Picking Up The Pieces (Part II: The Forwards)

I had to take about about a week off from hockey (amazing, it's only been that long since Vancouver coughed up that last game). I needed to put the game out of my mind for a bit and yet, still, it keeps reeling me back in. I'm curious what Gillis is going to do, especially if he is watching these final four teams (which I have not save for the end of game one in the Chicago/Detroit series).

Anyone else get the feeling that if Vancouver had outlasted Chicago, Detroit would have killed them? Sure feels that way.

Nevertheless, let's boldly continue on picking up the pieces of the team of destiny (snicker). Last time we looked at the five big questions facing Gillis right off the bat (Ohlund, D. Sedin, H. Sedin, Luongo and Sundin).

Now let's consider the rest of the Canucks nation, starting with the forwards. Who stays, who goes, who was awesome and who flat out sucked.

 

Starting from the first line on down:


Alexandre Burrows

#14 / Left Wing / Vancouver Canucks

6-1

190

Apr 11, 1981



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Alexandre Burrows 82 28 23 51 23 150 0 4 3 1 175 16.0

Status: Signed through 2013, UFA afterwards

You can't say much more about Mr. Everything's year. By earning the right to play with the Sedins, Burrows added 20 points to his previous career high of 31, finishing with 51 points (fifth highest on the team). He had no points on the power play but lead the team with four shorties. His even strength shooting percentage jumped from 6.7% to 15.2% and he tacked on the third highest shots on the team (175) and was the second in takeaways (63) too. Pretty amazing what happens when you take one of the hardest workers on the team and pretend he's a Swedish twin, huh?

Gillis rewarded Burrows (and the team really) with an extension of four years at two million a pop. A more cap-friendly contract you'd be hard pressed to find unless, that is, Burrows crashes back to Earth next year.

And therein lies the big question. If the Sedins go, Burrows will almost certainly see his production take a hit. But for now he remains a crucial part of the next year's team.

 


Ryan Kesler

#17 / Center / Vancouver Canucks

6-2

205

Aug 31, 1984



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Ryan Kesler 82 26 33 59 8 61 10 2 2 0 179 14.5

Status: Signed through 2010, RFA afterwards

From one rock star to another. KesLORD had his coming out party this year too; the Selke nominee finished with a career-high 59 points, which included career highs in goals, assists, plus/minus, PPG, PPA and tied his career high in shorties. After six seasons (picked 23rd in 2003...and son of a bitch we have the 23rd pick this year), the organization's patience with Kesler finally paid off.

As we're discussed before, we don't know how much of this can be attributed to Sundin's influence on Kes as part of the RPM line. We'll find out next season as he moves into his contract year. Considering all the flak he got about taking less money to stick around, it's easy to see (re: hope) KesLORD signing a deal that keeps him around Vancouver for a long time.

 


Pavol Demitra

#38 / Center / Vancouver Canucks

6-0

200

Nov 29, 1974



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Pavol Demitra 69 20 33 53 6 20 4 0 1 0 143 14.0

Status: Signed through 2010, UFA afterwards

Did anyone else laugh to themselves when some Hawks fans were psyched that Demitra went down? I had no idea Demo was a Hawk killer. After one year of being a Canuck I'm more apt to say the poor guy kills himself and little else.

Perhaps I'm not being fair. Demo did finish fourth on the team with 53 points but that represents his worst year since the 1997-98 campaign. He played in just 69 games, similar average to his two years in Minnesota. His shooting percentage remains curiously high at 14%, his second best total in five years.

And, though he wasn't supposed to replace Naslund, in a side by side comparison, Demo had more assists, more points, more multi-point games and a better points per game pace (Nazzy, for what it's worth, played in all 82 games, had more goals, PP goals, hits and takeaways). So yeah, cue the "strength of his linemates" argument right about here.

There's no reason to suspect Demitra's numbers won't take another hit next year. He'll be 35, recouping from offseason shoulder surgery and won't be skating alongside Sundin to draw the attention of the defensemen away again. He's still valuable at times, but his lack of durability will continue to be vexing, especially if the Canucks continue to play an up-tempo type of game.

