Going somewhere, Jordan?
Before the season, I wrote about how it was time for Jordan Schroeder to get his chance. Over the course of the past two seasons, he’d proved himself to be a solid two-way performer in Chicago and I figured it was time to test him at a higher level.
He’s been getting plenty of press lately and with Schroeder continuing his strong play in his hometown on Thursday night, it all fit into a lovely narrative. But histrionic gushing aside, we shouldn’t let any of that obscure the fact that on the whole, he’s made the transition well and looks like he belongs at the NHL level (though he still needs to be more productive offensively).
One other thing is equally clear, though: he’s no Ryan Kesler. More on the Canucks’ two American centres after the jump.
Last week Drance wrote about the four ways that the Canucks miss Ryan Kesler. One of those areas is his even-strength dominance. Kesler plays tough minutes in his own zone, turns the puck the other way and still generates plenty of offence.
If there’s one thing to point to in the difference between their respective games, it’s this.
Schroeder has faced relatively straightforward minutes in his 7 NHL games – he’s seventh among Canucks forwards in Quality of Competition. He’s playing a relatively even game in those minutes – you’d like to see more shots while he’s on the ice, but the sample size is still quite small – and it will bear watching to see where his corsi numbers go over the next fifteen games or so.
Kesler, on the other hand, faced the fifith tough competition among regular Canucks forwards in 2011-12, grouped with his most frequent linemates, David Booth and Chris Higgins.
If we go off the lineup that Alain Vigneault used on Thursday night and look to triangulate what will happen when Kesler returns – as Jeff Angus did just the other day – it seems pretty clear that one of Mason Raymond or Jannik Hansen will slide down to the third line, leaving Kesler to play with one of those two and either Chris Higgins, Zack Kassian or Alex Burrows. With David Booth still out, it seems likely that Schroeder will remain in the lineup, centring what would be a very speedy third line. Kesler would draw tougher match ups than Schroeder, allowing the diminutive Minnesotan more high-quality development time.
That is, unless the Canucks decide to try out Ryan Kesler on the wing. On August 21st, this past summer, Canucks Assisstant General Manager Laurence Gilman appeared on the Team1040 for a full hour with Matt Sekeres. At one point during the illuminating chat (which Drance covered at length at the time), Gilman was asked whether or not the Canucks needed a "playmaking winger" to play alongside David Booth and Ryan Kesler.
Vancouver’s resident capologist and chief analytics guy scoffed at the notion a bit, and quipped "playmaking winger? That’s a good euphemism." But he went on to give a fascinating answer, even describing his seeming preference for playing Ryan Kesler on the wing.
"Ryan is a finisher, he’s a shooter and he’s a unique centreiceman (he’s also really good at Faceoffs which is a key role for a centreiceman)," explained Gilman, "but some of the best hockey Kesler played in my time here is when he played right wing, with Mats Sundin in the middle." He continued to discuss a scenario in which the Canucks might consider moving Ryan Kesler over the wing, "When you have assets like Jordan Schroeder you have the luxury of maybe playing Ryan with other players."
So what has become a recent talking point among Canucks fans and media, is actually something Laurence Gilman was discussing as early as late August of 2012. Whether or not we’ll actually see this come to pass, however, will obviously depend on whether or not Jordan Schroeder can continue to impress with his two-way game over the next dozen or so games.
Transcribed Gilman quotes are courtesy Thomas Drance, and Gilman gave those quotes during his hour long Team 1040 interview with Matt Sekeres on August 21st, 2012. Unfortunately the podcast is no longer hosted on the Team 1040 webpage.