Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Finding the best spot for Elias Lindholm in the Vancouver Canucks’ lineup
By Dave Hall23 days ago
Business never rests.
As National Hockey Leaguers enjoyed their vacations or participated in All-Star festivities in Toronto, the General Managers continued to work the phones, finding ways to improve their teams.
You can thank the Vancouver Canucks’ management group for all of this impromptu commotion as they stirred up the market, jumping ahead of the pack to land one of the league’s biggest trade deadline fish in Elias Lindholm.
With five weeks to spare, mind you!
The Canucks’ management group saw a unique opportunity to make a significant impact and dove headfirst to bolster their chances at a deep playoff push with a roster full of pending free agents.
A down year or not, Elias Lindholm brings a versatile skill set to Vancouver, capable of thriving in various situations. Whether at centre or on the wing, power play, penalty kill, or any specific role required, adding him to the lineup provides Head Coach Rick Tocchet with immeasurable flexibility to improve the team’s needs at 5-on-5 and special teams.
“For myself, being familiar with him and watched him since coming up in Sweden, I felt that giving us a right-shot centre—a player that competed at the highest level for years—and being a really solid 200-foot player makes us harder to play against and make our coaching staff have more options in the top six.” In a Zoom call with reporters on Thursday afternoon, Allvin said, “That’s why we were attracted to Elias here—the intriguing part of his game—the 200-foot, right-shot centre, those are hard to find.”
While it’s been stated that Lindholm will likely patrol the team’s top six, the question of where he will fit in opens a maze of possibilities. Bringing in such a versatile asset provides the club with ample options, all of which hold merit.
While the initial lines may undergo adjustments, the potential combination of Lindholm and Elias Pettersson is most intriguing. The Swedes, who previously shared the ice representing Sweden at the 2019 World Championship, could become a formidable two-way force. Lindholm’s well-documented defensive prowess aligns seamlessly with Pettersson’s two-way play. Joining these two would give the team one of the best top-six arrangements in the NHL, one that can light the lamp and shut down the opposition’s top lines when it matters most.
While Lindholm’s offensive production–nine goals and 32 points–has experienced a downturn these recent seasons, there is an air of optimism that a fresh slate alongside elite linemates can rekindle his past scoring touch. He is not far removed from a stellar career-high 42-goal performance, and a turn alongside Pettersson could very well be the catalyst to re-ignite Lindholm’s goal-scoring ability.
Before the trade, the 29-year-old was on his lowest 82-game point projection since 2017-18, projected to finish with just 54 points. Yet, that doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. It’s important to note that his shooting percentage fell well below his career average and was the lowest it has been since the 2015-16 season, converting at just a measly 6.9% across all situations and 9.1% at even strength.
While expectations for a return to Lindholm’s 2021-22 breakout year might be ambitious, a reasonable hope is for him to regain his form alongside either of the league’s top 20 in scoring: Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller, or Brock Boeser; take your pick.
Beyond scoring, Lindholm’s defensive capabilities make him an excellent option for critical moments. A former Selke Trophy finalist and two-year running top-ten finisher in Selke voting, Lindholm has proven adept at neutralizing top-tier opponents. Suppose the team is leading with Pettersson and Miller as the team’s one-two punch. In that case, the coaching staff has the luxury of moving Lindholm to centre his own line with the likes of Conor Garland, Teddy Blueger, Dakota Joshua, or Pius Suter to either spread the offence across three lines or to close games out with a neutralizing shutdown line of Lindholm, Garland and Joshua.
In the faceoff circle, Lindholm’s right-handed proficiency adds a new dimension to the Canucks’ game. With a win rate of 56%, Lindholm becomes a valuable asset in critical situations, particularly on late-game draws and penalty kills. Considering the team consisted of all left-shot centers before the trade, the importance of this can not be understated.
His contributions to the penalty kill are also massive. Lindholm played a significant role in the NHL’s third-best penalty kill in Calgary, which ran at an impressive 84.4% before the trade. Having Lindholm on the PK and offloading minutes from Pettersson, Miller, or Blueger opens the door for fresher legs at 5-on-5.
While the cost may seem heavy, the organization gains more than just another skill player; they acquire a seasoned professional with a proven elite two-way game. The flexibility the Canucks gain from adding Lindholm to the lineup is more than worth the price paid to acquire him.
It’s not every year that a team is handed an opportunity to make a splash in the postseason. Canucks fans can rest assured knowing that Elias Lindholm isn’t just any other rental but a player who could be the key addition to this club’s 2024 Stanley Cup playoff run.
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