The Vancouver Canucks’ playoff chances are fading away — if only the coach could do something about that.
The Vancouver Canucks were plagued by injuries for most of this season. But yet, coach Willie Desjardins found some line combinations that work — including surprises like Jannik Hansen on the first line. Unfortunately, it does not seem like he wants to change them ever again.
Coaching is a difficult job. Not only do coaches have to get their philosophy across to their players and teach them how to play, but they also have to think about ways to beat their opposition day after day. There are coaches like the Colorado Avalanche’s Patrick Roy, who changes his team’s lines 160 times in an 82-game season and then complains that his team never found chemistry, and then there are guys like Willie D — who just never change anything that has once worked.
Case in point, the Canucks’ current losing streak. Vancouver has now lost four straight games, the last three with a combined score of 3-8. Surprisingly, the team’s rather terrible defence is not the biggest problem. The Canucks lost 2-1 against the Columbus Blue Jackets (SO) and the Nashville Predators. Two goals against are totally okay, as long as you score one more yourself. Well, Vancouver did not.
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Next example, last night’s 4-1 loss against the Calgary Flames. After two periods, the Canucks had outshot the Flames 23-16 but were trailing 1-0. So, while they managed to get pucks at the net, they did not manage to put the puck in the net. Now, what do you do when you are the coach?
That’s right, maybe you should change up your lines. Don’t get me wrong, Hansen and the Sedins have been great together. Sven Baertschi, Bo Horvat and Radim Vrbata have found some great chemistry and Jake Virtanen was an outstanding addition to the fourth line after the World Juniors. But how can breaking those combos up hurt the team when it is already failing to score? You know, a team can’t score less than not at all!
I, for one, really would have liked to see Virtanen with Baertschi and Horvat for an extended period of time. Maybe throw Vrbata in with the Sedins — which doesn’t always work but has worked well before. Or move Brandon Sutter back up to the first-line right wing. Hell, even putting Alex Burrows back with the twins could have helped! There are endless possibilities.
Never change a winning team, right? And never change line combinations that work. But Willie Desjardins needs to realize: he is allowed to — and he really should — change things up when they stop working. Even when they have worked well for a really long time. It could work wonders.
So, should the Canucks have a totally new lineup next game against the Colorado Avalanche (Tuesday, February 9th)? Desjardins should, at least, consider it. And even if he decides to leave everything the way it is, hoping it works out next time, he should keep in mind that he is allowed to change things up as the game progresses as well.
What could different combinations look like? Perhaps like this:
Sedin – Sedin – Vrbata
Baertschi – Horvat – Virtanen
Etem – Sutter – Hansen
Burrows – McCann/Vey – Dorsett
A first line that can handle the puck. A young second line that can create offence while being defensively sound. A third line that can play a high-energy game. And a fourth line that is, well, made up of the leftovers.
As said, nothing needs to be changed going into next game, but something needs to happen if the Canucks go scoreless for another period or two.
What do you think, should Willie D keep rolling the same lines every game or should he change things up a bit? Let us know in the comments!