Lines from practice – Sedins with Burrows. Kesler with Higgins/Hansen. Santorelli with Booth/Kassian. Richardson with Sestito/Welsh.
— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) November 16, 2013
The Vancouver Canucks have only played one hockey game since last Sunday, which has allowed them to get healthy and go back to the drawing board in practice. Due to a litany of injuries up-front, we’ve seen all sorts of different line combinations over the course of the first 6-7 weeks of the season. Some have been good, and some haven’t.
This morning it was reported that, with Jannik Hansen set to be activated from the LTIR, we’d see a lineup that was probably much closer to the one we envisioned prior to the season. I’ve put a fair amount of time into thinking about how I’d personally like to see the 4 lines shake out, and will get into that just past the jump.
Line 1: Sedin – Sedin – Burrows
Line 2: Higgins – Kesler – Kassian
Line 3: Booth – Santorelli – Hansen
Line 4: Archibald – Richardson – Weise (/Dalpe, if anyone ever sees him)
I guess I can’t take too much issue with the lineup we’ll most likely see on Sunday evening against the Stars, since it’s fairly close to the one I listed above, but still. My one issue is the way Zack Kassian has been used since, quite frankly, he came to the team.
Based on his size, and the torrid 8 game stretch he had to start last season while riding shotgun with the Sedins, he has been miscast as a finisher. I’ve watched him really closely this season, and I just don’t see it. What he is though, is an above average passer who has soft hands and good vision. He’s more of a distributor than anything. A recent example of what he can do with the puck came on Thursday against the Sharks, when he sauntered into the offensive zone and made a wicked backhand saucer pass to a streaking David Booth (who unfortunately missed the net).
It’s this particular set of skills that leads me to believe that he’d be best suited to play with guys like Kesler and Higgins, who know where to go and love to shoot it. I’d love to see what would happen were those three to be given an adequate amount of time to make it work.
On a grander scale, though, I like this lineup because it can flat-out play two-way hockey. There’s something of a hierarchy in that lineup that makes sense, spreading things out and making the team a more difficult one to play against. If that’s your 4th line, you’ll feel okay seeing them play close to 10 minutes if the circumstances dictate it. It would also take some of the onus off of the Sedins who have been playing an absurd amount of minutes through the first quarter of the season (largely due to the fact that they’ve had to because of the injuries, to be fair).
I’d still like to see Mike Gillis and Co. make a move to bring in someone who is a bit more offensively creative and gifted to help put the puck in the back of the net, but if that doesn’t happen, at least this team would still be a nearly elite possession team. I know, I know.. Corsi this, Corsi that.
I’d love to hear what your ideal lineup would look like in the comments section below. And if you’d be so kind as to provide reasoning beyond "you’re stupid Dimitri, go to hell", that would be swell.