Frankie Corrado is many things and I’m sure his story will be told by somebody with access over the coming days. He was one of the last cuts to the Canadian World Junior team, a late-blooming fifth-round pick from 2011 and an ex-Sudbury Wolf who was traded to the Kitchener Rangers at the OHL trade deadline this season. He is also too old to have a name with “-ie” tagged onto the end of it. Most importantly for our purposes, he is a right-shooting defenceman now on a roster that has little.
This is a particularly thin roster the Canucks have on defence right now, stretched thinner thanks to injuries to Kevin Bieksa, Chris Tanev, and now Keith Ballard. Tanev and Bieksa are the unfortunate injuries and who knows how long Bieksa’s “day-to-day” will last.
The latest suggestion is a hip-flexor injury because that would lend something to Vigneault’s comment about not being sure if Bieksa will be ready for the postseason. There are varying degrees of strains and some players heal quicker than others. General manager Mike Gillis sounded more optimistic about Bieksa last week, so if you read between those lines, the hip theory may be a decent one. We know Tanev is walking around in a protective boot and probably closer to returning than Bieksa.
The problem is that the Canucks have just one right-shooting defenceman on the roster, and that’s Corrado. Jason Garrison can play the right side, since his powerful shot makes him pre-disposed to playing the opposite side of the ice. He’ll be with Dan Hamhuis on the first pairing for a while.
But below that? Alexander Edler had to play with Andrew Alberts against Detroit. Alberts is a player who surpasses my expectations when he steps onto the ice with his skates laced up. It’s not inconceivable that the Canucks may be forced to look to the future sooner than expected.
Like, tonight against Chicago.
#canucks Frank Corrado wearing 26 paired with Alex Edler at morning skate. Still no Kevin Bieksa and no Keith Ballard.
— Dan Murphy (@sportsnetmurph) April 22, 2013
In the 18.7 minutes Alberts played 5-on-5 against Detroit, 7.8 minutes were spent against Henrik Zetterberg’s line and 5.7 minutes spent against Pavel Datsyuk’s. Zetterberg saw more of Alberts-Edler than any other Canuck pairing, and at +3/-5 in scoring chances, it can be argued that this pairing was actually Vancouver’s most effective. Vigneault, however, decided that Corrado can bring more to the lineup than Alberts and he’s probably right. Corrado will get right into the second pairing.
This is in stark contrast to another young right shot defenceman the Canucks had to bring up when undermanned. However, on January 20 against Colorado, Tanev played alongside Keith Ballard, against the Avalanche third line, if anybody. That line was centred by Kevin Porter. Two days later at home against San Jose, he played against Kyle Wellwood, Jason Demers and Benn Ferriero.
None of those combinations strike fear into the hearts of the competition. I’ve written earlier this season about Tanev and Ballard managing to play more minutes against not-so-strong competition. Edler’s primary partners for the last three season, Christian Ehrhoff, Sami Salo and Kevin Bieksa have increasing Corsi Rel QoC rates of 0.043, 0.597 and now 0.653, respectively. (BTN) Not quite first pairing competition (I set the bar at about 0.800 for that) but the Canucks’ second pair has been forced to see steadily tougher minutes as the Canucks’ defensive depth weans (Tanev’s Corsi Rel QoC went from 0.378 last season to -0.384 this season. I reckon Vigneault realizes his defence is top-heavy).
Take 2011 when the 7th defenceman was Keith Ballard. He’s now the 5th defenceman in the current group. With no Sami Salo and no Aaron Rome (good defencemen that sign for cheap are tough to find) Ballard and Tanev and Alberts climb up the depth chart, and that’s not good for anybody’s sanity.
So that brings us to Corrado. What if he’s good? What if he really, really impresses tonight, likely against second-pairing competition? Dan Hamhuis put up a minus-10 in scoring chances against Detroit and can’t handle every heavy minute. The Chicago Blackhawks are a pretty good hockey team with lots of scorers.
The cheapest way to get good players is on entry-level deals. Corrado right now is on the first year of his entry-level deal and in a normal year, would have to play 10 games for the first year of his deal to “burn”. But this is the 2013 compliance season, where everything is effectively halved. If Corrado plays a fifth game for the Canucks, regardless of the number of days he spends on the roster, he’ll only have two years left on his entry-level deal.
AHL games, if I’m reading Article 9.1.(d).(ii). of the 2005 Collective Bargaining Agreement correctly, don’t count for 18- and 19-year-old players like Corrado. This qualifies as his 19-year-old season. Five games in the NHL, and Corrado’s deal expires in the summer of 2015 rather than 2016.
As Thomas argued earlier:
Prudent asset management would dictate, then, that Corrado won’t appear in that many contests for the Canucks this season no matter what. That said, in the unlikely event that Corrado looks to be “ready” to help the Canucks legitimately win games even in a third-pairing role, and Bieksa and Tanev aren’t able to get back into the lineup for the postseason, then what, are you going to hurt your team’s playoff chances so that Corrado will still be on an entry-level deal when the Sedins turn 36? Please.
Again, Corrado is many things. He is at this point the beacon of shining hope that will steady the Canucks’ defensive depth prior to the end of the season. He’s a smart player with Tanev-like instincts [prospect profile here], as in he rarely makes bad reads. He also has a shot. That’s at the OHL-level however. Transitioning to the pro-level is tough enough without it being the Chicago Blackhawks every night. Corrado, on the second pairing, won’t get the chance to to be eased into NHL competition against the Kevin Porters and Kyle Wellwoods of the world. Last home game against Chicago, the Canucks’ then-second pairing of Garrison and Bieksa played mostly against Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and David Bolland.
So this is a situation quite different from Tanev’s, clearly. He’ll have to play real minutes and will get an awful short tryout before the Canucks have to make a decision on him. If he’s rough around the edges but Bieksa can’t return, the team is in the same spot going into the playoffs, only the Canucks will have to burn a year and sacrifice a cheap contract in 2015-2016 without gaining much in the short-term.
No pressure, Frankie.