See more on Demo in Zanstorm's piece.

 


Kyle Wellwood

#42 / Center / Vancouver Canucks

5-10

180

May 16, 1983



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Kyle Wellwood 74 18 9 27 2 4 10 0 3 0 94 19.1

Status: RFA

Ah Pudge. The man some of us liked, then hated, then liked, we went mildly indifferent and finally back to happy again. So much drama for a waiver wire pirate.

His 27 points this year are a bit of a far cry from his fantastic sophomore outing with the Leafs back in 2005-06 but, then again, he did fall to the third line (after being waived again in early October). On the plus side his 18 goals this year (10 of which were PP goals, tying him for the team lead) were both career highs. So too were three game winners. His shooting percentage of 19.1% was another career best.

Pudge did embrace his checking role (cue laughter) and didn't turn out too bad in the process. His game one face against the Hawks showed the guy, contrary to popular belief, can actually be a hockey player.

Now, all of that said, do you want him back? Did he earn a raise on his $1,000,000 and, if so, how much? Personally I'm torn. He deserves a modest raise but I'd like to see him work more on his conditioning if he's going to be a more crucial piece of this team's strategy and not like he was this past season ("well, shit, we have him so stick him somewhere").

 


Taylor Pyatt

#9 / Left Wing / Vancouver Canucks

6-4

230

Aug 19, 1981



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Taylor Pyatt 69 10 9 19 0 43 0 0 1 0 99 10.1

Status: UFA


After posting two straight 37 point seasons, Pyatt dipped badly this year, playing in just 60 games (the shortest of his Vancouver days) and only notched 19 points, his third worst total in an right year NHL career. In truth, his season is quite similar to his final Buffalo year where he played in only 41 games and notched 12 points due to a wrist injury.

Pyatt deserves a mountain of credit for returning in the playoffs under the circumstances that he did. That said, I'm not confident at all he'll be returning next season. Don't get me wrong; if he returns I'm sure he'll be as plug and play as he's always been and damn helpful on the PK. But I think the Bernier signing may seal the deal in terms of big guys who are still projects. Second I'm curious if Gillis could use $1.5 million (Pyatt's current salary) for other needs when it comes to filling slots on the first and second lines and replace Pyatt with someone from Manitoba.

 


Steve Bernier

#18 / Right Wing / Vancouver Canucks

6-2

225

Mar 31, 1985



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Steve Bernier 81 15 17 32 4 27 2 0 4 0 137 10.9

Status: Signed through 2010, RFA afterwards

Well obviously Gillis sees something in him. As we said when he resigned, he's had a career year at the same time as he struggled mightily. The organization believes in him and he'll spend a lot of time this summer (while the rest of us are at happy hour) on his conditioning and stick handling. Bank on it, he'll be better next year and we should get a bit more of this.

And may I suggest, if Pudge sticks around, he is pushed into the same camp?

 


Mason Raymond

#21 / Left Wing / Vancouver Canucks

6-0

182

Sep 17, 1985



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Mason Raymond 72 11 12 23 2 24 4 0 0 0 145 7.6

Status: Signed through 2010, RFA afterwards

If I had to write about Raymond a few months ago, I would have gleefully torn the poor guy a new one. He sucked. No one can fault him on speed, but everything else seemed to be slipping away from him: no goals for two and half months, started to lose the faith of Vigneault and found himself in the press box, etc.

But watching him in the playoffs was an entirely different story. His work on the PK was extraordinary and, while he only had three points in the post season, it totally recharged my faith in him. Keep in mind he's only 23, just finished his second season (one in which he played in the Young All Stars Game) and has plenty of room to grew if the team surrounds him with the right linemates. Remember Demitra likened him in the beginning of the year to Gaborik so take that for what it's worth. Finally he can help ease the transition for any AHL'ers next year (I'm feeling Grabner or Jaffray here).

I expect big things out of him come October. Don't let me down buddy (does he have a nickname yet?)

