What Could the Canucks Have Done Differently With Their Lineup Saturday?

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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski – USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday night, the Canucks were forced to dress 13 forwards and five defencemen as Christopher Tanev and Ben Hutton’s injuries suffered in the game prior kept them from the lineup. This resulted in Anton Rodin dressing for Saturday’s game, and not playing a single minute for the Canucks.

The market’s covered the Rodin angle of this extensively, and earlier this morning coach Willie Desjardins revealed Rodin wasn’t 100% healthy, which gives insight into why he didn’t play. 

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It’s not like this was an unavoidable issue, though. The Canucks had options to avoid this.

The information that forms the backbone of this post is publicly available. It’s my hope that by bringing this readily digestible data to the forefront, we’re all better informed for the next time a similar situation strikes.

The Injuries

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Tanev was hurt during the game on Friday night, left the contest and did not return. Canucks Head Coach Willie Desjardins indicated Tanev needed re-evaluation:

The Canucks left Tanev in Vancouver when they departed for Calgary to play the second of a back-to-back series. It’s a reasonable conclusion that the Canucks did not expect Tanev to play on Saturday night. Otherwise, he would’ve boarded the flight and be re-evaluated in Calgary. They were hopeful that he would be good to go, but ultimately, he was unable to make the trip to Calgary.

The second ailment that hit the Canuck blue line was Hutton. That ailment kept Hutton from the Canucks lineup, somewhat unexpectedly, on Saturday. 

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Hutton did participate in some pre-game skate, stretching and soccer in the hallway before the game. So there was the expectation he would play. As you can tell by the timestamp in the above tweet, it was a late scratch.

Since the Canucks only travelled, and then got ready for the game – it’s reasonable to suggest the Canucks had some inclination that something was up with Hutton. There just wasn’t anywhere in between where he could’ve suffered such an injury.

So given that – it’s fair to believe that the Canucks were aware of both injuries, and were hopeful that one or both would be able to play. That hope led to the plan of Hutton playing, and it wouldn’t have mattered. Unfortunately, Hutton was unable to play, and the Canucks were in a bit of a pickle.

Roster Fixes

According to Capfriendly.com – the Canucks currently have $973,870 in cap space. So any of the transactions below, would not have been prevented due to the cap ceiling.

So with the injury information cleared up and based on a reasonable conclusion that the Canucks were aware that two of their defenceman were banged up and may be unable to suit up. If one weren’t able to go, then Alex Biega would just suit up.

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The simplest and easy fix to this possible issue would’ve been to assign a forward to Utica and recall a defenceman. The only possible option would’ve been to assign Brendan Gaunce to the AHL, as he is the only forward that would not require waivers to be assigned and thus wouldn’t require a 24 hour period of ‘being on waivers’ before being sent down.

The hesitation to do so was valid, if they felt Hutton or Tanev could play, then they would’ve wanted to dress Gaunce, he might not have been available. But it would’ve just been a paper transaction, as Gaunce would’ve never had actually to leave. 

If Hutton was able to play, that means that Gaunce was effectively in the minors, and thus unable to suit up. It would’ve meant that Reid Boucher would’ve had to draw into the fourth line as Rodin wasn’t 100%.

This would’ve allowed the Canucks to recall Andrey Pedan from Utica, as an insurance policy. As Jason Botchford outlined in the Provies on Saturday night, Pedan would’ve easily made it to Calgary in time for the game:

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This would’ve caused a roster issue for the Comets – as they also currently only have six healthy defencemen. But they likely could’ve found a defenceman to sign to a PTO in time for their Saturday game.

That is option one for the Canucks. 

Another option would’ve been concluding that Tanev was unfit to play the following day (Saturday), placing him on IR, and then recalling Pedan. This option wasn’t likely available, since they were hopeful that he would be able to play in Calgary on Saturday night. It would’ve meant that Tanev stays on the IR until Sunday, and Pedan comes up, thus eliminating the option to play Tanev IF he was able to suit up. This decision would’ve had to be made Friday night, have Pedan make his trek, and then complete the paper transaction on Saturday.

There have been some suggestions that the Canucks use the ‘Emergency Recall’ in this circumstance. The article (50.10e) within the CBA is below:

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The Canucks would’ve had to determine that Hutton and Tanev were unfit to play on Friday night, and then exercised the emergency recall to call up a defenceman to exceed the 23 man roster temporarily. As they had six healthy defencemen with Biega, and more than 18 skaters with Rodin and Boucher.

They would’ve then needed to complete a roster transaction on Sunday to get back under. Whether being placing Hutton or Rodin on IR or re-assigning Pedan, they could’ve accomplished this.


The Canucks were between a rock and a hard place on Saturday. Based on the information we have outlined above, the Canucks were aware that Hutton and Tanev were injured but were hopeful they would play. Thus limiting their options to assign Gaunce to the AHL, and then recalling a defenceman in his stead.

