Paterson’s Point: Canucks need to figure out fourth line before Friday’s trade deadline

Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
1 month ago
This article is a presentation of Toyota Pacific Dealers! Check out the 2023 BZ4X at ShopToyota.ca
To some degree, it sounded like a cry for help.
When I asked Rick Tocchet about the dwindling returns from his fourth line over the past couple of months after the morning skate in Seattle 10 days ago, the Vancouver Canucks head coach readily admitted it was a concern. In the five games since then, nothing significant has happened. 
The part of his answer that stuck out then and has stuck with me since is “to go far, you have to have an identity fourth line and we’ve lost that a little bit.”
That makes this week all the more intriguing as the Canucks approach Friday’s National Hockey League trade deadline. There are reasons why names like Brandon Duhaime, Sammy Blais, and Jordan Greenway have been linked to the Canucks. And it’s why it’s quite likely the hockey club will add a depth piece (or pieces) to bolster the team’s post-season push.
The Canucks may very well address other areas of concern, as well, but when the coach lays it out as succinctly as he did, it’s obvious he thinks his fourth line needs an upgrade. And it’s impossible to argue with him.
As currently assembled, the Canucks fourth line doesn’t do much of anything – outside of bringing some penalty-killing utility. The collection of characters the Canucks are currently using don’t score. They aren’t overly physical. And they certainly don’t add any element of toughness or intimidation. So what exactly is their identity?
At the very least, Tocchet wants a fourth line that can stack shifts in the offensive zone and grind down opponents. Phil Di Giuseppe and Nils Aman are last among regulars on the team in shot share metrics, and Sam Lafferty isn’t a whole lot better. Teddy Blueger’s possession numbers are better because he spent two months centring the best third line in hockey. But Blueger has now gone 27 games without scoring since a December 28th game against Philadelphia.
The Canucks need to figure out their optimal line-up and where a player like Blueger is best slotted for the post-season. Does he get another shot between Dakota Joshua and Conor Garland or should the Canucks see if Elias Lindholm or even Pius Suter can bring more offensive thrust to that line?
Lafferty has size, speed and playoff experience having been acquired by Toronto ahead of last year’s deadline. There is a role for him down the stretch, but he needs to find the level he played at earlier in the season when he was far more prominent in all areas of the ice.
It’s Di Giuseppe and Aman that seem to have tenuous grasps on nightly spots in the line-up. Di Giuseppe started the season strong and continues to work hard, especially when the team is short-handed, but he hasn’t shown himself to be invaluable enough that he couldn’t be replaced. He has gone 28 games without a goal (empty netter in Montreal) and 36 games since he last beat a goaltender. And Aman, who hasn’t scored and has just two assists since Christmas, has been so ineffective of late that he’s been a healthy scratch in four straight games now and been bumped from the line-up by Abbotsford call-ups Arshdeep Bains and Vasily Podkolzin. That doesn’t bode well for his short or long-term outlook. 
Di Giuseppe and Lafferty have both been healthy scratches, too, in recent weeks. The clear-cut message from the coach hasn’t exactly brought about a massive response from any of them.
This team has had a dream season so far and has its sights set on a deep playoff run. 
Right now, there is no bottom line to the Canucks’ bottom line. And that has to change. And maybe it will when Dakota Joshua returns, and perhaps someone like Podkolzin could find himself dropped to the fourth line where he could use his size to his advantage. 
Playoff hockey is a different animal where a depth goal can make a huge difference. But even if the fourth line isn’t contributing offensively, it has to be able to hold its own, not get caved in defensively and has to find a way to swing momentum in a team’s favour. And the first few games of the opening round are chaos on ice where teams do their best to establish a physical presence. As currently constructed, the Canucks fourth line doesn’t do enough of that on a consistent basis.
And that’s why the idea of adding a reinforcement – or two – ahead of Friday’s deadline makes perfect sense. In fact, it now feels like something that has to happen to give Rick Tocchet more of what he’s looking for. If the answers aren’t already on the roster, then the Canucks have no choice but to go out and get players that can give the coach what he wants and needs.
It’s time for zero. Because with the all-new fully electric 2023 Toyota bZ4X, you’ll pay zero at the pumps, create zero emissions, and have zero regrets. Perfect for your morning commute or the yearly family road trip, the bZ4X can drive up to 406 km on a single charge. That’s enough to get you from Kitsilano to Whistler or Kamloops to Kelowna and back. Electric, huh?
Choose electric and get up to $11,000 in rebates and incentives. The bZ4X are in-stock now and selling quickly, visit shoptoyota.ca or your local Pacific Toyota dealer today to learn more.

Check out these posts...