As a companion to this breakdown , lets take a look at our own valiant warriors girding themselves for bottom six battle. Most of you have watched them play all year, but its like Yin and Yang , you need one to have the other. (Hint ; Canucks are designated white, or Yang, in this scenario )
Some are rookies, some are not. All fill a role on the team. I think this bunch are going to be a bigger part of the series than our opponents would like. Lets see how they stack up.We will not focus on Chris Higgins, who seems to have found a home on the second line with Kesler and Samuelsson. Injuries, matchups, and adjustments always change things a little, but for this purpose, we'll keep those two where they are.
- Mason Raymond ; Left Wing. Raymond battled throughout injuries the first half, and seemed to find his mojo in the second half. He struggled on Kesler's line at times, and was demoted to the 3rd and 4th lines on occasion. One of the fastest guys on the team, and the league for that matter, he has shown a versatility not imagined before when Alain Vigneault made him his 3rd line centre in the last part of the season to try to compensate for the loss of Manny Malhotra to a season ending eye injury. He has used his speed and puck handling skills aptly there. You have to think he is going to return there as a centre once Raffi Torres returns to the wing from suspension in Game 3. Mason has 15 goals and 24 assists in 70 games, while being a +8 and taking 5 minors. He was an effective part of the #3 penalty kill as well.
- Cody Hodgson ; Centre. Until that Game 3, we are likely to see the #1 pick in the 2008 draft (10th overall) get his big chance. Some will point to his 17 goals, 13 assists, and -12 in 52 games with the Moose as underwhelming, but they should remember that you cannot teach talent. In his 8 games with the Canucks this season, he showed definite flashes of his hockey smarts. He had 1 goal and 1 assist in those 8 games. He perhaps showed AV that he could be responsible enough defensively in those games to earn the call up. Its a big chance, and one I expect this cerebral player to take advantage of. Even if it is just for the two games until Raffi returns. You can bet if he does anything to warrant it, the team will find a way to get him in the lineup again.
- Jannik Hansen ; Right Wing. Since being brought up in the '07 playoffs, where he impressed with his speed and tenacity, there has been much debate about the 287th player taken in the '04 draft. Eminently coachable and affectionately called Beaker by the fans ( and who knows, teammates do give him the stick about his high voice. Maybe they call him Beaker too ) he is the kind of player that never had to be asked to work hard. His resolve and want to get better has seen him play up and down the lineup as a versatile injury replacement. He found him home on the third line with Raffi and Manny before the injury, forming a very effective 3rd line. He will play with Hodgson and Raymond for at least Game 1 and 2. Unlike Hodgson, he has earned his place. Leads the Canucks in hits with 149, to go with his superlative penalty kill work, has 9 goals, 20 assists in 82 games, with a +13 and 32 PIM. One of my favorite players this year.
- Raffi Torres ; Left Wing. Without getting into the legality of the hit that has Mr. Torres currently serving a suspension that Mr. Campbell somehow thought was worth two regular season games AND two more valuable playoff games, Raffi might be missed for his abrasive, bowling ball style of hitting. He leads the team with 78 PIM, but a good chunk of that( 20 min ) was that one play on Jordan Eberle. Raffi can be a streaky scorer, but has been very good value for his 1 million dollar, one year deal. He has fit in well on this team, and is even evolving into another "voice" in the room to go with the many leaders this team has. While not able to play until the 3rd game, he has had definite playoff success, with 4 goals and 7 assists in 22 games in that '06 Oilers run. Finished with 14 goals and 15 assists in 80 games this season, along with a +4. I think he will be a factor in the playoffs.
- Maxim Lapierre ; Centre. Has been getting a mixed reaction in our voracious hockey media since being acquired at the deadline from Anaheim. Some is warranted, some not. Since Manny went down, he has filled in on the 3rd line as well as spending most of his time on the 4th line. The grit he is supposed to bring, and the playoff experience that made him one of the Canadiens unsung heroes on their unlikely deep run to the ECF, was vouched for by his one time junior coach and current Canuck bench boss. Had 3 goals and 1 assist in 19 games for the Habs on that run, to go along with 5 goals and 6 assists in 59 games split between Montreal and Anaheim. Though he has had only one goal with the Canucks in 19 games here ( where he is a -1 and has had 4 minors ), you get the feeling that there is an untapped spring of production there.
- Tanner Glass ; Left Wing. One of Mike Gillis's more underrated acquisitions since being acquired in August '09, his numbers are nothing special, but certainly not bad for a 4th liner, with 3 goals and 7 assists in 73 games this year, to go along with a -5 and 72 PIM ( 10 majors/ 11 minors ) But check out the Ginger Captain's take on Tanner to NHL.com ; "...because the past couple of years teams have gone from having the heavyweight guys that fight to realizing that you need guys that can play hockey, and he's a guy that can fight, can score, can play PK for us. He does it all for us," The rest of the NHL article is here.
- Jeff Tambellini ; Left Wing ( but he plays both sides, and has seen time at centre this season when injuries arose) . The player most Canuck fans just cannot get a take on. Some love him, and see that shot and blinding speed. Others point to the fact he has not scored since December 28th against the Flyers, while seeing time on Kesler's line, and being given every chance on the 2nd power play as well. How does he stay in the lineup? Well, he is a +10, and that speed has contributed to the penalty kill as well. He is versatile, and even with a scoring slump you can use a calender to calculate, he has 113 hits, won 19 of 35 draws this year, and blocked 21 shots. His contributions have went beyond his 9 goals, 8 assists, +10 and 9 minors over 62 games. How much time he does or does not see in the playoffs could be linked to ...
- Victor Oreskovich ; Right Wing. This guy. A natural right wing instead of Tamby playing out of position, his speed for his size of 6'3" and 215 lbs has been a welcome surprise. A bit of an unusual story, in that he went from being a high draft pick ('04/2nd rd/ 55th ) to being out of hockey to pursue a finance degree. Thankfully, his love of hockey brought him back, and after getting a chance with his old junior coach ( the recently fired from the Panthers Peter DeBoer ), he was what many thought a throw in when the Canucks acquired Keith Ballard this past offseason. Silly rabbits. GM Mike Gillis does not do throw ins and hope he works out well. He asked for this guy. While he only has 3 assists in 16 games with the big club, to go with a +1 and 4 minors, he hits ( 28 ) has 7 blocks already, and can get in on the forecheck very quickly. Was also getting some definite chemistry going with Lapierre and Glass before Cap reasons sent him down towards the end of the season. That is obviously not a concern now though.
So, there they are. I know as a Canuck fan, my ability to compare the two bottom six is likely to be questioned. But I see more experience, and more playoff experience with the Canuck crew, even with the deeper runs the Hawks have went on the past two years.
There are others. Alexandre Bolduc, Sergei Shirokov, Guilliame Desbiens, Rick Rypien, Aaron Volpatti, and even Joel Perrault. All those players currently toiling in Manitoba have some value in an emergency injury call up situation.
Hopefully they won't be needed. But, as we know, anything can happen.