Even though the Canucks had a crowded group of forwards, Antoine Roussel was signed to a four-year contract. So what’s the best way for head coach Travis Green to use this expensive fourth-liner?
In what was supposed to be a year of simply playing all the kids, Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning caused a lot of head-scratching when he signed Antoine Roussel to a four-year contract worth $12 million.
The Canucks now have a depth chart with way too many forwards. They have at least 20 guys who are all deserving of being NHL regulars. There are no rumors or reports to suggest Benning is about to make a trade, so it’s anybody’s guess how all the skaters will get playing time.
But considering how much Benning paid Roussel, the Canucks can’t make him a frequent healthy scratch. Roussel has to be one of the regulars, so how does head coach Travis Green go about using the 28-year-old?
I recently put together a piece as to why I think Adam Gaudette needs to occupy the third line, that Virtanen and Brendan Leipsic would be ideal linemates. But a closer look at his numbers, and maybe Roussel would work nicely on the third line.
Here’s the thing. For a guy who’s only averaged 13:27 time on ice per game throughout his career, Roussel has actually brought solid offence. He scored double-digit goals every year from 2013-14 to 2016-17, getting 25-29 points in each. Those aren’t bad numbers for a bottom-six forward.
Roussel also displays good puck possession numbers, with a career 51.4 Corsi For percentage (it was 52.4 last season). Roussel also dished out 100-plus hits for the fourth time in his career a season ago, so he brings everything you need in a bottom-six guy.
There’s absolutely no way coach Green will put Roussel in the top-six, when there are a handful of forwards with more offensive upside. But Roussel could work on the third line perfectly. He seems to be a little too good for the fourth line, but not quite good enough to be in the top-six.
If Green doesn’t want all the kids to occupy the top three lines, then he can put Russel right their with the third unit. Roussel does just enough scoring, gets the hits and controls the puck. That’s the type of player teams want in their bottom-six.
So even though a third line of Gaudette-Leipsic-Virtanen looks more enticing, Green might agree with Rosenhek and put Roussel on the third line. Whether it’s the third or fourth, the bottom-six is probably the best place to put Roussel.