I’m back in the saddle after a week off, here to be the voice of the people that JD Burke could only dream of.
The Canucks have now signed two players to PTOs, Ryan White in late August and Scottie Upshall earlier this week. Which of these two players would you most like to see make the team, and are there any other players on the market you would like to see the Canucks invite to training camp?
Last week JD asked: Now that the Vanek signing is official, let’s have a game of armchair coach. Where would you slot him in the Canucks lineup? Does he play a role on special teams? There are so many different ways you can answer this, so I’m curious to see where you all go with the question. Feel free to speculate on his linemates and how they’ll perform as a unit next season.
On the power play, I see Vanek slotting in where Newell Brown had talked about putting Brandon Sutter – in the old Kesler sniper spot. He’s got the shot and he’s got the skill to cycle with the Sedins. He could potential score 10-15 goals in that position.
At even strength, it really depends on what the Canucks’ plans for Vanek are. If their intention is to flip him at the deadline, I can see them giving him lots of minutes against softer competition to try and pump his numbers. If their goal is to be as good as they can be and try and scrape into the playoffs, his deficits at even strength will probably keep him down to third line minutes, but still with significant power play time.
Since the Canucks do not have the top-of-the-lineup talent to compete with most teams in the NHL, I think the best strategy for winning games is to spread the offense across the lineup and roll 4 lines. In that scenario, it doesn’t matter which “line” number Vanek is on. Accordingly, I see him fitting well with Sam Gagner as his center and Rodin on the other wing.
In a traditional lineup, that would be a 3rd or 4th line getting fewer even strength minutes, but I’d be hoping for Rodin’s purported two-way ability and the offensive ability of Gagner and Vanek to balance out the trio. That would leave the other lines looking something like Baertschi-Horvat-Boeser; Sedins-Goldobin; Eriksson-Sutter-Granlund, with Dorsett, Burmistrov and the recovering-from-injury Gaunce as the extras to start the year. I don’t know about you, but I think that would be a lot more fun of a forward lineup to watch on each shift than what we saw last year. (Although I’d like to see Boucher get some time with the big club this season too!)
I would avoid playing Vanek with the Sedin line. The Sedins could use somebody younger/faster (evident from the stream of players on that line last year). I envision one of the younger players, Virtanen, Boeser, Goldobin, or Granlund playing on that line depending on the pre-season chemistry and skillset the Sedins are looking for.
I see either Thomas Vanek or Loui Eriksson supplying veteran leadership to the Horvat/Baertschi line. Which player ends up on the line I think depends on whether Horvat/Baertschi find chemistry with a left-handed (Eriksson) or right-handed (Vanek) shot. If Vanek does not end up with Horvat, he would likely slot on a third line by committee, playing with any of Brandon Sutter, Markus Granlund, Sam Gagner, or a younger player (e.g. Virtanen, Boeser).
Vanek will definitely be the “Kesler” trigger man on Newell Brown’s powerplay. I expect him to be on Horvat’s PP unit (and Gagner on Sedin’s PP unit). Vanek and Gagner could interchange based on pre-season chemistry. Eventually we may see Virtanen or Boeser claim the PP trigger man spot from Vanek or Gagner, but initially I see the team starting with veterans in that position.
I think Vanek will play with the sedins until that line doesn’t work and then will be put on the horvat line. I think the interesting thing this year is this team is stacked up with “offensively minded” players. Who then “shelters” them all during the rest of the game? Will Green look for help from utica to balance the roster with some reliable defensive play? We have two goalies who have as of yet been unproven as number ones, a defense that has struggled these last few years, and most of our new signings don’t sound like two way studs. At the very least goldy stays in Utica this year… too many offensively minded players on roster already, and maybe JD’s right and Juolevi makes the team just to keep Green’s hair from falling out.
Find: “Reid Boucher”. Replace: “Thomas Vanek”.