Flashback to October 2016. Derek Dorsett absorbs a hit from the Kings’ Brayden McNabb, which he described as the moment his injury “first came to light.”
Derek Dorsett left in the 2nd period and is not with the team to start the 3rd. pic.twitter.com/XjTMO3YqgB
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) October 23, 2016
In December, the Vancouver Canucks announced that Dorsett would be travelling to Los Angeles to undergo cervical disk surgery, known technically as anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. The complexity of the operation is just as serious as it sounds. Dorsett explained the surgery as follows:
“They pull the disk out and put a little washer with mesh on the bottom, and they gouge out bone out of my hip and sprinkle it in on that little washer with the mesh. They just pry your vertebrae up and slide that washer in and then release it, and once it releases down, they put a plate in and four little screws holding the C5 and C6 on the front side, and after – I think it’s four months – it creates that fusion.” (Source)
— Derek Dorsett (@Twigy15) December 8, 2016
Yikes. For a player who’d undergone serious neck surgery, he sure speaks of it nonchalantly. That speaks to his character. Derek Dorsett would be the definition of a “heart and soul” hockey player. Entering his 11th season in the NHL, he’s established himself as one who would do anything and everything he could to help his team – that’s why he’s valued so highly by Canucks management.
He looked pretty good on Saturday vs LA, especially when one considers that he hadn’t played in almost an entire year. As usual, he forechecked and backchecked with determination, and he threw the body around a few times. That’s the type of game he plays, and that’s the only style he says he can play.
Dorsett wouldn’t be on the team to score goals, and Canucks general manager Jim Benning has said multiple times that he would like four lines that can contribute offence. Could that be a sign that Dorsett may be an odd man out? Perhaps. However, one thing that he brings that this team lacks is grit.
With positive performances from Brock Boeser and Jake Virtanen through two pre-season games, it’s looking like it’ll be hard to keep them out of the opening-night roster. Travis Green doesn’t have a lineup set in stone, but with the chemistry Boeser showed with Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi last season, don’t be surprised if the trio stays together. Virtanen has played just how fans have wanted him to — physical, while still an offensive threat. He might not be as strong of a lock that Boeser appears to be, but he had a great first game and, should he carry that on for the rest of the pre-season, it would be hard to send him down to Utica.
One potential scenario would be Dorsett and possibly Virtanen taking turns as the fourth-line right winger. Why split the position? I find it hard to believe Virtanen steals the spot, leaving Dorsett as the 13th skater. Both bring similar styles of play, but Virtanen has more offensive potential, and it’s not even close. Dorsett, however, is a veteran and he brings consistency and hard work to each game. The PTO signing of fellow grinder Ryan White may be an insurance policy in case Dorsett has a setback. Nevertheless, his chances of making the team appear slim with Virtanen already one step through the door.
Contingent on his health, there’s no doubt Dorsett will get his fair share of games this season. The games in China will be important for him to show that he’s healthy and ready to play. If he plays well, we could very well see a split of the fourth-line right winger position. Until then, it’s safe to say Dorsett will remain a key player for the Canucks this season, regardless of it being on a full-time or part-time basis.