The Vancouver Canucks have already played their first pre-season games on Monday as they saw split-squad action with the Flames then on Tuesday against the Oilers. Most of what Green hopes to gain will be clarity throughout his lineup. The Canucks have their fair share of newcomers and Green has to get a good idea in a short amount of time regarding where these new pieces fit into the puzzle.
Based on news coming out of camp and line combinations in the pre-season games played thus far, we can tell that Green has a decent idea of how the newcomer forwards may fit into the top six. It’s reasonable to assume that the top line will form as Ferland – Petersson – Boeser and the second line will feature Miller and Horvat. However, past that there is a lot for the coaching staff to sort out.
The Bottom Six
What Green is less close to sorting out is what his bottom six will look like and this is one area where he will hope to gain clarity before the season begins. The summer has been spent speculating who will center the third and fourth lines, but it’s finally time for Beagle, Sutter, and Gaudette to show what they’ve got. Gaudette had a good showing in his first game but was less noticeable in his second game of a back to back.
His play is really going to be an x-factor for this team. If he’s able to play as well as the coaching staff hopes, that gives them a lot more flexibility with Miller, who could spend his time on the 2nd line with Horvat, who he’s already shown great chemistry with. If Gaudette doesn’t play as they hope, then it raises the possibility of taking Miller away from Horvat to center the 3rd line or running with Sutter and Beagle to center the bottom six.
Besides this, they will have to sort through the plethora of wingers to see where everyone will fit in the bottom six best to begin the year. They won’t be shy to play around with what seems to be an endless amount of possible combinations.
The Defensive Pairs
With half of the defensive core being new full-time regulars in Hughes, Benn, and Myers, the coaching staff will mix and match to figure out who fits with who best in the top six. So far, we’ve seen Hughes – Tanev, Benn – Stecher, and Edler – Myers take reps together during camp and Edler and Myers, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be thrown into the blender. That would be the smart thing to do after all and we have even seen a bit of that with the Hughes – Myers pair last night. This is Green’s opportunity to see who works best with who, while there are no consequences for doing so.
While we can assume Green will search for more clarity and confidence in his pairings, it’s also fair to assume these first look pairings are what he’s initially visualized as what may work best. He could see Edler – Myers as his first pairing while Hughes – Tanev, and Benn – Stecher fill out the last two pairings respectively. The key for the remaining pre-season is finding the balance between mixing pairings up in search of the best combinations and allowing defenders to develop chemistry.
The pre-season will also be a time for Travis Green and Newell Brown to get newcomers up to speed on the powerplay system and maybe even test a few different looks. If the Canucks are going to meet their playoff goals, the group must improve on their 22nd ranked powerplay.
Assistant Coach Brown will have Hughes, Miller, Ferland, and Myers as new tools at his disposal and will identify their strengths and where they will fit in best to compliment the other players on their unit. The Canucks have more options than they have in a long time who are used to having playing time on the man advantage, which should result in an improved powerplay.
Before the season begins they will need to decide what looks they would like to roll out first. Will we see Miller on PP1 instead of Ferland, and if so, who’s the Centre on PP2? It certainly was nice to see Ferland establishing a net-front presence against Edmonton, so having him there and Miller centering a second unit may make the most sense. Do Edler and Myers both have spots on PP2 or does one of those defencemen who are used to having time on the man advantage, no longer get that?
Embrace the Pace
"I know camp can be hard at times, but let's embrace it and know it's going to make you better." Coach Green sets the bar as #Canucks Training Camp opens in Victoria.
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) September 13, 2019
It’s no secret that Green wants to play up-tempo hockey, but it’s easier said than done and he’s looking to set the tone and for complete buy-in from every Canuck. The 26-year-old JT Miller called Green’s training camp the most fast-paced camp and he’s been a part of his fair share of camps under various coaches, including the lovely John Tortorella. That’s by design as Green said in a team meeting prior to camp that he wants them to work hard and fast and embrace it knowing it’s only going to make them better.
There’s no perfect way to measure pace, but one of the best ways is how Sean does it in the above graphic. Sean used a team’s 5 on 5 xG (expected goal) rate for and against as an indicator for the pace of play.
If this is an area Green would like to improve, you can see why. Playing with pace doesn’t mean you will be good and playing without it doesn’t mean you will be bad. Boston, St. Louis, Ottawa, and Chicago are proof of that, but coaches will tend to adjust their teams pace depending on the skillset of their personnel and Green may see this group as one who can excel with more up-tempo hockey. That’s a mindset they hope to gain during this pre-season along with the clarity on many other aspects of this team.