Folks, we here at CanucksArmy always aim for objective and agenda-free analysis of the Vancouver Canucks – except when it comes to Nikolay Goldobin. We must shamefully admit to a site-wide bias toward the Starbucks-sipping Russian winger, and we’ll take each and every opportunity to write about the guy – including this week’s WWYDW.
Really, we all just want to see Goldobin succeed at the NHL level because he’s an incredibly fun player to watch – and with fun being the Canucks’ calling card this season, #FreedGoldy seems like a natural fit.
As you’ve surely heard by now from our collective Twitter feeds, Goldobin was recalled from Utica on Tuesday – swapping places with the AHL-bound Sven Baertschi. He didn’t make it to Vancouver in time to participate in that day’s practice, and so it’s still a bit of a mystery as to where he’ll fit in the lineup. Fortunately, we have you, loyal reader, on hand to wildly speculate in the meantime.
The purpose of Goldobin’s return is clear – he’s here to inject offensive creativity and vision to the roster. But which line will he be doing it on?
Is he the missing ingredient on Bo Horvat’s wing? Destined for third-line duty with Adam Gaudette? Toiling on the fourth line with the Jay Beagles of the world? Or will he be bold enough to bump JT Miller off the Lotto Line?
Only time will tell, but before it does we turn to you and ask:
What would you do with Nikolay Goldobin’s return to the lineup? Where would you play him?
Last week, we asked:
What would you do to help Bo Horvat break out of his current doldrums?
Given that Horvat scored the night before the article hit, and has three points in three games since, it’s fair to say that our reverse-jinx totally worked – and it’s also understandable why responses were limited.
At least they were high-quality!
Horvat is carrying a burden placed on him by Green. He thinks he is going to have to play 25 minutes a game, every game, for the next five months. That daunting task has made Horvat doubt himself and we are seeing the result from that doubt.
(Winner of the “We Don’t Say Those Names Around Here” award)
Manage Bo’s minutes to keep him around 18:00 which allows him to perform at his peak every game. The days of playing Messier-like minutes is impossible, just like Mike Keenan would fail today.
(Winner of the author’s weekly award for eloquence)
The issues here are a lot bigger than Horvat’s slump, and dealing with the bigger underlying issues will move Horvat out of his slump.
The Canucks are predictable and easy to defend. Creativity has been somewhat stifled and the systems and set plays are inadequate. Other teams have the Canucks down cold and, just like a baserunner stealing pitch signs, they know what’s coming. Take away space, cover the planned outlet pass, and hem the Canucks in their own end. The powerplay is even more predictable – it isn’t stale, it’s rancid. It all looks rather Willie-esque.
The Canucks lack centre depth. Last year Gaunce, Gagner, Granlund, and Kero were all on NHL contracts. This year, beyond the four who started the year there is only Gaudette and Graovac. Last year wasn’t great and, rather than making the situation better, Horvat is being pushed to do even more to cover injuries.
The biggest cause for Horvat’s slump right now is the coaching staff. Horvat and others are frustrated with the lack of success and inability to counter opponents’ defensive systems. If you are being trapped to death the solution isn’t different linemates, it’s a few set plays to counter the trap. Same applies to the heavy forecheck pinning the top two lines in their own end over and over again. It looked like the Canucks were trying a couple things last night but they didn’t know them well enough and didn’t execute. A lot of talking and pointing on the bench as the players try to get straight who is supposed to go where and do what. The frustration was obvious.
Fix the underlying problems and Horvat will be fine.
(Last week’s winner of the author’s weekly award for eloquence)
Geez, no one has ever called me eloquent before…
Solving Bo’s woes is no easy answer. Start by committing to a winger combination for three or more games to give chemistry some time (unless its clearly not working). Use a winger combo that helps the line formulate an identity. Perhaps two of three players on the line are like him (fast, physical, two-way player with finish) and a more creative player (I still think Baertschi could be that guy). Give this combo time to marinate.
Realistically speaking, Bo Horvat’s troubles are related to his ice-time – but since all the responders above covered that point expertly, this author will take a different tack here.
Horvat has been performing above expectations for so long that it was only natural he come back down to Earth and struggle like the rest of us eventually. Seriously, this guy has been blowing even the most optimistic predictions about his performance out of the water since he was drafted. First, he was expected to be a safe, third-line center with shortcomings in the skating department – but then he became one of the best skaters on the team and forced himself into the top-six. He was expected to take on a leadership role one day, but he’s been the de facto captain since Henrik Sedin announced his retirement.
Even after Horvat was accepted by the fanbase as an ironclad component of the core moving forward, it was assumed that he would have to sacrifice offense while increasing his defensive responsibilities – but he’s been producing at a borderline first line rate for the last two seasons.
The point this author is trying to make is that Bo Horvat isn’t really slumping as much as it might seem. As of this writing, he’s still on pace for a career season with 19 points in 25 games. He may be performing below expectations, but that’s only because his continued excellence have raised his personal expectations to some truly ridiculous proportions.
And when he returns to form? Watch out.