How’s the shap today?
We’re days away from the start of the NHL & our Vancouver Canucks regular season and I can already smell the throw up on the sky train, that strange looking guy who has one eye on you and one on the door, the many other commuters warm breath on my neck; and most importantly the anticipation to get this damn thing going.
While it’s been fun to talk core economic issues and pensions for the past four months (not really, it’s been a nightmare) the excitement for the season to start is at an all time high.
While we wait for camps to officially open on Sunday and for Roberto Luongo to be traded, why not have a look at who I predict to start the season where. These aren’t ground breaking predictions, in fact Alain Vigneault so much as said he would go with this set when asked yesterday.
The Top Line
The top line will look the same as it has for the past few years. It will be the twins with Burrows on the wing. Why mess with success? Burrows and the twins have been one of the best top lines in the NHL.
I don’t think this season will be any different, though one has to wonder if the Sedin’s production continue to decline, or if the drop in points was simply because they had played all the way into June the previous season.
The Second Line
Vancouver’s second line is the line I’m concerned about the most right now, inconsistent play from both wingers has me wondering if they can bounce back and provide much needed secondary scoring should the top line falter a little.
Mason Raymond is hoping for a bounce back year after a slow return from a back injury sustained during the 2011 Stanley Cup final. I don’t fault Raymond’s poor or inconsistent play on him because last year was a unique situation. I think given the opportunity he’ll do his best to show he’s able to still play in the top six.
David Booth, when healthy was on pace to score 23 goals last season, but due to a knee injury he missed 26 games. Look to him to try to bounce back as well. The big question for the second line is at center.
Ryan Kesler is still rehabbing from two off-season surgeries, it leaves a big hole down the middle to start the season.
There’s been talk of Andrew Ebbett and Jordan Schroeder battling it out for the second line center job, however, there is also the possibility that the Canucks will try to acquire a center in a trade for Roberto Luongo.
The second line will probably look like this on opening night. Booth and Raymond will be on the wings flanking either Ebbett or Schroeder.
I think Ebbett’s NHL experience gives him the edge on landing the job, however if the Canucks can bring back a quality center in a trade, both Schroeder and Ebbett could find themselves back with the Wolves.
The Third Line
I think Vancouver’s third line has a lot of potential to put up some extra points this year while being a shut down unit. Chris Higgins is probably right up there on the team in terms of versatility.
Last season he was able to go between the 2nd and 3rd lines with relative ease. Though he missed 11 games with various illnesses and injuries he was still able to score 18 goals. Jannik Hansen also found a bit of a scoring touch, registering 16 goals in 82 games.
Should there be consistency issues I wouldn’t be surprised if either Higgins or Hansen moved up in the lineup. However, at the start of the season, they’ll be playing with Maxim Lapierre in between them.
I would love to see Zack Kassian in a top six role this season, however, in order for him to make it into the top six he’ll have to have a consistent training camp and show he can play those minutes.
Until then, he’ll start the season the fourth line. He’ll need to embrace the roll he’s given and work his way up, making the coaches choose. Playing with Kassian on the fourth line will be Manny Malhotra and Dale Weise.
Malhotra, unable to have any kind of real off season training after the 2011 playoff run, struggled much of last season, even seeing himself taking a seat in the press box as a healthy scratch.
This year, with an extended amount of time off and a full off season of training, Malhotra is eager to bounce back and be the dominant defensive specialist he was brought in to be.
Dale Weise was the first Canuck to head overseas during the lockout, I think he obviously starts the season on the fourth line and unless he plays himself off it, likely into the press box, that’s where he will stay all season.