This picture marks the only time in recorded history that Mike Gillis has appeared droll.
Following the Cody Hodgson trade this past February, and the recent news that Ryan Kesler went under the knife again this week (and will need "four to six months" for rehabilitation) Jordan Schroeder has essentially found a golden ticket to the big leagues in his offseason chocolate bar.
Kesler’s injury opens up a gaping hole at pivot in the top-six, and while Maxim Lapierre finished the season as the club’s fourth winger, there is no one in the organization as well suited to assume Kesler’s position in the short-term, as the Canucks hope Jordan Schroeder is. Jordan Schroeder impressed when I watched him this past season, and by the numbers improved in every facet of the game, but will he really be ready to fill in for Ryan Kesler in a prescribed role this October?
We’ll take a closer look after the jump.
As mentioned above, Jordan Schroeder showed enormous improvement in both ends this season. Plus/minus is a dubious stat at the best of times, but he improved from a -10 last season, to a +8 this year and that’s something. In talking with Jim Jamieson today, Schroeder credited Craig MacTavish for helping him polish his defensive game:
“This year, with coach MacTavish, he helped me a lot, adding stuff to my game, trying to make me a better all-around player.”
Having seen Schroeder play live, and watched several Wolves games on Neulion throughout the season, I wouldn’t have described him as a defensive force. But Schroeder did seem to see a good deal of the puck, and his speed is exceedingly dangerous through the neutral zone.
MacTavish notably sheltered the "kids" during his time in Edmonton, and while Schroeder wasn’t drawing the toughest defensive matchups for the Wolves this past year, we can see from his zone-start deployment in the postseason that Mac-T wasn’t worried about putting Schroeder out on the ice in defensive situations. Alain Vigneault will likely be more reticent of course, but as Canucks fans have seen in the past, if a young player is unable to play solid hockey in their end of the rink on an Alain Vigneault team – they find themselves riding a lot of pine.
Playing NHL hockey will be an adjustment for Schroeder, and it’s a rare twenty-two year old who is able to help his team drive play in their rookie season in the NHL. But there are reasons to suspect that Schroeder wouldn’t be enough of a "defensive liability" to prevent him from winning an opening day roster spot with a strong showing in the preseason.
On the offensive side of the puck, Schroeder’s goal scoring came along in a big way this season. Increased ice-time was a major reason for Schroeder doubling his goal scoring output, and the spike in his goals scored resulted from a higher shot volume. In 2010-11, Schroeder took 87 shots in 61 games (1.43 per game) scoring ten goals. I’d mentioned that low volume of shots as something I thought he needed to improve on in his sophmore campaign in the AHL, and he did so, adding nearly an entire shot per game this season (2.4 shots per game).
|GP||Goals||Assists||Points||Shooting%||NHLE G||NHLE A||NHLE Pts|
Though there is still much room for improvement, Schroeder’s twenty goal season was the result of a spike in his shot volume, and not the result of bounces or "riding the percentages." That bodes very well for his development as an offensive player.
Using Gabriel Desjardins’ league translation numbers (NHLE), Schroeder’s performance in the AHL this season would have been worth 21 NHL points this year. While that isn’t very good for a top-six forward, NHLE numbers are just a guideline and reflect last seasons performance, so they tell us roughly where Schroeder is at now but don’t forecast next season’s performance particularly well. Schroeder will probably continue to improve next season and beyond, and his 21 NHLE points as a 21 year old are superior to the 20 NHLE points that Cody Hodgson recorded as a 21 year old in the same league.
Over the past several seasons, the Canucks have been extremely patient with Jordan Schroeder’s development. He didn’t join the team as a "Black Ace" for the 2010-11 run to the Stanley Cup Finals, and he didn’t even get a non-fat peppermint latte with the big club this season (even as the likes of Mark Mancari, Bill Sweatt and even
Viktor Victor Oreskovich did).
Throwing Schroeder into the fire, and playing him in the top-six this October – assuming he’s able to win the job out of training camp – would be breaking with the clubs patient approach. But, when you consider how thin the UFA crop at centre is this summer (the only borderline "top-six" centremen on the market are: Jokinen, Hecht, Stoll, Langkow, Kelly, Arnott, Morrison), and that the teams only in-house options are Maxim Lapierre and maybe Andrew Ebbett if he’s re-signed; Gillis and company may not have many options.
I’d expect the club will at least bring in a veteran to push for that second line centre spot along with Schroeder. Of course, if the Canucks are forced to turn to the American speedster to fill Kesler’s shoes over the short-term, at least they could do an awful lot worse.