We’re back in the saddle for another edition of the roundtable. Antoine Roussel will be returning soon, which means Travis Green will have to do some line-juggling to accommodate him. Where do you think he’ll play, and who will come out of the lineup?
Of all the players on the Canucks roster to have to insert partway through the year, Antoine Roussel is pretty much your best case scenario. He can play on any line, so the real answer to the first question is wherever Travis Green needs him to go. Currently, it might make sense to see if Roussel and Horvat could rekindle their chemistry from last season, but he could also be a nice fit on either of Brandon Sutter’s wings in an attempt to keep Sutter’s performance rolling. He’ll also probably end up spending more time on the PK than he did in 2018/19. As it stands now, Roussel’s return knocks Tyler Motte and Loui Eriksson out of the lineup – and might put at least one of them on waivers.
Roussel will be gradually worked into the lineup from the bottom to the eventual wing with Bo Horvat as his pivot. I could see Jake Virtanen on that line as well. Bo worked with with Roussel last season and Jake is hitting his stride.
Unfortunately, that is bad news bears for Adam Gaudette or Tim Schaller. Schaller would be my pick to healthy scratch if needed but who knows anymore.
The Canucks can’t be trusted to operate their press box players wisely.
I think the LW/C combination that Travis Green is the least sold on is Leivo/Sutter at the moment. I could see Green starting Roussel there and move Leivo to a RW spot as he did many times last season. That would mean Gaudette or Eriksson coming out of the current lineup.If the Canucks can live with Roussel playing the right side then I would like to see him take Gaudette’s spot on Horvat’s line as that experiment hasn’t worked out as well as Green likely hoped. That would then mean Gaudette comes out or heads down to the fourth line to bump Eriksson out.
I think of all spots where Roussel will make an instant impact, it’s next to Brandon Sutter. To keep his unsustainable production carrying on a little bit longer by injecting someone that can control the play like Roussel has for this team historically, it could prolong this hot start. Most likely Virtanen would be the odd man out.But coming from Green’s point-of-view, since Horvat has had his rotating carousel of linemates, first instinct might be putting those two together and shifting Gaudette to a bottom-six role and scratching Eriksson.
I have actually been a fan of the Josh Leivo/Brandon Sutter pairing. From an eye-test perspective I think they complement each other very well. For starters, Leivo struggles to enter the offensive zone with control as he doesn’t have the speed or shiftiness to be effective. He ranks 14th on the team in controlled zone entries compared to Brandon Sutter who is one of the better puck-carries on the team. Sutter supports Leivo in this area as he has control of the puck 47% of the time when entering the zone and at a 3rd best rate on the team. When we look at how they create offence, it is through sustained zone pressure by creating turnovers along the boards. Leivo is extremely effective at coming away with pucks from board battles and Sutter has shown to be very good this season as well. The past couple of games playing against lesser competition, the duo have been fantastic at grinding out defences and continuously winning pucks back for chances. Their stats support this as they have an adjusted 58.3 CF% and a 61.15 xGF% in 101 minutes together at 5-on-5. I say let the duo continue to play in a sheltered scoring role. I think Roussel once up to speed should be alongside Horvat. The two have shown chemistry in the past and is the kind of winger that Horvat loves. I don’t think it’s a mistake that Horvat has found success with Roussel. Early in his career, he benefitted from playing with players cut from a similar cloth such as Ronalds Kenins and Alex Burrows. All three of these players are, at their core, speedy grinders with enough skill to play on the rush and in the cycle with good offensive instincts. I think those are the types of wingers Bo thrives with and Roussel is the most talented passer of the three. I agree with Hank – Roussel, Bo, and JV is my choice.