Photo Credit: Rocky Widner/Getty Images.
In the immediate aftermath of Saturday night’s blowout loss at the hands of the habitually underwhelming Edmonton Oilers, the Canucks have understandably decided to shuffle the deck somewhat. In particular they’ve decided to send journeyman forward Andrew Gordon back to Chicago, in favour of speedster Bill Sweatt and highly regarded Danish sniper Nicklas Jensen. They’ve also re-assigned Zack Kassian to Chicago – presumably for something of a conditioning stint.
Read on past the jump.
Let’s start with the less sexy elements of these roster maneuvers before moving on to Zack Kassian and Nicklas Jensen. Andrew Gordon was alright in fourth line minutes for the Canucks over the past couple of weeks. He wasn’t on the ice for a single Canucks goal-for in seven games and was somewhat under-water by the possession data, but he mostly held his own in a limited role, started mostly in the defensive zone, and didn’t take any minor penalties which is a plus.
He was woeful on Saturday night in Edmonton, however, and for a player of Andrew Gordon’s ilk the line between keeping an NHL job and losing one is razor thin. Professional hockey is a tough business and one awful game is sometimes all it takes.
For Bill Sweatt, this is his second cup of coffee with the Canucks during his tenure with the organization. You might remember that he played in two mostly uneventful games for the team last season and was mostly forgettable. This season with the Wolves, Bill Sweatt has upped his shot rate significantly and is having something of a bounce back campaign after he regressed somewhat offensively during the 2011-12 AHL season. Sweatt brings more raw speed to the table than Andrew Gordon does, and it’s a safe bet that he’ll be a comparable piece in a limited fourth line role.
One additional wrinkle is that Bill Sweatt is on the last year of his entry-level contract. His stock as a prospect has fallen over the past couple of seasons and certainly he doesn’t look like a guy who’ll ever develop into a top-six forward at the NHL level. But he could have some defensive value, and this stint with the big club could be important for him if he hopes to remain in Vancouver’s plans going forward.
There’ll be some folks who’ll surely overreact to Zack Kassian being sent back to the AHL at this point in his career. It’s true that Zack Kassian’s offensive production has fallen off since his hot-start to the campaign, but he’s also been sidelined for much of the past several weeks with a back injury.
So I’d wager that this roster move has more in common with a conditioning stint than it does with a pure demotion but because of Kassian’s waiver exempt status, the team isn’t forced to make that explicit. Zack Kassian has been a mostly effective top-nine presence this season and his being sent down to the AHL shouldn’t change our overall perception of his abilities and potential.
Finally we get to Nicklas Jensen who has dazzled with his Forsbergian shootout skills while underwhelming on the score sheet. His shot rate isn’t particularly auspicious and neither is his production through 11 AHL games this season. But Jensen lit up the SEL earlier in the year, has an NHL-ready offensive skill set and on a team that has struggled mightily to score over the past month, I tend to think he’ll be somewhat helpful – especially on the power-play.