Preseason will only give you so much to go on, Bo Horvat won’t be doing anything that will surprise you before opening night. He might not even do anything surprising this season. Brandon Sutter on the other hand still hasn’t shown anyone that A) he belongs here and B) he’ll last the season. You know what else didn’t last? NBC’s hit comedy The Office. The catchy tag line that hooked you into reading this was spawned from The Office and like awkward addition to the show, Andy Bernard, Brandon Sutter may already have been here too long and he’s taking up a valuable roster spot from someone that actually SHOULD be a Vancouver Canuck.
Do I have a point here?
Is Brandon Sutter committing identity theft? He sure as heck thinks he’s a second line centre and even with his injuries, he doesn’t strike me as a guy worth those minutes or $5M actual dollars. Jim Benning must see something in Sutter but thankfully Bo Horvat was forced into that role last year with the lack of depth up the middle and saved his bacon. Or did he? I mean, they didn’t even get the first pick and they were pretty bad.
After Bo’s impressive rookie campaign, he had everyone listening to what his next move would be and had he not been relied on so heavily in Sutter’s absence, Horvat may have continued to build up his resume the right way. 40 points is no slouch in year two but his progression level would definitely have netted him another 15 or so if he wasn’t targeted as much.
Thing is, it doesn’t always go the way you want it to go. Did anyone expect Ben Hutton to not only make it out of camp but become an integral part of the Canucks back end inside of a month? I mean, if you aren’t the Canucks Army gurus? You roll with it.
Bo put up a 40 point season in his sophomore year and he did it with spare parts, well until the whole Sven Baertschi bromance came along. That will be the pairing going into this year one has to assume and after a stellar performance against the Oilers in preseason action, notching 20 of 23 face off victories, his game only looks to be rising steadily.
Will Brandon Sutter last a whole season? The Canucks need him to, Jake Virtanen needs him to, Jannik Hansen does too! As this team tries to make the jump back up to the playoffs, Sutter needs to not only stay healthy but show why his 2nd year 40 point season in 2009/10 wasn’t just a outlier in his 8 seasons thus far.
Manny Malhotra is back in the fold this year and I’m a big proponent of the face off. The reason Manny was so great as a Canuck and why that 2011 team was always the team ahead on the scoreboard was their face off wins. The 2010/11 Canucks had the 3rd best FOW% in the NHL going back to 2009 with 54.7% That’s impressive! Of course, that includes the 2012/2013 lockout year so really they place 2nd.
Furthermore, that 3rd place rank holds up for GF in the same time frame and 5th in GA. Winning a face off gives you possession, gives you the opportunity to score first and if you’re hemmed in your zone, keep the puck away from your own net.
Horvat and Sutter can utilize this amazing mind in Malhotra and elevate their own games to not just a scoring pivot but a possession player that impacts every shift. This is only remotely possible if Willie Desjardins actually platoons his players appropriately. If we start seeing Derek Dorsett getting valuable minutes again, I think we all take a step back.
But back to the centres of attention, maybe having Bo Horvat force fed grown up minutes and situations wasn’t such a bad thing. We’ve all seen his rapid progression, his leadership and his will to win. The Hockey Writers put up an interesting piece on Bo regarding him getting the other “A” now that Dan Hamhuis is gone.
Does Bo get that kind of pub if Sutter sticks around last year and plays a full season? We’ll never really know but it makes you think. So like Jim Halpert, Dwight Schrute and the imitation game; what type of Bo is best?
The bearish kind.
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cover photo – faceoff.com