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Scoping Out Vancouver's Lines & Pairings

What elimination? I can't hear you. LALALALALALALALA... (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
What elimination? I can't hear you. LALALALALALALALA... (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
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Last month we asked what you felt the biggest priorities were for the Canucks heading into the draft and beyond. Some 400 votes later you selected trading #1 followed by another big minute defenseman and finding another top six winger.

The Luongo wait lingers on, but with the Garrison signing and Raymond re-upping you could argue GMMG met the needs most felt had to happen.

The first game of the 2012/2013 season is less than three months away and, oh hey, today is Friday the 13th. Feel like being terrified?

If nothing else changes this summer - Doan signs elsewhere, MG hates the offers for Luongo, PTO's don't pan out and nothing amazing happens at camp - this is what your Vancouver Canucks could look like come October 11th when they knock heads with the Wideman-powered Flames.

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows

Mason Raymond - Maxim Lapierre - David Booth

Chris Higgins - Andrew Ebbett - Jannik Hansen

Dale Weise - Manny Malhotra - Zack Kassian

Kevin Bieksa - Dan Hamhuis

Alexander Edler - Jason Garrison

Keith Ballard - Chris Tanev

Cory Schneider

Roberto Luongo

These lines are a rough estimate of course, based mainly on how last season ended: plugging in Ebbett for Lappy so the latter can move up to replace Kesler, Garrison even up for Salo and Schneider for Luongo (that's still strange to type out).

After the jump some comments on the breakdown before I toss on my fantasy cap with what I would do if I were AV juggling humanity for dinner money in a few months.

Pithy thoughts:

  • The opening 20ish games of the season will be a "Waiting For Kesler" (WFK) scenario. If no substitute is found via free agency/trading, you have to promote Lappy, Manny or Ebbett unless Schroeder or someone else (Alex Friesen!) comes out of no where. It won't be Malhotra so the only roster guys who logically fill out the 2LC and 3LC are Lappy and Ebbett (or Higgins which we'll get to shortly).
  • That said, not digging that second line. But I think I would hate it with Ebbett in the center. I know in his limited role last season Ebbett was good at driving the play; he wouldn't be back with Vancouver if AV didn't see something in him (see MAG for more info on that topic). I wouldn't mind if both centers rotated through the game, but Lappy has earned the temporary promotion.
  • Not jazzed about Raymond's slot, but it's his to lose. One of the subplots I'm eager to watch in camp is how he performs because that monkey on his back must feel like a two ton bull moose now. An aside: I can make back jokes with MayRay yes?
  • Weise...ugh.
  • Not thrilled with Kassian on the 4L either. He won't progress much pegged that far down, but AV will give him every change to step up into the top nine once the game hits the half way mark. So the 4L is a temporary home at best.

Fantasy time. Dealing with WFK and some jumbled top nine decisions, I'd roll something like this:

Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alex Burrows

Mason Raymond - Chris Higgins - David Booth

Maxim Lapierre - Andrew Ebbett - Jannik Hansen

Aaron Volpatti - Manny Malhotra - Zack Kassian

Kevin Bieksa - Dan Hamhuis

Alex Edler - Jason Garrison

Keith Ballard - Chris Tanev

Cory Schneider

Roberto Luongo

  • Naturally I'm promoting the Professor to address WFK. Higgins may feel more at home on wing, but that can be addressed by different line assignments as the game progresses. Higgins has better hands than either Lapierre or Ebbett and can still drive the play a la Kesler and Booth last year. Moreover Higgins is superb defensively and Raymond should be fine on both ends of the ice with a player more like Kesler. I trust this trio can help offset the pressure on the twins/Burrows too.
  • It was tempting to move Kassian up and push Raymond back to 3L but Lappy's versatility (as shown in the first round last season) can't be ignored. Also, as stated above, I think Kassian becomes a top nine option later in the game. Earn it son.
  • The third line "feels" more a solid checking line, the key being sheltering Ebbett. Lappy and Hansen can work the neutral zone and the boards just fine and all three can bury the puck so it doesn't feel like there's much concern hereby moving Higgins off.
  • Also tempted to move Malhotra out of the fourth line trench he's been chained in for a season, but how AV uses his fourth liners has been well documented for some time now. It's more of a detriment to AV's line management to use Manny like it's 2010-11 again. Sorry chief.
  • Volpatti in for Weise. It means nothing other than Weise doesn't inspire and the news that he's boxing this summer is too Hordichukian for my liking. Volpatti isn't much better (certainly not when you dive into the corsi involved with fourth liners) but I'm not expecting much out of him either. Play hard, play smart and stay out of the box. Thank you.
  • I was IMMENSELY tempted to put Edler with Connauton and push Garrison to the third pairing alongside Tanev (which I should since this is my fantasy damn it) but Vancouver won't be doing that. Garrison isn't a third pairing player anymore than Ballard should be and as Tanev knows it's tough as nails to crack that top four. Besides scratching Ballard in favor of Connauton - and reuniting that AHL pairing - is, shall we say, poor asset management. I think a strong camp will move Connauton past Alberts as the first injury call-up, but no sense in rushing the kid either. Once again, Ballard and Tanev it is. But I got my eye on you K-Nauts.

That's my Friday fun. Your turn. Ignoring extra pieces and staying in-house, what would you like to see the lines be in three months time?