Vancouver Canucks Begin 2011-12 Season with a Revamped Fourth Line

Kevin WContributor IIOctober 5, 2011

Aaron Volpatti
Aaron VolpattiDale MacMillan/Getty Images

The Vancouver Canucks open the 2011-12 season against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night at Rogers Arena, and when you compare the opening lineup to last year's, it is almost laughable.

Peter Schaefer was the third-line left winger and the fourth line consisted of Tanner Glass, Alexandre Bolduc and Guillaume Desbiens.

Schaefer's contract was terminated at the end of November after he refused assignment to the minor league. He has since retired from the National Hockey League. Glass left the team as a free agent on July 1 to join the newly relocated Winnipeg Jets

Bolduc would suffer a high ankle sprain in his second game and later dislocated his shoulder while taking a face off. He signed with the Phoenix Coyotes as a free agent and is now playing for their minor league team, the San Antonio Rampage.

Desbiens would break his hand in a fight against Cody McLeod in November. He signed with the Calgary Flames and has been assigned to their minor league affiliate, the Abbotsford Heat.

This season, the Canucks will open the season with a fourth line consisting of Aaron Volpatti at left wing, Maxim Lapierre at centre and Dale Weise on right wing.

The team had lacked legitimate fourth-line centre now since Artem Chubarov returned to Russia following the 2003-04 season.

Maxim Lapierre gives the Canucks a physical presence up the middle and can be trusted with important faceoffs on the right side. He displayed the ability to play more minutes by moving up to the third line in Manny Malhotra's absence last season.

It is expected Lapierre will form the third penalty-kill pairing with Chris Higgins. Ryan Kesler with Alex Burrows and Malhotra with Jannik Hansen as the other two pairs.

Volpatti gives the Canucks the physicality they were lacking last year in the Stanley Cup finals. While Glass and Victor Oreskovich were able physical players, both were woefully inconsistent in that department.

Volpatti has shown the ability to throw devastating checks—and punches, if you ask Brad Winchester. Last year, he earned some notoriety on YouTube after he devastated Abbotsford Heat forward Mitch Wahl with a clean hit after Wahl cut across the middle. Volpatti became a YouTube legend after he one-punch knocked out the 6'5", 230-pound Winchester in a preseason game.

In the same game, Volpatti threw a heavy hit into Jason Demers that temporarily forced him out of the game.

Dale Weise is the wild card after the Canucks picked him up off waivers from the New York Rangers on October 4.

According to head coach Alain Vigneault, he was highly recommended by the Canucks' professional scouts and the team even attempted to acquire him at the trade deadline last year. Vigneault called Weise an upgrade over Oreskovich because he brought the same elements, but is a little busier on the ice.

It should be an interesting night on Thursday night as this fourth line debuts and we can expect some fireworks.

Arron Asham is expected to play on the fourth line and is a known scrapper. Craig Adams has dropped the gloves on occasion as well. 

The Penguins also have big Deryk Engelland on defence, who is no stranger to the fisticuffs.