Is it just me or is Mike Gillis the best general manager the Vancouver Canucks ever had? I realize the final judgment will be if he is able to bring a Stanley Cup to Vancouver, but you can never say he didn’t try!
The plan has always been to build a second line to balance the one-line attack that the Canucks have had ever since Gillis arrived. Around the NHL it’s a well known fact that if the Canucks are down to the Sedin line, once you shut them down, your chances are enhanced to beat them in any series.
Oh sure, there has been more balanced scoring from the second and third lines in the last couple of seasons, but when Ryan Kesler goes down, and that seems like most playoffs, the Canucks are doomed.
Now you throw in the lack of depth at the centre and forward positions on those two lines, and the Quest for the Cup continues. I now repeat this for the fourth year in a row—the window of opportunity for this core group is slowly closing, as most athletes peak in their late 20s.
Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Kevin Bieksa, Manny Malhotra, Alex Burrows, Roberto Luongo and Sami Salo are now all past the 30 year mark, with Salo at 37 being the oldest and Luongo at 32 next.
With the trading of Mikael Samuelsson (35) and Marco Sturm (33) (I picked his departure weeks ago) for basically David Booth (soon to be 27 in Nov), the Canucks just got a whole lot younger again.
Gillis has always had a master plan of trying to build a second line around Ryan Kesler, and maybe, just maybe, he’s added a scoring winger who has the wheels, size (6’0", 212 lbs.) and that physical element, to play alongside of him.
It’s not as if Booth and Kesler are complete strangers either, as they played against each other in the CCHA in 2002/03 when Kesler was with Ohio, and Booth at Michigan State.
There was nothing wrong with Mason Raymond playing on the Kesler line, except come playoff time he just wasn’t effective in the close, physical, take-no-prisoners style of play. Anyway, with Raymond’s spinal injury, who knows when he will return, although he did start skating last week. And what if he is one hit in the back away from not playing again?
With Chris Higgins on the other wing, you have the makings of a second line that can contribute 60-plus goals a season. Now that doesn’t quite match the 90-plus that the Sedin line has been putting up, but it sure helps keep the opposition honest.
I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up Higgins again. He has been one of the most consistent forwards so far this season. Never mind that he’s third in team scoring with 3G, 2A, or that he did lead the top nine forwards in hits with nine, that is until David Booth arrived, who has 12. Higgins has been a money-in-the-bank performer.
Up and down his wing, driving to the net, finishing his checks, making smart reads and plays and bringing energy on a nightly basis, Higgins has been a pleasant surprise to a lackadaisical team, in general. With Kesler and Booth as his line-mates, I don’t see why he can’t reach 20 or more goals this season, along with career highs in the plus/minus, hits and takeaways (currently leads Canucks with 10).
In conclusion, Mike Gillis continues to impress me with his understanding of the Canucks’ needs, his ability to make it happen, always thinking outside the box and knowing when to jettison the parts that aren’t working.
Ice Chips: This current fourth line of Max Lapierre, Dale Weise and Aaron Volpatti is, in my opinion, the best group since the year Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows and Matt Cooke, or was it the late Rick Rypien, played together on the fourth line.
The fourth line with its two goals is still outscoring the Malhotra line which has only one, with Jannik Hansen picking that up with his first yesterday afternoon against the Wild.
Okay, so I was a few games off about the departure of Marco Sturm, but you could see this coming since the last game of the preseason.
Don’t look now but Sami Salo is tied for second in goals with three and leads the team in plus/minus with a plus-5, is tied with the Sedins with two power play goals and is second on the team with 26 SOG, only two behind Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows.
Salo is by far the best D-man this season, so I’m puzzled that coach removed Alex Edler as his partner. Edler has 0G, 5A and is still a plus-1, although he must lead the team in missed shots on goal.
In finishing with the defense, Ballard minus-7, Bieksa minus-5 and Dan Hamhuis minus-1 are still works-in-progress to return to last season’s plus numbers.
Canucks new addition David Booth, leads all forwards with a minus-6, but I’d have to give him a mulligan coming from the Florida Panthers. In about two to three weeks I would expect that to change to a plus number.
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