IWBITS: Canucks At Centre Of Attention

Staying healthy is a big key to any teams success and the Vancouver Canucks are no different. Last season, the Canucks lost Brandon Sutter for a large chunk of the 2015/16 campaign with a broken jaw (and not becauseit hit the floor from his team being astonishingly bad) as well as a sports hernia. Having your #2 pivot on the shelf definitely creates opportunity for a guy like Bo Horvat but it came at a cost.

Part two of the It’ll Be Interesting To See series focuses on the Canucks need for consistency at the centre position. Henrik Sedin will once again be the main man up front and will draw the lions share of matchups. A healthy Brandon Sutter will take pressure off of Henrik needing to be the answer every game.

When Sutter IS in the lineup he creates options for the Canucks as Bo Horvat can develop his game on the 3rd line. Having three solid options at centre makes life easier, any coach will tell you. Having them produce is an entirely different issue. Henrik Sedin, Bo Horvat and former Canuck Jared McCann combined for 36 goals last year and that…that just isn’t very good at all. The Canucks have been able to see better results when guys like Horvat and Sven Baertschi get less attention and this year Baertschi will most likely get the 2nd line duties with Sutter.

Line chemistry is a lot easier when you have a guy night in and night out that you recognize instead of going through the blender and seeing new faces all the time. Jake Virtanen will benefit from an improved Horvat and can bring some meat and potatoes to the 3rd line where it really needs to get going.

You have to believe the Canucks can still make a move before the season gets going or maybe they wait out training camp and see who impresses. Does Anton Rodin thrill and get a job? Its possible. Having him play with Horvat and Virtanen would be fun if they get going. Tuomo Ruutu has earned a PTO with Vancouver and a veteran presence might work out on either of those secondary lines.

What will be interesting to see is if the Canucks centres DO stay healthy and create chances and goals that were very much lacking a season ago. There is not Cup run with this year’s edition of the Vancouver Canucks but being able to roll four lines does increase their chances of success. I can see a hybrid approach with Horvat and Sutter interchanging on the 2nd/3rd lines but that pretty much comes down to results I think.

Sutter will be given every chance to own that 2nd line but if Horvat does what he did in his rookie year, Willie Desjardins may have an interesting problem on his hands; does that actually happen? Well this probably isn’t a team that we should expect miracles from just yet.

The wrench in all of this is if Henrik goes down with a back injury for any length of time; the Canucks just aren’t built to survive without him yet. Everyone waited in horror as he didn’t sit down for a whole game, even though it was close to Christmas, he wasn’t standing to get first crack at the presents under the tree, we all watched knowing full well something was up.

A lengthy Hank injury will most likely keep the Canucks in a 1st to 5th overall drafting position in 2017 so his health will be monitored every time he looks like he is ailing. I mean, Henrik’s an old guy in hockey terms but he’s only 36 and has kept his body in pretty amazing shape. Fluke injuries happen but he also doesn’t put himself in position to get hurt either.

I don’t want to see this team plunge again this year but there isn’t much dictating a different result. Perhaps some key goaltending and solid defense will aid the team’s chances if they do in fact get things going.

Being a centre in a Canucks uniform draws a lot of criticism but the ones that have succeeded here have seen their fair share and rose above it. The phone lines open full time in a few weeks and it will be interesting to see who they put in the cross hairs.

 

cover photo: vancouversun.com

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