Vancouver Canucks insider Rick Dhaliwal just shed some light on the developing Andrei Kuzmenko debacle.
On Donnie and Dhali, Dhaliwal and co-host Don Taylor were discussing the Canucks‘ lineup decisions over the weekend, when Kuzmenko’s name came up. The Russian sniper has been a healthy scratch as of late, and is struggling offensively with just three goals in 19 games this season.
Last year, Kuzmenko scored 39 goals, 35 assists, and 74 points in 81 games under the guise of former head coach Bruce Boudreau and current head coach Rick Tocchet.
Dhaliwal shared that the relationship between Tocchet and Kuzmenko has been “not great since Day 1”, which certainly lends itself to the latter’s struggles this season.
There is a way back for Kuzmenko, of course, as the Vancouver Canucks continued to slide through their most recent slate of games. The main concern with the 27-year-old was his poor play off the puck and defensively, as well as a perceived lack of effort.
Kuzmenko signed a two-year, $11 million contract in the summer, so the Canucks and Tocchet will have one more year to reach an amenable solution. Getting a 70-point, 30-goal scoring top-six winger for free was supposed to be one of the reasons the Canucks were on the rise. In 2023-24, the case has been anything but.
As it stands, Kuzmenko is still on pace to score 12 goals, 46 assists, and 58 points in 79 games. His plus/minus rating of plus-one is on track to be plus-four by season’s end, so it’s also not like Kuzmenko is killing the Canucks defensively. Anecdotally, the team’s most recent struggles have amplified his lack of defense, if anything.
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It remains to be seen if or when Kuzmenko will be reinstated into the Vancouver Canucks lineup, and what he or Tocchet will have to say about his absence. An 82-game season is a long one, and the Canucks should try to avoid making themselves intentionally short-handed at forward.