With uncertainty looming around the Canucks’ starting lineup, their top line should be a safe bet, right? Maybe, but Travis Green should be flexible when putting his top line together.
This new season is going to be strange in more ways than one. It will be the first Vancouver Canucks season without the Sedins since they were drafted. Granted, the team was transitioning away from the twins as they were not deployed in first line minutes. The most common deployment we saw for the top line by the end of the season was Bo Horvat flanked by Sven Baertschi and Brock Boeser.
It’s a safe assumption that the 2018-19 season will begin with a similar top line, barring any crazy surprises at training camp. That had me thinking. Why assume that line is untouchable? I feel the top six will be very fluid this season with the addition of Elias Pettersson. The young Canuck may likely start the season with Brandon Sutter, but hopefully that doesn’t last for too many games.
I am not shy about saying that Sven Baertschi is not a first line forward. It’s nothing new from me. That left wing spot should be open for a variety of options, including Nikolay Goldobin and Brendan Leipsic. Additionally, Horvat and Boeser don’t have to be glued at the hip all season.
When Pettersson plays on the wing, I feel he plays much better on the right wing over the left. I know it sounds counter-intuitive due to handedness, but he does well in that position. Although, Pettersson can play all three forward positions, so Travis Green may try Pettersson with Horvat and Boeser at least once. I think that will be on the power play and not even strength, but the option is there.
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What we could see on the top line
Right now, my favourite option for the top line is Goldobin-Horvat-Boeser. This does not overload the line by adding Pettersson. So, if this line is shut down, theoretically there is a second option. I’m not a fan of having Sutter centre Pettersson, but I just can’t see Green trusting Sam Gagner with a rookie. That’s too much defensive risk and he’s far too conservative to deploy that.
I think Baertschi would do well with Pettersson. And if the young Swede can earn his coach’s trust to play centre, I wouldn’t mind seeing Loui Eriksson on his right side. Maybe Leipsic could try switching wings.
Over the course of the season, I would like to see Pettersson with Horvat and Goldobin. That could be a very interesting line allowing Brock Boeser to balance out a second line. Pettersson and Boeser are not exact copies, but I think they can fill similar roles.
Basically, I’m trying to come up with options that keep our checking centres in defensive roles, where they belong. It is unavoidable, especially when injuries strike. This is where I hope Adam Gaudette gets a call up. If the Canucks are in a losing streak, Green will have no choice but to try something different. It couldn’t get any worse in that scenario.
Well, what do you think about those options? What do you want to see from the Canucks top line? Maybe you feel different and it is set in stone. If you are in that camp, I would remind you that keeping the same top line from last year led to a 26th place finish. Personally, I would like to see something different during the season.
This is a prime opportunity for Travis Green to tinker with combinations on his roster. His work is cut out for him, but the best coaches separate themselves from the pack by extracting the most out of their lineup. I don’t believe he did that last year. Maybe this is the season he finds an optimal combination. Or at the very least, something fun to watch for more than 17 minutes a night.