Written by: Larry “The Nucks IceMan” Johnson
Besides being a good size, known to play with some grit and are all potential four liner’s, what do Byron Bitz, Steve Pinizzotto, Mark Mancari and returnee Victor Oreskovich, have in common? They all are right wingers! I do realize that most NHL forwards can play either side, but with players that are not known for their scoring skills, why would Mike Gillis sign the first three, knowing they all play the same side as Oreskovich?
It’s not as if there’s not a great number of left wingers available. According to capgeek.com, there are approximately 107 free agent forwards still available, and even if just half are left wingers, that means there are at least 53.
Now that I’ve established the numbers, let me continue on with my thoughts on this right wing topic.
Even if one or two of these right wingers do not make the team and are placed on waivers, if they’re claimed, the Canucks are on the hook for half their salary and if not, they take a spot away in Chicago with the Wolves, from a younger player being groomed.
With the news that Ryan Kesler might not even start the season, the Canucks have only signed one NHL centre named Andrew Ebbett, all 5’9” and 174 lbs. of him. Not exactly fourth line material at that size even if the Canucks have him even penciled there.
Right now the Canuck centres are Henrik Sedin, Manny Malhotra, Maxim Lapierre and possibly Cody Hodgson. The Canucks management must have visions of grandeur in Hodgson, if they feel he will replace Kesler on what’s left of the second line. For Hodgson, now is the time to prove he belongs with the club.
With exception of the first line of the Sedins and Alex Burrows, the second line has Mikael Samuelsson (RW) and Chris Higgins (LW) and the third line Malhotra and Jannik Hansen (RW). I would think that Hodgson or Malhotra will move up to Kesler’s spot until he returns.
I’m still scratching my head over the Canucks not resigning Raffi Torres.
With Mason Raymond out till maybe November, the Canucks have added LW Marco Sturm who would most likely play on the third line with Hansen, and either Malhotra or Hodgson at centre.
In the pre-season I believe you will see some tinkering with the second and third lines, because Coach Vigneault knows that he can always go back to the twosomes that have played together before. Those I have mentioned previously.
The fourth line, which has been a work-in-progress for over four seasons now, has Maxim Lapierre and your choice of four right wingers mentioned in the lead paragraph.
I don’t see anyone from the Wolves breaking into the current Canucks line-up, as the team is only a couple of players away from what was missing from last season.
Watch for Cory Schneider to play more than 25 games this season. I wonder if Schneider plays as well as he did in the previous season, would management be quicker on the trigger to put him in, if Roberto Luongo continues his melt downs in the play-offs.
With the emergence of goal-tender Eddie Lack, would the Canucks dangle Schneider for trade, if a Norris type defenseman were available? I still feel that without that Norris type D-man that the Canucks will not win a Stanley Cup.
Although Dan Hamhuis was the Canucks best D-man last season, and he is very steady, I don’t see Hamhuis in the same category with Zdeno Chara, Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty and similar others in the NHL.
Will the Canucks finish as high as they did last season? No I don’t believe they will, as other teams have improved with additions and younger players start to blossom.
I do believe they will win the NW Division and finish in the top six in the Western Conference, and after that it all as to do with the health of the players and the depth of the top nine forwards.
Footnotes: So far I don’t see anyone that the Canucks have added that will take the place of Raffi Torres’ physical play and most importantly – 14 goals.
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Filed under: Vancouver Canucks