Vancouver Canucks: Brandon Sutter looks to bounce back

WINNIPEG, MB - MARCH 26: Brandon Sutter
WINNIPEG, MB - MARCH 26: Brandon Sutter /

Here at The Canuck Way, we’ll take an in-depth look at all the Vancouver Canucks players as we near the 2017-18 season. It’s time to take a look at Brandon Sutter, who looks to rebound after an inconsistent 2016-17.

Vancouver Canucks forward Brandon Sutter has had quite the up-and-down tenure since being acquired via the Pittsburgh Penguins two summers ago, but there is optimism for a strong showing in 2017-18.

Sutter — who was swapped (along with a third-round pick), for centre Nick Bonino, defenceman Adam Clendending and a second-round selection — was immediately signed to a five-year extension worth $21.875 million after the trade.

Sutter didn’t see much time in 2015-16. He played in just 20 games, as a string of injuries derailed his first season in Vancouver. But he stayed healthy in 2016-17 and finished with 17 goals and 34 points. But even though he nearly potted 20 goals, Sutter’s season could be deemed a disappointment.

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Known as a decent shutdown centre, Sutter posted a woeful minus-20 and a porous 48.7 Corsi For percentage. He also finished with just two goals in his final 24 games, missing out on what would have been his third 20-goal season.

Nonetheless, Sutter was one of the few Canucks player who came within reach of a 20-goal season.

Considering he was used all over the lineup (be it a Sedin linemate or a third-line centre), Sutter fared decently well.

It’s just that we all know he’s capable of more, so a bounce-back season must be on his mind in 2017-18.

Resettling Sutter

Thanks to his versatility, Sutter is capable of playing as a top-six forward or even as a third-line centre. New head coach Travis Green has plenty of options as to how he wants to craft his lines, so it’s anyone’s guess just where he plays.

When I projected what the Canucks lineup should look like on opening night, I put Sutter on the second line with Loui Eriksson and Markus Granlund. The former is also known for his strong two-way game, meaning these three could form a strong shutdown line. Granlund’s hard-nosed efforts and his nice scoring touch make him a good fit with the two veteran forwards.

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Green will obviously want to give his young kids plenty of ice time, but the Sedins, Eriksson and Sutter won’t be left out. They’ll all have to play valuable top-six minutes, and Sutter has proven his ability to fit in there.

As long as Sutter stays healthy, gets his fair share of minutes and gels with his linemates, he should reform as the strong defensive presence — and possibly a 20-goal man. That’s easier said than done, though.

Projecting the stats

One thing that may hold off Sutter from improving his 2016-17 totals will be his ice time. The Canucks have so many forwards capable of producing — Bo Horvat, the Sedins, Eriksson, Sutter, Granlund, Sven Baertschi, Brock Boeser and Sam Gagner.

All of those players have the potential to score 20 goals and 40-plus points next season. But there’s only so much ice time in the world. With that taken into account, here are my projected stats for Sutter in 2017-18:

Goals: 16

Assists: 23

Points: 39

PIM: 30

+/-: -7

Corsi For %: 50.0

So Sutter won’t quite improve upon his goal totals, but he will finish with five more points than he did all of last season. Sutter will clean up his defensive play, add a few more points but won’t quite score 20 goals.

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But Green will find the right way to use Sutter. He’ll make him a shutdown centre and a quality penalty killer. The stat sheets won’t show it, but Sutter will grow into a better team player in 2017-18.

*Stats courtesy of Hockey Reference and*