Canucks Roster Depth: Center

Ryan Kesler and Henrik Sedin are absolutely going to start making out. Like… right now.
(Photo courtesy AP)

Canucks Army begins a series where we look at the depth at each position for the Vancouver Canucks.

We start the series today by looking at the Canucks deepest position on the team – CENTER.

The Vancouver Canucks were, up until very recently, a very thin team up the middle. In 2009-2010, their 3rd and 4th centers were Kyle Wellwood and Ryan Johnson respectively. Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler hadn’t quite hit their stride yet. By the end of this season, the Canucks had arguably the best top 4 center lineup in the league, and easily the best top 2 centers, with the NHL’s top scorer a year ago and a 40-goal scoring Selke winner this year.

Can the Canucks strength up the middle propel them to success again this season?

Henrik Sedin

It’s hard to imagine Henrik having a much better season than he did in 2010-11, save for being the first ever Canuck to lift the Stanley Cup (see, cuz he’s the Captain, he gets to hold it first). He’s year removed from capturing an Art Ross AND Hart trophies, and arguably played better this year than last. But there is still room for him to improve or change, namely lazy penalties (hooking, tripping, holding). Captain Sedin took 8 hooking, 3 tripping, and 2 holding calls last season. That’s 13 lazy penalties that should have been avoided.

Interesting Stat from 2010-11: Hank had 7 points in 9 games played on Sundays, the only day of the week where he had less than a point per game. It’s also the only day of the week where Hank didn’t take a single penalty.

**EDITOR’S NOTE** – Uh. Yeah. Pretty embarrased about the Sedin snafu. It’s fixed now. My apologies.

Ryan Kesler

You can’t spell Kesler without SELKE. Not only was he the Canucks everyman last season, he was the best everyman in the league. 40 goal scorer, Power Play marksman, penalty killer extraordinaire, and (my vote for) Canucks playoff MVP. The Canucks honestly can’t ask for more out of RK17… Except for him to play fewer minutes in the regular season. He shouldn’t be playing over 21 minutes a game, he just too valuable when games really start to matter. Play him less and save him for the playoffs.

Interesting Stat from 2010-11: Kesler didn’t score a single power play goal in February.

Manny Malhotra

Manny was ACTUALLY the Canucks’ best defensive forward, despite the league award going to Kesler. Malhotra was a defensive zone and faceoff juggernaut all year long, until the fluke eye injury almost ended his career. He made a miraculous recovery and returned for the playoffs, but he just hadn’t fully recovered all his skill after being out for so long. The Canucks must simply be hoping that Malhotra regains his defensive potency through the off-season via proper rest and rehabilitation. A healthy Manny winning D-zone draws and getting the puck out of their own end is all the Canucks need to complete a formidable and perfectly well-rounded top 3 center unit.

Interesting Stat from 2010-11: January was a poor month, statistically, for Malhotra. He didn’t register a single point and was -2.

Maxim Lapierre

Lippy Lappy was one of two deadline day acquisitions (Chris Higgins was the other) that had Canucks fans scratching their heads a bit. "Is this the piece the Canucks were missing?" As it turns out, Lapierre proved his value in the playoffs. He stepped in for Malhotra on the Canucks third line, scored a timely goal here and there, and his line was arguably the Canucks’ best line during the Stanley Cup Final. As such, he was rewarded with a new contract. Lapierre is a great utility player, can move up the depth chart if needed, and brings some grit and prickly behaviour. While the Canucks don’t need everyone on their team acting like a prick, they definitely need one or two guys to fit that bill. And few guys in the league do it better than Lapierre.

Interesting Stat from 2010-11: Lapierre recorded a 1 point in two different games vs Boston in the Stanley Cup Final. The Canucks won both games.

