Written by: Larry “The Nucks IceMan” Johnson
I realize that this process of re-building the third and fourth lines is not complete, as that will not be finished until the season actually begins, but the signings of some of these players is puzzling.
Anyone who watched the playoffs and Stanley Cup Finals knows that the fourth lines hardly got any ice time at all, and so to me, the biggest part of this assembly would be a third line.
This new group would be tough to play against, be defensively responsible, and could also score.
I thought it would be an interesting idea to go through some of these players and see if they fit the idea of what GM Mike Gillis and Coach Alain Vigneault visualize.
Position – Centre (can also play the wing), a free agent signing this year, and what’s not to like about this addition?
Mike Gillis had a particular question to ask Malhotra before the signing and that was if he was comfortable in playing the wing if needed.
With Malhotra’s answer of “yes,” was what Gillis needed to hear and the rest is history.
The thinking here is that Cody Hodgson would be given ample opportunity to make it as the third line centre and the Canucks wanted a player that could support him and also play that position if Hodgson does not work out.
Malhotra has never scored more than 14 goals in a season, or 35 assists, but was a plus-17 with the San Jose Sharks last season and was also lights out in the face-off circle, where he was second in the NHL during the play-offs with a 60.7 percentage.
Looks like the cornerstone of the third line.
Position – Centre – Cody, as all ‘Nucks fans know was the 10th player chosen in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, and it has been well documented about what happened last year with his back and the Canucks, so I will not re-hash that.
It looks like Hodgson will go into this year’s training camp in much better health and will be given the opportunity to make the team at centre on the third line.
Cody is not big at 6’0″ and 188 lbs., and is not known as a gritty, Mike Richards-type of player, but has shown great scoring and play-making ability at the OHL Junior level.
In three plus seasons he has racked up 114G, 129A and 102PIM.
Highly touted by the Vancouver media as being a lock to make the team, I for one have yet to be convinced.
Watching him at training camp last year was not a time to judge since he was suffering from a back injury, but scoring in the OHL and the NHL are like apples and oranges.
I did see him play a couple of years ago when he joined the Manitoba Moose, after his Brampton Battalion team had been knocked out of the playoffs, and he adjusted very well.
The jury is out on whether Hodgson will be able to start in Vancouver or will it be Manitoba?
Position – Right Wing, most definitely has the size at 6’3”, 215 lbs. but does he have the heart and determination to play?
We have learned that Oreskovich took a couple of years off from hockey (2007-09) before he decided he wanted to resume his attempt at an NHL career.
If you’re looking for a sign of his grit and toughness you will not find it in his PIM, which last season with the Florida Panthers were 26 in 50 games played and with the AHL Rochester Americans–18 in 34 games played.
You will find his commitment to finish his checks with 99 hits. And if you compare that number in the Canucks line-up from last season, it would rank sixth.
Scoring ability shows up in his last year (2006-07) of Junior Hockey in the OHL as a Kitchener Ranger, where his stats were: 62GP, 28G, 32A and 48PIM.
But, there are a slew of junior hockey players that have shown they can score but sometimes it does not carry forward into the NHL.
Oreskovich, thrown into the Keith Ballard trade, looks like a Panther salary dump as part of the deal.
At this time you would think that if he makes the team he would be slotted for the fourth line unless training camp and the exhibition season proves otherwise.
Could he possibly make it up to the third line to form a Malhotra and Hodgson trio?
Position – Left Wing last season, a fourth liner was actually scratched from the line-up during the playoffs, as it was determined that he did not have the speed to be effective. Need I say more?
He is still signed through to the end of the 2010-11 season at $775,000 and looks destined to be a part of some salary dumping.
Rick Rypien “The Ripper”
Position - Centre (can also play the wing) that last season also was part of the fourth line and although being the best pound-for-pound fighter in the NHL, does not resemble your heavyweight enforcer.
He brings energy when he is on the ice, finishes his checks, but I would think that the Canucks should be looking for someone that can score seven to nine goals, even from their fourth line players.
Due to his grit and toughness he has been a favorite of Coach Vigneault, but if a player that is bigger, tougher, and can score shows up he also will be destined for Manitoba.
Position - Centre – Alex – has been in the Canucks system since 2005 mainly with the Manitoba Moose.
Bolduc a natural centre can also play wing, has decent size at 6’1”, 197 lbs., and has some grit and toughness to him (115 PIM in Manitoba).
He has played a total of 22 games in the NHL with the Canucks but has not shown any scoring ability with no goals and one assist. His average ice time per game last season was 10 minutes and 16 shifts.
I see him as a depth player once again in Manitoba.
Position – Left Wing – had his best season in the NHL.
Mostly played as a fourth liner putting up 4G, 11A, 115PIM, plus-5, and was second on the team in Hits with 165 in 67 games, the most he has played in a season so far in his young career.
Although not a true heavyweight enforcer at 6’1”, 210 lbs., he showed up for all encounters and basically makes Darcy Hordichuk redundant, bringing more speed.
Management likes what he brings to the team and should grab a spot on the fourth line again.
Position – Right Wing – now here’s a player that not only has the size (6’3”, 216 lbs.), but has plenty of toughness (144 PIM) and can also score.
Last season was spent with Manitoba where he posted, in 67 games, 19G and 15A.
The previous season (2008-09) was even better, where he played in 78 games and had 21G, 26A and 158PIM—so we know he has the potential to play on the third line.
Unfortunately he has not had the opportunity to play with the Canucks long enough to display his worth, with only one game last season and no points.
Desbiens, who, I thought in last seasons’ training camp, had a shot at making the team should get a hard look this year.
He is potentially a third liner and, if not, the first player to be called up from Manitoba as a depth player at forward.
Position – A centre who is 6’2”, 212 lbs. and has some NHL experience with the Phoenix Coyotes.
He had been in the Coyotes system along with the St. Louis Blues (2006-07) since 2005-06, and has spent the majority of his time in the AHL.
Perrault has shown he can score and make plays at the AHL level (164GP, 59G, 69A, since 2006-07), but has yet to be consistent enough in the NHL (89GP, 12G, 14A since 2005-06).
Unless he has a breakout performance in camp and exhibition he looks like a depth player headed to Manitoba.
Position – Left Wing – who is 5’11”, 186 lbs., this was a strange signing in that there are a number of players that could have (and are still) available, that to me, look like a better investment to upgrade the team’s third and fourth lines.
A player more suited, that most fans would have seen in the playoffs, and accounted himself very well for Philadelphia Flyers, is Arron Asham.
Asham is a proven player with scoring ability 10G, 14A in 72 games and has that edge (126PIM) that Tambellini does not have.
Since coming into the NHL in 2005-06 Tambellini has played in 180 games, 18G, 28A and 70PIM.
A great skater with wheels he is, but this is not a player that is gritty, and barely delivers a hit per game.
So where does he fit in? And what do the Canucks see in him that they went out and signed him?
I realize that the Canucks have not finished with adding to their team but even if you stopped here he looks like a signing for Manitoba.
Filed under: Opinion