Steve Lancashire is back again. Follow Steve on Twitter at @lankey22
Now that the last cuts have been made, it appears we are seeing the lineup that will start the year together on October 3rd at the SAP Center in San Jose (SAP stands for Shitty Arena Pseudonym, by the way). While there is some familiarity, it looks like we are mostly heading into uncharted territory. Either way, I wager GM Mike Gillis envisioned a different roster at the beginning of training camp. Even though we are still a few days away from opening night, I’m going to analyze the lines as they stand, and watch as John Tortorella gradually changes them rendering this entire blog moot.
Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Alexandre Burrows
Ah, old reliable. As much as I want to see Zack Kassian succeed to shove it in Cody Hodgson’s face, I don’t understand why many people are so quick to put him on the first line. I understand that Kassian provides a bodyguard-like presence that could potentially open up some space for the twins, but you can’t really argue with the success Danny and Hank have experienced with Burrows playing shotgun. I still think besides Burrows, Kassian is the best option the Canucks have for the first line. Especially when certain teams (*COUGH BOSTON*) decide to take advantage of lackadaisical officiating. However, I would reserve Kassian for those instances and keep Burrows on the top line for the majority of the time. But for the Sedin line to be effective, they need secondary scoring support to help divert the opposing team’s top defencemen.
Chris Higgins – Ryan Kesler – Jannik Hansen
I don’t believe this line will stay together for too much longer. By the way John Tortorella talks about David Booth, I think he has bigger plans in mind. If Booth could actually stay healthy for five minutes and focus on something other than animal cruelty, the American Express line could provide an excellent secondary scoring unit. That, however, is a huge if. For now, it looks like Jannik Hansen has honey-badgered his way onto the top six. He hasn’t looked out of place either. On Thursday night against the Rangers, he had an excellent shift in the offensive zone, working along the boards and getting the puck to Frank Corrado who beat Henrik Lundqvist with a knuckler from the point. Combine Hansen’s work ethic, Higgins’ versatility and Kesler’s overall package, and the Canucks could have a decent unit on their hands. The lone question I have about this trio is are they a checking line or a scoring line?
Hunter Shinkaruk – Mike Santorelli – David Booth
This one is a little hard to describe. Traditionally, a team’s third line is its checking unit that can occasionally provide some secondary scoring and wear down an opposing team’s top line. But what this unit will provide is a complete mystery at this point. Santorelli had an excellent preseason and earned his place on the Canucks. Hunter Shinkaruk, one of two 2013 draftees to make the team, provides an offensive spark but is still young and inexperienced. David Booth provides a skill-set that the Canucks badly missed last year. What do they make together? I have no idea. But the potential for offence is there. Booth and Santorelli played well together in Florida, but it’s hard to say if that will translate to Vancouver. I think it’s fair to say not everything translates from Florida to Vancouver. Florida to Boston on the other hand (sob…). I actually like this line and see some potential, but that depends entirely on how Tortorella intends to use them. At this point, it’s hard to say what will happen. But here’s something you can bank on: it will be entertaining. Plus, I want to see more Shinkaruk celebrations and shots of his parents in the stands. That melts by little black shriveled heart.
Weise/Sestito – Bo Horvat – Brad Richardson
I don’t expect this one to last very long. Clearly, Horvat’s development is not best served on the 4th line with Richardson and Tom Sestito/Dale Weise. If I had to make an uneducated guess, I suspect that once Kassian returns from injury, Horvat will be returned to the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. The opportunities that come with playing another year in Junior are just too good to pass up. He has a fantastic chance to play for Team Canada at the World Juniors (I might actually watch it this year if that’s the case) and he is already guaranteed a spot in the Memorial Cup for a second consecutive year as his team are the hosts this year. Because of the circumstances behind Jordan Schroeder’s injury (foot) and Zack Kassian’s suspensions, Horvat will be given an extended chance to prove he belongs in the NHL which is a luxury not every 18 year old receives. While I don’t expect he can prove very much on the fourth to warrant blowing a year on his Entry Level Contract, he could be given a chance to move through the line-up depending on how the team plays over the first five games. Regardless of the outcome, it will be fun to watch.
We know what Weise and Sestito bring to the table. Brad Richardson on the other hand, has a great opportunity to provide some stability on the Canucks forth line that his been, to put it mildly, lacking the last few years. Whether Richardson is on the wing or at center, this is an opportunity for him to fill a role the Canucks desperately need. As the season wears on, I believe we will start to see some consistency with the fourth line. Just not right away.