed. Play him as the other 2nd line. That way, Torts can also spread ice time between 2A and 2B more evenly and not wear them out as much.

Moreover, the Canucks need to bring in a true sniper. Or a gritty proven 30 goal scorer. Thomas Drance really like Alex Steen, and who doesn't!? But it will be hard to acquire somebody like him.

In the meantime, the Canucks need to get the power play going as that would definitely help in winning games.

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#13 GrogZilla
November 17 2013, 10:41AM
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Sedin Sedin Burrows | Higgins Santorelli Kesler | Booth Richardson Hansen | Archibald Schroeder Kassian

3 solid 2 way lines that can eat minutes & a 4th line with tons of potential.

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#14 backfiSh
November 17 2013, 02:39PM
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Once again Tom Sestito gets no love eh!?

I don't see him hurting the team at all when he's on the ice. He's been finishing checks and pushing play forward, not to mention regulating on a regular basis.

Drop Sestito in for Archibald and we have an agreement.

Line 1: Sedin - Sedin - Burrows

Line 2: Higgins - Kesler - Kassian

Line 3: Booth - Santorelli - Hansen

Line 4: Sestito - Richardson - Weise

BOOK IT!

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