 


Ryan Johnson

#10 / Center / Vancouver Canucks

6-1

202

Jun 14, 1976



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Ryan Johnson 62 2 7 9 1 12 0 0 1 0 22 9.1

Status: Signed through 2010, UFA afterwards

It's comical to have guys like Demitra and Salo on the same team as Johnson. Nothing like living in the extreme ends of the spectrum.

I'm not sure if I've ever seen a more unsung hero on a Vancouver team. His production is a joke (he had 18 points last season and 11 the year before that) but that's not why he's here. He's here to block shots and win key faceoffs on the PK. To that end, he finished fourth best on the team in blocked shots at 84, but he also spent almost 20 games out with a broken finger from, yes, blocking shots. He was tied with Ohlund for the team lead with 19 blocked shots in the post season. His faceoff percentage in the post season was 58.6%, good enough for third on the team, even ahead of Sundin.

For a team that spent far too much time with a man down this year, Johnson was often saving them all by sacrificing his body. You literally can't ask for much more. So rest up Balls. Perhaps see if the NHLPA medical plan covers adamantium. And if so inform Salo and Demo.

 


Darcy Hordichuk

#24 / Left Wing / Vancouver Canucks

6-1

215

Aug 10, 1980



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Darcy Hordichuk 73 4 1 5 1 109 0 0 0 0 26 15.4

Status: Signed through 2011, UFA afterwards

Well Blackout did his job. Tied for 12th in the league in fighting majors (12) and third on the team in PIMs (109) Darcy was the effective muscle the team really hasn't had since they pitched Brashear away for Jan Hlavac back in '01. Sigh.

He made his presence felt in the playoffs, both in the box (14 PIMs in 10 games) and on the scoreboard with his first career playoff goal in game four against the Hawks. He was also named the third star of that game.

What more can you say? He's the brawn. Just stay out of the box next season. Unless it's extremely necessary. Then, by all means, blackout with extreme prejudice.

 


Jannik Hansen

#36 / Right Wing / Vancouver Canucks

6-1

201

Mar 15, 1986



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Jannik Hansen 55 6 15 21 5 37 0 0 1 0 64 9.4

Status: RFA

Hansen still represents the best memory I have of Jan Bulis. He went from five games and no points last season to 55 games and 21 points this season. Not too shabby. He also showed himself, right out of the gate, to be a good team player. More than once.

In his first full season he also suffered a broken finger that knocked him out for 14 games and hurt the PK a bit where Hansen thrived. Hansen also was a victim of the numbers game a few times with Vigneault opting to sit him in favor of other players filling in on the third and fourth lines. To that end, he only saw two playoff games this year, both in the first round.

I would love to see Hansen back next year and be part of the continued youth movement, but I question what value Vigneault sees in him. Also his salary of $500,000 seems like an easy target for a fellow GM out there to stick it to Gillis or if they see more in Hansen then Vancouver does. We'll see, but I'd love to see the Dane back in another supporting role.

 


Rick Rypien

#37 / Center / Vancouver Canucks

5-11

170

May 16, 1984



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Rick Rypien 12 3 0 3 -3 19 0 1 0 0 16 18.8

Status: UFA (Group IV)

For love of sweet christ sign this guy before someone like the Flyers do. I say that not just because of Rypien's noted spunk when he gets his adrenaline flowing, but because I don't think we've seen all of what Ryp can do yet.

Anyone remember the first game against the Flames? How about after Ryp returned after another season of missing 70 games due to injuries and an extended absence for personal reasons? Or how about his spinorama pass to Hordichuk in game four against the Hawks? The kid has some great hockey sense and a good set of hands.

I've said before I see a lot of Burrows in Rypien if he could just stay healthy. He's more than a fighter; now he needs some good medical luck and the TOI to prove it. Let's see what he can do if he starts out on the third or fourth line again. I hope Gillis sees it too.

 

*******************

Next up we'll examine the Canucks defense.

But for now who do you all want to see here next year? And don't tell me the Niedermayer's because I am liable to run amok and begin punching children.

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