Note for Canucks trainers: stop putting Malk in Ryan Kesler’s water bottle.
This is a regular Friday feature – that’s running on Saturday for one week only! – combining a healthy mixture of observation, analysis, and foresight on the Vancouver Canucks. If you’d like to get at me about anything covered in this column, follow me on Twitter at @yyjordan and let’s start a textual relationship (wink).
1. With all due respect to Aaron "Fist Burger" Volpatti, the big story this week was the revelation that Ryan Kesler suffered a broken foot in his very first game back after a long rehab and is now out again for 4-6 weeks, despite drinking lots of Malk. Here was AV’s reaction. It’s literally a tough break for Vitamin R, and it’s obviously bad news for the Canucks who rely on Kesler in so many roles. You could say "well at least he’ll be back for the playoffs", but as we saw in his first 7 games, it takes a multi-dimensional player like Kesler a while to get in his groove (though then again, he was injured in his first game back – so…). It takes an incredible amount of strength and conditioning to be a two-way force in the NHL so while he will be an upgrade on whoever he replaces in the lineup come spring, will he be at his best?
2. What will Alain Vigneault decide to do with his lines now that Kesler is out again? I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Raymond-Shroeder-Booth upgraded to the "2nd line", with Higgins-Lapierre-Hansen and Kassian-Ebbett-Weise falling in behind them. But then AV threw us a curve ball, bumped Schroeder to the fourth line (alongside newly claimed Tom Sestito and Dale Weise), Raymond to the middle on the second line with Hansen and Higgins and formed a new giant third line featuring Zack Kassian, David Booth and Maxim Lapierre. Will we see AV slide Alex Burrows down to support another line and into the middle and put Zack Kassian back with the twins to try and get his game going? My main point here: even without Kesler, there are several options.
3. The injury to #17 just reinforces what has been the Canucks biggest need all season: another solid centreman. Faceoffs are going to take a huge hit without Kesler and Malhotra. Jordan Schroeder has been sound defensively for a 22-year-old, but have we ever known Alain Vigneault – he of the radical forward deployment strategies – to trust a rookie as his 3rd line centre in the playoffs? That said, Sami Pahlsson didn’t exactly work out last year, so perhaps he and Mike Gillis are considering a different approach.
4. An interesting name to think about could be Stephen Weiss from Florida. He’s struggling and is a UFA at season’s end. If the Panthers decide they’re out of it, does he become available? It appears Weiss is being utilized as a defensive centre this season, facing the 6th toughest competition of any C in the NHL. Add to that a woeful PDO of 920 and I’d say Weiss’ struggles are a bit overblown. I know, I know, just what the Canucks need, another Florida reclamation project…
5. Onto the other area of concern, which occupied 4 out of my 10 talking points in this space last week: the defence. The Canucks seemed to find some successful pairings against Phoenix on Monday, with Garrison-Hamhuis and Edler-Tanev looking good together. Let’s hope that this constant experimentation bears fruit before the playoffs, because no matter how the centre depth looks the team isn’t going anywhere if they keep pulling the fire alarm in their own zone.
6. It was only one game, but Jason Garrison looked comfortable playing the right side against the Coyotes. There’s been a lot of negative chatter around Garrison’s game this season, which reached its peek after the game against the Red Wings last Sunday. I’ve even seen a couple people suggest Gillis buy him out this summer. After scoring a goal and having a strong game against Phoenix, I really wish Garrison had pulled a Kobe and tweeted "Amnesty THAT".
7. David Booth is a very interesting hockey player. His possession numbers since returning to the lineup are terrifying (in a good way). If you haven’t yet, read Drance’s writeup over at the PlayNow Sports Blog. Booth dominates the puck on a Sedin-like level, but he lacks their finesse and is further disadvantaged by the fact there is only one of him. With Kesler out, I would love to see him get a shot on the top Power-Play unit.
8. Don Cherry went on one of his multi-tweet spiels yesterday, and started by talking about Bieksa and Kesler:
1. Canucks have lost 3rd straight. Is Bieska that valuable? Boy that Kelser is a bad luck kid. Just back from shoulder surgery and now has
— Don Cherry (@CoachsCornerCBC) February 28, 2013
Here’s the noteworthy thing: HE ACTUALLY SPELLED IT "BIESKA". What’s more, wasn’t it revealed that Grapes has someone write his tweets for him? Does that mean he actually told some poor soul to spell it Bieska? Is this some elaborate troll on Canucks nation put on by Don and Ron? Does a 79-year-old know what trolling is? So many questions I’ll never know the answer to.
9. Zack Kassian is in a heck of a slump. Personally I blame the folks at Nucks Misconduct and their fundraiser to help a local dental clinic. Zack has literally scored like one point since that thing started. Let this be a lesson, kids: never try and help others.
10. Finally, allow me to bid farewell to Mr. Aaron Volpatti. I had a hearty AV chuckle when you were sent down to the Wolves for "more playing time". Whoever heard of a 27-year-old 4th liner who needed more playing time? That was a good one! Anyway, hope you enjoy Washington. You were fighting for a roster spot with the Dutch Gretzky, so you never really had a chance.