“Mutual Interest” Aside, does Arnott Fit in Vancouver?

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. 

  • The second I heard this news I checked Behind the Net….. and was scared.

    Brutal. He does not fit a 3rd line centre role on this team. They will have to shelter him, they are better off sheltering Schroeder in that role. He’s not gonna get a 60% o-zone start rate, or ample PP time like he did in STL. He’s not physical, he doesn’t kill penalties. He must have been plan Z, which worries me. He’s definitely not a low risk signing, he’s the opposite IMO.

    There’s limited cap space, he’d take up the remainder. He’s not worth it.

    So they trade a young 50 pt centre for a 37 yr old 30 pt centre who both play sheltered mins. Which one would you rather have? Uhhh, I not happy.

  • Hey now, 30 points for Hitchcock is the equivalent for 45 for the Canucks!

    Also, Arnott’s underlying numbers are significantly better than Hodgson’s, and he scored goals at a higher rate. I’d call him an upgrade on Hodgson, plus, there’s that Zack Kassian guy too!

  • Also worth noting that Malhotra now has had a full off-season to improve his conditioning – a luxury he did not have after 2010-2011 in the wake of the injury. Hence, I would not rule out him re-taking his old 3rd line C spot with Lapierre as the #4 C. Arnott could start the season as a temporary #2 still benefitting from a plush OZone start %, then move to a 4th line/injury fill-in (the Ebbett role) when Kesler returns. As a 4th line regular, he could allow Lapierre to move to the wing as he has done before and maybe bump a Wiese from the lineup, adding size, faceoffs and a #2 PP weapon the team lost with Hodgson.

    If they do sign Arnott, chances are its on a 1-yr deal. Worst case scenario: he doesn’t work out, they waive him and call up someone else. Zero risk to anyone not named “Aquilinni”

  • KleptoKlown

    On a 1 year deal? Why not?

    Didn’t work out last year with Strum, but it didn’t exactly hurt the team either.

    2 – 2.5 million 1 year without a NTC sounds pretty good to me.

    That being said, Lapierre on the 3rd line isn’t exactly a bad thing.

  • KleptoKlown

    I’m not sure about Arnott. It does seem no risk, assuming there’s no other people to sign (Doan).

    Anyone have any thoughts about Dominic Moore, who would probably be cheaper even?

  • @Antro Moore is the definition of “replacement level,” and anyway, it will be a cold day in hell before a Moore brother plays in Vancouver.

    I just have to think there’s too much water under the bridge for that to occur.

  • The way I see it, the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

    Malhotra is still a great face-off man and more than capable of taking 90% of face-offs. Lapierre and Weise also have responsible possession numbers despite numerous defensive shifts do they not?

    This leaves a hypothetical Raymond-Arnott-Hansen line to provide a more all-around type of game.

    So you’d have the top line for O-zone, the 4th line for D-zone, and lines 2 and 3 for everything in between!

    You can also start Manny on the draw in the d-zone with Raymond and Hansen, who use their speed to carry the puck up the ice, and then manny switches for Arnott.

    I know you stats guys are not fans of “intangibles” But I see their place just as much as I see the place for advanced stats/deployments.

    If the Canucks win the jackpotand are able to attract Doan AND Arnott…or even win win on 5 numbers and get one of them….I think it improves their chances of a Cup exponentionally, just due to the grit, experience and leadership they bring.

  • Yeah I’d like to see the Canucks get one (or both) of Doan or Arnott because they’re actually good at hockey, which, is much more important than intangibles (some of which I buy, some of which I think are b.s.).