Analyzing Kuzmenko to the fourth line and Höglander’s promotion: Canucks Conversation

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Clarke Corsan
2 months ago
On today’s episode of Canucks Conversation, David Quadrelli and Harman Dayal previewed tonight’s game against the Minnesota Wild and discussed the latest shakeup to the Canucks’ offensive group.
As the guys discussed and expected yesterday, Andrei Kuzmenko has been moved to the fourth line, with Nils Höglander getting the bump to the top six. Harm gave his thoughts on Höglander’s promotion ahead of tonight’s game:
“The key to him sticking in that top line role is bringing exactly what PDG (Phil Di Guisseppe) brought, which is ferocious forechecking. Di Guisseppe is intelligent on the forecheck in terms of his routes and angles, but Höglander has the speed advantage. He can come flying in like a wrecking ball, cause destruction and has that tenacity. That’s going to be the determinant of whether or not that line is successful.”
“The only thing I’m worried about with Hoglander is if the top six isn’t really going, to shake things up Tocchet might send PDG back up to play with Miller and Boeser, who he’s previously liked in that spot, and shuttles Höglander back to a fourth line role,” Harm continued. “I hope that’s not the case and he gets a legitimate opportunity and extended look to find success there, especially with how dynamite he looked in the third period of that Devils game… I love seeing Höglander in the top six and really excited to see him perform with that shot, but how long is that leash?”
Casey DeSmith will be back between the pipes tonight against the Wild for the first time since November 25th when the team lost 4-3 to San Jose.
The guys moved on to discuss what things might look like for Kuzmenko in a fourth line role, with Quads first playing a clip of Head Coach Rick Tocchet taken from practice:
“There’s too many times where he should be the first guy on the forecheck and for whatever reason he ends up behind everybody. You can’t play that way; it makes the other guys in your line play slower. He needs to understand he’s gotta push the pace.”
Kuzmenko was a healthy scratch for two straight games late in November, with Tocchet hoping that move would be a wake-up call for the slumping Russian. However, four games removed from the benching, the plan appears to have faltered with Kuzmenko tallying just one assist during that span with his latest game being one of his worst games as a Canuck.
Quads noted that Kuzy hasn’t played with the intense edge we’ve come to expect from Tocchet’s skaters, which is a big reason for his diminished role.
“I wonder if Kuzmenko will ever have the combination of straight line foot speed and competitiveness to be a successful forechecker,” said Harm. “We know he’s an elusive skater, we see the escapability when he’s at his best, but in a straight line he’s not the fastest guy and you definitely see that when he’s trying to chase the puck… He’s not a particularly competitive guy away from the puck.”
The guys wrapped up the show by answering some fan questions.
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