Written by: Larry "The Nucks IceMan" Johnson
As I donned my coach’s hat last night and started to think of the return of Daniel Sedin to the lineup on Sunday, I began to contemplate, "who is best suited to play on that line?" There are certainly no shortage of players that have earned that right, like Mikael Samuelsson and Mason Raymond.
Samuelsson is second in goals on the Canucks with nine (18 pts) and Raymond is third with eight (14 pts). Both have been playing at the top of their game and each provides a different aspect to it.
Raymond’s going to add a bit more speed than Samuelsson, and Mikael is better at digging the puck out the corner, stronger in front of the net with his size, and you know when he gets in position he’s going to be shooting.
Now this brings up some more food for thought, such as who and what do the other duals look like?
It has been mentioned many times by Coach Alain Vigneault that he feels lines are made up of a strong dual, which he likes to keep together. The third player, he feels, is interchangeable.
Ryan Kesler, as you have seen, is versatile enough to play centre or wing, but for now he looks like the second line centre. Either Raymond or Samuelsson on one wing and Alex Burrows or Steve Bernier on the other. What a luxury to finally be able to make that decision.
Burrows has not been having the same type of year as last season, but is it realistic to think that he would? Even with his play of late, he still would be my choice with Kesler.
Remember how well they played together last season before Burrows went up to play with the Sedins? If they could get back to that magic, what a second line that would be, with say Raymond!
Kyle Wellwood, although he earned an assist last night—his second point of the season—is walking on thin ice, no pun intended. With Ryan Johnson playing so well, do you move him up to third line centre and Wellwod down to the fourth?
Another player that has caught my eye is Jannik Hansen, who has scored three points in the three games he has played since returning from the hand injury. Doesn’t he deserve a shot on the third line?
This is the best that I’ve seen him play since that early spurt last season.
He’s skating really well, making good decisions with the puck, and as witnessed last night, is playing with confidence and battling hard for the puck. Hansen really looks like he should replace Bernier, thus knocking him down to the fourth line.
The fourth line has been a force lately with the insertion of Tanner Glass, playing alongside Rick Rypien and Johnson. With this line, the also-versatile Rypien can play centre or wing in case Johnson is moved up to replace Wellwood if the coach decides he should sit. Such a move, my friends, is a distinct possibility.
With Rypien, Bernier and Glass, you would still have a formidable fourth line to contend with. Tanner Glass has played so well that he has moved Darcy Hordichuk out of the lineup for now.
For any of the new readers, I mentioned Glass back in a preseason article (Three Best Pre Season Surprises) as someone that I thought might bump Hordichuk out of that fourth line role.
Although Glass is not a heavyweight, he has proven he can take care of himself. In addition, he appears to be faster than Hordichuk, thus able to finish his checks, get into the corners to dig out the puck, and create chaos in front of the net. Tanner also seems to have struck up some chemistry with Johnson.
Decisions, decisions, decisions. Now you fans can get a picture on Sunday—against a tough Chicago team—of what this Nucks team might have looked like, and why I was all jacked up about them in the preseason.
To the commentator that mentioned about the Canucks lack of scoring and talent, let’s see how they do in the next five to six games with a lineup that is just about completely healthy.