You can understand why they wouldn’t want to do that, as less than 24 hours ago, they had seven fully healthy defencemen. But given that it was the second game of a back to back against a team that you are battling with for a playoff spot, the ideal situation would’ve been to have a guaranteed six healthy defenceman for the night, and just slot Boucher into the fourth line with Jack Skille and Michael Chaput.

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    • Ryan Biech

      The image from The Provies clearly shows that they could’ve made it on time – as long as they caught the early morning flight.

      There is a later flight that would’ve got the player to Calgary for 4:40 – had they been unable to make the morning one.

  • Bud Poile

    The solution is you play your five d-men the extra minutes,like they did.

    It’s not like this is September and the crew is not in game shape or that four d-men don’t take up the vast majority of the minutes each and every game,anyways.

    I know you guys have to write a blog,but extra minutes spread among five healthy d-men in January is not news worthy.

    • detox

      24hr news cycle stuff. content

      5 dmen wasn’t ideal, but neither was it end of the world.

      There is a big hate on for WD. I don’t agree with a lot of what he does, but that seems the case for every coach I’ve seen here over the last 20 years.

      Is one game in January a or the determining factor in making the playoffs? By itself no. But one argument is he continues to make similar mistakes, could we have more wins with a different coach?

      All along, I thought best case scenario, we could be fighting for a wild card spot.

      We are no far out of a spot now yet the media, many who predicted poor results, are still all over the club and coach. Guess it is the nature of the beast.

      • SJ

        It also wasn’t WD’s call to not bring in another D-man. Roster moves are up to management. Willie makes his lineup based on the players he has available to him.

          • Silverback

            Maybe Desjardins asked for another D…maybe Benning said ok, I’ll call Travis up. Travis says “I’d rather not disrupt the team now if I can. We are already thin, and the boys are starting to show some chemistry, but if you need someone, no problem” Benning the pragmatist, decides against a call up…

            Guys, you don’t know what is said behind closed doors and just how much they are willing to share publicly. Easy to speculate, but try to be objective.

    • Freud

      I thought the solution was to manage your roster.

      Or perhaps dress the healthy extra forward as the 13th forward instead of the injured.

      The team played 5 d-men the night before. HNIC spoke about a target being out on any team dressing only 5 d-men. There’s a formula for increased risk of another injury.

      Calgary ran them all night and the team is lucky they didn’t lose Tryamkin and Sbisa too.

      But I guess apologists would think putting your players at risk is not news worthy.

      • Bud Poile

        You’re reaching where you know not.

        If you ever played defense you would know a few extra minutes of ice time does not endanger the player or the team.

        Tryamkin played 22 minutes while Sbisa played 21 minutes. Big whooping deal.

        Essentially,you are piling on a bogus complaint wagon to continue blaming and whining.

        • Whackanuck

          Ferland took a good run at Tryamkin and injured him. Coincidence? I think not. The Canucks could very easily have been forced to play the rest of the game with 4 defencemen. I suspect that’s what Freud was suggesting.

          • Bud Poile

            That has zero to do with playing a few extra minutes of hockey and everything to do with Ferland’s game.

            You both should know forwards can skate backwards and many forwards played D at some time in their lives.

            If the Canucks were cursed with a fourth injured D-men you put the most able forward back there.

            It’s not rocket science we’re dealing with here.

          • DJ_44

            Coincidence? With all due respect, this is the stupidest comment I have read over this whole situation.

            If you listened to the post game interviews from Friday and the pre game on Saturday, the Flames constantly mentioned they need a more north-south game, more physical than Friday, more direct. To that end, they put in Hathaway and got on the forecheck. Not to mention they were at home where they always play more physical.

            To suggest this is because Hutton decided he couldn’t go after warmup so they went with 5D, as opposed to playing there brand of hockey reveals a lack of understanding of the game.

        • Dirty30

          Only partially true. The extra minutes on a healthy team playing a regular game is no big deal.

          Back to backs, with an already depleted team isn’t the same thing.

          Having the opposition head-hunting and the refs doing nothing to calm it down is another issue. Particularly on a back-to-back where the other team played hard and lost.

          As noted, both Pedan or Boucher were options who might have helped the situation a little.

          Yes, I don’t like the management of this team. By all means, continue to be an apologist for their incompetence but their continued ineptitude and inaction are inexcusable.

          Were they too busy planning the parade to do something else?

  • Freud

    Bud’s on a roll tonight.

    Dramatically misunderstands what I was suggesting.

    Forgets 8 of the last 9 Cup winning GMs never played an NHL game and the other was a goalie.

    Hypocritically calls someone else a whiner.


  • pheenster

    In all my years as a fan of this team and an observer of its media contingent, I have never seen an issue get blown out of proportion to the extent that this one has. A guy who has done sweet eff all in the NHL sat on a bench for 60 minutes with an injured knee. And you guys are acting like it’s Watergate (or in this case, Rodingate). Really? Get over yourselves for crying out loud. Pretty soon you’ll be asking to see Obama’s birth certificate.