There has been a lot of nonsense spewing from the airwaves of the Team 1040 radio station in the last few days. You see, the Canucks have suffered a few injuries and in turn a few on air radio personalities (and callers) have decided that they need a heavyweight enforcer! I, for one, think it’s a gross overreaction.
The Enforcer Myth
So much of the argument for having an enforcer is outdated. Enforcers rarely get retribution on guys like Getzlaf (who injured Hamhuis) or Michalek (who injured Ballard). They also rarely play. Had the Canucks dressed a guy like Derek Boogaard, Getzlaf would have still injured Dan Hamhuis and the Canuck enforcer would not have fought George Parros… maybe. What good does that do? If you have an enforcer that can play, great. Unfortunately there’s not a lot of those guys out there, and they don’t come cheap (Chris Neil will be available, but he makes $2 million a season).
If you want proof that enforcers don’t do a whole heck of a lot, just look at when David Steckel injured Sidney Crosby (the Pens employ a lot of big tough guys like Eric Godard, Mike Rupp, and Deryk Engelland). The next game Steckel fought Tim Wallace (he’s listed at 6’1″ and 200 lbs, or about the size of Tanner Glass).
Heavyweight enforcers don’t do a whole heck of a lot, especially in the playoffs. You know what does? Team toughness. Do the Canucks have it? I think they do, depending on who is playing on their fourth line on any given day. Speaking of which, did you know the Canucks have tried out 14 different players on their fourth line this year? On Saturday that number will grow to 15 with the recall of Victor Oreskovich.
The Role of the 4th Line
The Canucks have a lot of options for their fourth line. They can go with a skill line with the likes of Cody Hodgson and Jeff Tambellini or they can go with more of a grinding/tough line with the likes of Tanner Glass, Aaron Volpatti, Victor Oreskovich and others.
The problem you don’t want to run into is having a fourth line without an identity. That’s what happened in last year’s playoffs where the Canucks played a fourth line of Johnson/Bernier/Hansen/Demitra/Grabner/etc. I’m a firm believer that your fourth line needs a natural centre (see Hodgson, Bolduc, Bliznak). That centre needs to be able to win face-offs and be strong defensively.
Another problem you don’t want with your fourth line is being too soft. A line of Hodgson and Tambellini won’t get the job done. I think you need at least two gritty players with some size. A hockey team needs to have different dimensions, and the dimension that good fourth lines bring is energy and grit.
Injury trouble to the Canucks’ defense means they will likely have some cap space on trade deadline day. I would like to see them make a trade to bring in someone to play on the fourth line, preferably a centre. Play that player with Tanner Glass and Aaron Volpatti/Jeff Tambellini. Failing a trade, go with Alex Bolduc. In a perfect world the Canucks would ride Cody Hodgson, but his game at this point is not well suited for the role. Until then, enjoy the latest audition for the fourth line with big Victor Oreskovich on Saturday night!