The Vancouver Canucks placed Shane O’Brien and Darcy Hordichuk on waivers today. I found the news surprising but I guess when you think about it, the writing was on the wall for both of them. Both players were healthy scratches a number of times last season and both players have big contracts given their place on the team.
O’Brien has been in trouble with the team on and off for the last two years. In February of 2009, O’Brien was told by the Canucks that he needed to fight more and popped off in the media about it (the Canucks denied that they told him to fight more but I don’t believe it). Just over one year later, O’Brien was kept away from the team for a week because he put on weight over the Olympic break.
Still, despite his transgressions, O’Brien might still be with the big club if it wasn’t for his large contract and indifferent play during the preseason. He makes $1.6 million a season and was arguably the team’s #6 defenseman (#7 when Sami Salo returns). The improved play of Andrew Alberts this preseason has dropped O’Brien to #7 on the depth chart. Alberts has not only outperformed O’Brien this preseason, but he is bigger, more physical and doesn’t frequent the Roxy as often as S.O.B.
I believe that O’Brien will probably get picked up by someone on waivers and if he doesn’t, he’ll be playing the rest of the year in Manitoba. If they were to re-call O’Brien from Manitoba he would be subject to re-entry waivers and the Canucks would have to pick up half of his salary if claimed. It’s too bad with O’Brien as I thought he had a lot of potential and he played well in last year’s playoffs.
The waiving of Darcy Hordichuk also comes as a surprise to me, not because his play was outstanding, but because he is their only true heavyweight enforcer. Barring another transaction, the Canucks will go without an enforcer, which I agree with. Hordichuk played so infrequently anyway (he averaged 6 minutes of ice time last season) that I don’t think he made much of an impact with the team. On top of that, Hordichuk would fight the other team’s tough guys, but I don’t think he scared anyone.
He also had trouble delivering big body checks because of his lack of foot speed and didn’t mix it up with non-tough guys, so I don’t see what he was really enforcing. When someone took a cheap shot at one of his teammates, Hordichuk would fight the other team’s enforcer and the fight would usually end in a draw. To be a true enforcer, you need to scare the Cookes/Clutterbucks/Averys of the world and Hordichuk simply didn’t do that.
That video was probably O’Brien and Hordichuk’s finest moment in blue and green. Too bad it wasn’t a sign of things to come.
Like O’Brien, Hordichuk’s contract didn’t do himself any favours either. Hordichuk was scheduled to be a $775,000 cap hit, fairly large for a fourth liner. Every other player in contention for a fourth line spot with the team will make less than that this season.
Now all that is left to decide is who will make the team this season. I expect a decision by tomorrow and there are a number of players fighting for very few spots. Their eight defensemen appear to be set, with both Aaron Rome and Andrew Alberts making the team. Up front, it’s still wide open. There are about five spots available with Glass, Rypien, Oreskovich, Morrison, Schaefer, Tambellini, Bolduc and Desbiens with a shot to grab them.