Cody Hodgson

Ah. Cody the Conundrum. Hodgson is in a very difficult position with the Vancouver Canucks. He’s probably too talented to continue playing in the AHL yet there is no room for him on the Canucks. He has raw leadership potential and has succeeded in his junior days, yet hasn’t quite made the leap in his professional time. He’s been plagued by bizarre and misdiagnosed injuries which have hindered his pro development. But he’s getting older and needs to break into the league to get a real shot at staying. At some point the Canucks have to give him legit top 9 minutes, but the pecking order simply may not allow it. It’s hard to remember a single player for the Canucks in the last 10 years who faces such a make-it-or-break-it pre-season as Cody Hodgson does this year. With the Canucks in the midst of their "window to win", Hodgson must prove he belongs, or the Canucks will be forced to trade a talented potential leader for a player who can help them win right now.

Interesting Stat from 2010-11: The Canucks were 5-3 with Hodgson in the lineup for the regular season.

Andrew Ebbett

Ebbett is the epitome of a depth signing, a utility player. And with the number of players above him on the depth ladder, it’s really hard to imagine Ebbett getting any significant ice time this year. He’s not a point producer, he’s not big, he’s not good on faceoffs, he doesn’t hit and he doesn’t block shots. His only chance to play with the Canucks this year may only happen if one (if not two) of the centers ahead of him are injured for a considerable length of time.

Interesting Stat from 2010-11: Ebbett played in 33 games last year for Phoenix and averaged 10 minutes per game. Yet, he only took two minor penalties all year. 4 total PIMs.

  • The Selke has kinda become the “guy with the best counting numbers who also has a reputation for defensive work” award. Sometimes it results in the right selection (like Pavel Datsyuk, who is legit), but often it doesn’t (Jonathan Toews placed SECOND in Selke voting!).

    Kelser deserved the Selke much more the season prior than this one.

    • All true. Malhotra was ACTUALLY the player most deserving of the Selke, not just for the Canucks, but league wide.

      Keep in mind though that Toews, who shouldn’t even have been nominated for the Selke (what a joke!) finished second by a considerable margin. In fact, by more than SEVEN HUNDRED voting points. It was the least contested trophy win out of all the 2011 awards.

  • Mantastic

    unless daniel and hank are 2 of the same people, i could be wrong but hank did not come in 2nd to corey perry in the MVP, ever and his best season was argueably 2009-2010

  • You lost me in the first section when you mixed up Daniel’s season with Henrik’s. I’ll come back and read the rest after you’ve fixed it, hopefully the Kesler section isn’t about Brendan Morrison.

  • Thank you for fixing. I was going to suggest that you move the achievements back a year (and substitute Lindsay for Hart) but you already did that!

    Good article! You are on the ball with Hodgson, it’s make or break for him in the pre-season but barring major injuries to the other centres there isn’t much chance he will get a regular spot in the middle. And he needs those minutes in order to be able to flourish (look at Grabner.) It’s almost a lose-lose situation for him, poor guy.

      • Teh interwebz r ruthless.

        Last summer, there was a free agent invitee named Giffen Nyren at the Flames development camp. During my scouting report of the sessions I saw, I mixed up his names and called him Nyren Giffen (because, really, both are fairly odd names). I got ripped in the comments by someone for the error.

    • So the Canucks will never win a Cup when they have back to back Art Ross winners?

      So getting within one win of winning the Stanley isn’t proof that the Canucks COULD actually do it?

      Let me correct you. Getting within one win of the Stanley Cup is proof that the Sedins and the Canucks COULD absolutely win the Cup.

  • Good read! Certainly some jaw-dropping depth in Vancouver these days, especially at the Center position. Kesler is a beast (drives me insane), Malholtra is a very solid player in tough situations. Lapierre could take another step forward this season. Even playing on the wing, I would think it’d be difficult for Hodgson to crack the roster out of camp, no?

    Love the Chris Higgins signing. For a guy that gets very little praise league-wide, he is a very solid, versatile player.

    The picture is, um, interesting. Coming from a Flames fan… perhaps all too fitting? Jokes