Vancouver Canucks: Is It Time to Bench Mikael Samuelsson for His Own Good?

Joel ProsserCorrespondent IApril 29, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 05:  Mikael Samuelsson #26 of the Vancouver Canucks at the point against the the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center on March 5, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

In the 2010 playoffs, Mikael Samuelsson was the Canucks leading scorer with eight goals and seven assists in 12 games.

In the 2011 playoffs, he has one goal and one assist in seven games.

It is quite clear to those familiar with the Canucks that Samuelsson is playing hurt.

In Game 1 of the second-round matchup between the Predators and Canucks, Samuelsson was paired up with the Sedins on the Canucks top line.

Henrik Sedin had six shots and a takeaway in 20:28 of ice time and looked dangerous.

Daniel Sedin also looked dangerous, producing six shots and a pair of takeaways in 18:44 of ice time.

Samuelsson had zero shots in 16:41 of ice time and wasn't really noticeable.

Considering that he mans the point on the first power-play unit, and 6:38 of his ice time was with the man advantage, this lack of shots definitely appears to be a problem. 

The book on Samuelsson is that he is a shooter. He likes to shoot often and from every angle. (Kind of the anti-Sedin in that regard.) 

So if he isn't shooting, why not?

Down the stretch, he missed five games with a groin strain, then returned in the last week of the season.

So far in the playoffs, he has already missed a game due to a "lower body injury" in the Canucks-Blackhawks first-round series.

I think it is safe to assume that the "lower body injury" was a relapse of his previous groin strain, and that it is still bothering him.

Groin strains can be a nagging injury, and it also bears mentioning that at 34, Samuelsson is the oldest forward on the Canucks roster.

He is a veteran and he wants to play, but is that the best option for the Canucks?

If I was Alain Vigneault, I'd pull Samuelsson from the lineup for Game 2 on Saturday night. Game 3 isn't until Tuesday, so that would give Samuelsson four complete days of rest, six days if they hold him out until Game 4.

Taking Samuelsson out of the lineup would leave the forwards looking like this:

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - ???

Mason Raymond - Ryan Kesler - Alex Burrows

Chris Higgins - Maxim Lapierre - Jannik Hansen

Raffi Torres - Tanner Glass - Victor Oreskovich

The Canucks luckily have a relatively healthy roster, so they could fill the hole on the first line with one of the following options:

Raffi Torres 

He has skill and size and would be a decent fit with the Sedins for a game or two. This would leave a hole on the fourth line, which could be filled by Cody Hodgson playing center while Glass moves back to his natural left wing position. An added benefit is that the fourth line would have a natural center who could win draws.

Or Aaron Rome could move from defence back to playing on the wing, and Andrew Alberts or Sami Salo (if he is healthy) could draw back into the lineup to replace Rome on the third defence pairing. Rome was quite effective in the few games recently that he played on the wing.


Cody Hodgson

 He hasn't looked out of place in his four playoff games during the first round, and he did pretty well for a third liner, posting an assist and 10 shots.

While he doesn't have the size or shot of Samuelsson, Hodgson is a smart player with good hands, and I think he could work well with the Sedins.


Jeff Tambellini 

A healthy scratch so far in the playoffs, Tambellini produced most of his points earlier in the year playing with the twins when Burrows was recovering with shoulder surgery.


Alex Burrows 

The traditional right winger for the twins, and the hottest offensive player on the Canucks right now, Burrows would appear to be a no-brainer to replace Samuelsson.

But the reason Samuelsson is playing with the twins currently is that Burrows is back with Kesler and Raymond, forming the best line on the Canucks. I don't think Vigneault would want to break up that chemistry.

And besides, that would then force a reshuffling of all the line as the second line would be missing a winger.

The Canucks goal is to go deep into the playoffs and challenge for the Stanley Cup, and Samuelsson is a key part of the roster.

It might be better to get him 100 percent healthy now while the rest of the roster is healthy, rather than have him play injured and risk having it become worse at a critical time.