As the calender turned from July to August on Wednesday, Canucks management had still yet to address the club’s need for another centreman, prefearbly one of the "third-line" variety.
With Ryan Kesler recovering from labrum surgery, the club’s sudden lack of depth down the middle could be compounded and exposed (in the unlikely event that the 2012-13 season starts on time). Asked at the draft (after selecting mostly centremen), if the middle position was the team’s biggest need this summer, Mike Gillis cryptically answered: "hypoethtically," so it’s no wonder that centres like Dave Bolland and Nick Bjugstad have surfaced in rumours regarding thepotential return for Roberto Luongo…
Or perhaps the Canucks will address their need for centre depth by signing a large 37 year old who remains available on the open market. To that effect, Ben Kuzma posted over at the White Towel on Wednesday regarding a conversation he’d had with Jason Arnott’s agent (and brother) Wade Arnott, who described his client and the Canucks as having a "mutual interest" in cutting a deal.
So does Arnott make sense in Vancouver? Yep. Read past the jump.
According to Kuzma, the Canucks have "expressed interest" in the the still durable, productive and apparently timeless Arnott (he’s played 208 out of a possible 246 games over the past three seasons, scoring 53 goals). Jason Arnott’s agent (and brother) Wade, described the current posture of the two sides as in the "preliminary discussion" stage:
“[Jason] has quite a bit left in the tank and wants to play the game a couple of more years and is willing to go on one-year deals because he understands the business at his age. He brings exactly what the team needs and I sense there’s a mutual interest there, too.
Jason Arnott on a no-risk one-year deal? There should be some mutual interest in that!
That said, Arnott is 37 and he’s definitely slowing down. Five years ago, Arnott was a premiere two-way player, but his ice-time has dropped significantly over the past several seasons and he’s become somewhat sheltered in his deployment. Considering the way those trends have accelerated over the past three seasons, on four different teams, under four different coaches, I’d wager that Arnott’s usage reflects some diminishing returns. Still, Arnott continues to post auspicious underlying numbers while scoring at a 21 goal per season rate in tailored ice-time.
Of course, what Vancouver’s hockey club requires of their third line centreman is specific and pretty unique. Ideally a Canucks third-line centre is the type of player who can soak up 400 defensive zone-starts per season and play top opposition to a draw. This "enabler" deployment facilitates Vigneault’s preferred deployment schemes, which, see the Sedins utilized almost exclusively in offensive situations, and allow Ryan Kesler to trash the soft underbelly of opponent’s rosters. The recent evolution of Arnott’s usage and his solid but unspectacular face-off percentage indicate to me that he’s not particularly well suited to this specific role (few are).
In years where Arnott’s on-ice percentages are stable, his teams continue to outscore their opponents when he’s on the ice, and they quite severely outshoot their opponents with he’s on the ice as well. Arnott would also very likely pitch in centering the second unit power-play, a minor area of need where Arnott remains quite effective (14 PP points last season). The only real downside is that his presence on Vancouver’s third-line would almost certainly necessitate that Ryan Kesler continue to play the bulk of the tougher minutes, which he did last season and didn’t do in 2010-11 when he was a forty goal scorer.
Arnott isn’t really an "ideal" third-line centre fit in Vancouver, but his combination of size, experience and not yet vestigial scoring punch is intriguing – especially on a one year contract.