New Vancouver Canucks head coach Travis Green will have a tough task of creating a lineup full of aging veterans, young roster players and rookies. So what should the lines be in 2017-18?
The Vancouver Canucks have been among the NHL’s worst teams the last couple of seasons due in large part to their inability to score. Former head coach Willie Desjardins wasn’t able to find the right line combinations — a reason why he was fired just months ago.
Desjardins confused many with his roster decisions. Nobody understood why the likes of Michael Chaput and Jayson Megna got to skate with the Sedin twins. Why Bo Horvat didn’t get a full-time promotion to the first line also led to plenty of questioning upon Desjardins’ line choices.
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Fortunately for new head coach Travis Green, there will be no shortage of depth at forward and on defence. The Canucks have plenty of guys capable of skating in the top-six. The only challenge for Green is to find the right fits to form proper chemistry.
Before we get into what the depth chart will look like, it’s important for Green to remember a few rules.
Demote the Sedins
It was by far the worst season for each twin since the 2004-05 lockout. Those numbers are barely suitable for second liners in today’s NHL, and certainly not acceptable for guys playing first-line minutes.
The reality is that the Sedins are on the downsides of their careers. They’ll both be 37 years of age this fall — and it’s extremely rare for NHL players to put up star-like seasons when they’re nearing their 40s.
Desjardins seemed to believe all season that they were still capable of performing like stars. Perhaps he just kept them on the first line out of loyalty and respect. That’s fine, but you have to do what’s best for the team. Green has to be the first person to admit that the Sedins are better fit as second or third liners.
Give the kids their ice time
Horvat figures to open up the season as a first-line centre. If promising prospects Brock Boeser or Olli Juolevi somehow make the team, it’s important for Green to let the kids play. Don’t take vital ice time away from them in favor of the Sedins.
This is a rebuilding Canucks team, and letting the veterans take up most of the minutes doesn’t help this team transition into getting younger.
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Markus Granlund and Sven Baertschi have also shown their abilities to play on the top line. So we shouldn’t be seeing them on the third or fourth line. They should both be in the top six. Period, end of story.
If Green wants to make a lasting first impression in Vancouver, then he better do what’s best for the team and the fans: Play the kids that we want to watch. Allow us to view the future in the present time.
What the lines should look like
Without further ado, here is a look at what the Canucks lineup should look like to open up the 2017-18 season:
Sven Baertschi — Bo Horvat — Brock Boeser
Markus Granlund — Brandon Sutter —Loui Eriksson
Daniel Sedin — Henrik Sedin — Sam Gagner
Nikolay Goldobin — Alexander Burmistrov — Jake Virtanen
Alexander Edler — Troy Stecher
Michael Del Zotto — Chris Tanev
Ben Hutton — Erik Gudbranson
Brandon Sutter is capable of scoring 20 goals if he gets the right ice time. With a solid two-way game, good shot and nice speed, Sutter has earned a chance on the second line. He and Loui Eriksson are the team’s two best defensive forwards. Grandlund’s a grinder, too. See if these guys can form a solid second line that can also score.
See if Horvat and Boeser can form a dynamic scoring duo. Also see if the skilled Sam Gagner can some how help the Sedins regain their old scoring touch. Oh, and play the kids like Jake Virtanen and Nikolay Goldobin.
Life’s about trying out new things, so it only makes sense for Travis Green to change up the lines significantly. If he is willing to let the young guys play more, then the Vancouver Canucks rebuild could transition nice and smoothly in 2018.