A Quick Look At The Canucks' 3rd Line

I have no idea what the Canucks are going to do with their lineup when Pavol Demitra and (or if) Michael Grabner return. There are several options. As of right now, I am liking the play of the top 2 lines. Line 2 is taking the heat off the Sedin-Burrows line. I think it's fair to say that Demitra (who may play by January 11) is going to find himself on line 2 at some point after he returns if not right away. This would most likely mean that Mikael Samuelsson will move down to line 3. I can't see them putting Mason Raymond there as he has no reputation of being a shut-down guy, plus he is thriving in his top 6 minutes. I guess you never know until it happens.

All things considered, I find it even harder to predict what they will do with Grabner. Sure, speed kills, but there is not a hell of a lot of grit in either Demitra or Grabner. They are more finesse players than anything else. Time will soon tell what management will do with both players, as their return draws near.

Having said all that...let's take a quick look at what Vancouver's line 3 has done so far..

Kyle Wellwood.

-4 goals and 11 points in 35 games played this season.

-His points per game average is .314 this season, and was .365 last year.

-He is averaging almost the exact same average ice time as last year. Remember though, in his first 21 games as a Canuck last season he scored 11 goals and 3 assists. In the final 40 games of last season he scored a piddly 5 goals and 9 points.

-The tools for Woody to produce more are there. He has beauty hands but is not completely utilizing his abilities. We've known this time and time again. What is saving Wellwood right now, in my opinion, are several factors: a) he looks like a guy that could break out (a bit more) because of his crafty plays but yet has anything to show for it. b) I can't even count how many times he has backchecked and made smart plays in his own zone not only to take the puck away from opposing players, but also make the right plays to get the puck out of his own zone. c) He takes a licking and keeps on ticking. d) Admirable for a small guy. He is also a better center than any other bottom 6 centers.

-Wellwood is a +8 this season.

Steve Bernier

-10 goals and 18 points in 40 games this season.

-His points per game average this season is .450. Last season he averaged .395 PPG. It's awfully tough to imagine that he is producing more this season than last. How many times have you cursed him for either missing the net or not having his stick on the ice to receive a pass in front of the net? I may need to re-adjust my opinion of him a bit because he is improving statistically.

-Bernier is playing an average of a minute per game more than he did last season. That helps. He is on pace to have a career year in goals and points. Oh yeah, it's true. However, he needs to break out of a slump that he's currently in. No points in his last 5 games. How about 3 goals and 1 assist in his last 15 games? That will bring you back down to earth in a hurry.

-I like Bernier's grit. He is a fast skater and he whacks guys almost any chance he gets. Just gotta work on those hands, Stevie-boy. I'll be honest with you all...I don't see him ever scoring more than 25 goals in a season unless he plays in the top 6 for that duration.

-Bernier's +/- is at an even zero this season.

Tanner Glass

-4 goals and 9 points in 38 games this season.

-Glass is a great story. He has impressed since the start of the season with his tenacity and physical play. The most games he has ever played in an NHL season is 41 with the Panthers 2 years ago. He is 3 games away from eclipsing that. How in the blue hell did he only average 4:25 of ice time with the Panthers in 2007-08? Gotta be a typo. He averages about 10:23 with the Canucks and plays with heart and soul every shift.

-Glass is a +8 this season.

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Conclusion? That is a tough one. I don't see the Canucks trying to rid themselves of Steve Bernier, as they have invested so much in him, including re-signing him early. I sense that they are willing to be patient. Wellwood is a toss-up, in my opinion, but I lean more towards trade/waiver bait down the road if he doesn't produce more. Glass should remain on the team even if he gets bumped down to the 4th line with Demitra's return and Darcy Hordichuk gets benched or traded. I think Glass has earned that.

Regardless of my aforementioned opinions, I want the Canucks' 3rd line to be better. They have to score more! Putting Samuelsson there when Demitra returns is a start, but as a winger he'll have to produce when placed on that line, assuming demoting Raymond to line 3 is not an option. Sammy is averaging about a minute more per game in Vancouver than he has ever seen in his career. That plays a part in his statistical resurgence. Take away from that ice time and what will he do? Well, less obviously.

As far as I'm concerned, Michael Grabner may not get called up (or for very long), unless Alain Vigneault either puts Demitra on line 3 or demotes Raymond there. Don't see it happening. It may be time for us to bid adieu to Grabner until next season, barring some unforeseen injury.

It all depends on what you think the role of line 3 / line combos should be.

At this point I'd say:

Sedin-Sedin-Burrows

Demitra-Kesler-Raymond

Bernier-Wellwood-Samuelsson

Glass-Johnson-Rypien

Agree? Voice your opinions in the comments section.

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