The Curious Case of Linden Vey

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Linden Vey’s powerplay time has been the subject of a lot of conversations among Canucks circles over the past couple of months. Though reasonably effective at the beginning of the season, Vey’s production has dipped significantly despite getting consistent time on the first powerplay unit with the Sedins.

In fact, Vey hasn’t scored on the powerplay since November 30.

So why is Willie Desjardins continuing to deploy him on the first unit and with middle-six minutes game after game? Well, nobody seems to know.

This is the same coach that sat Zack Kassian for multiple games because he wasn’t playing the exact style required of him. Kassian is only now working his way back into the coach’s good books after over a month of being one of the Canucks most consistent forwards, and on multiple occasions, Vey has slid into the lineup ahead of him.

Linden Vey

Linden Vey at 5v5

What really makes the Vey debate so mindboggling is his ineffectiveness at 5v5. Vey currently has only 13 points in 60 games and has the lowest P/60 out of all Canucks forwards. His possession numbers suggest he is ineffective 5v5 (47.7 CF%) and his shot statistics indicate that he isn’t putting many shots on net and, when he does, he is getting a high degree of luck. He has the team’s lowest shot total (50 in all situations) combined with its second highest shooting percentage (18%).

In short, he is playing like an AHL forward, but is being consistently given middle-6 NHL minutes.

It is still Vey’s first season in the NHL, and you always expect a learning curve as a player tries to establish his game and begin to register the speed and physicality of the league. But that being said, Vey will be 24 come next training camp and posted incredible numbers in the AHL with the Manchester Monarchs, so it is not unreasonable to expect solid performances from him.

Linden Vey

Where can he fit in?

Desjardins is giving Vey a lot of opportunities to develop some form, but there really hasn’t been anything significant to write home about. Vey plays game after game on the powerplay, but hasn’t had any impact on the man-advantage in months. With the team fighting for a playoff spot where every game is crucial, it’s time for Desjardins to start considering scratching Vey for other options

The emergence of Ronalds Kenins has given the Canucks another energetic and effective fourth-line player and Vey, whose game is based on skill rather than tenacity, can’t emulate Kenins’ style. Kenins is nothing more than a fourth-liner, but he is effective in that role while Vey isn’t. This pretty much restricts Vey to playing in the middle six, which is currently swamped with much better players.

Vey is a skilled forward, but right now he is in an awkward stage where he is not quite good enough to be a regular NHLer but is developed past the AHL. It will be interesting to see how the Canucks management grooms and develops him over the next couple of years, but at 23, his days of being considered a prospect are running low.

In the meantime, the organization needs to focus on making the playoffs, so over the final month of the season, it’s essential to play your best players. That quite likely means Vey stepping into the press box for some games, especially when there’s a healthy lineup.

Vey has a lot of room to grow, and judging from his time in the AHL, he is capable of being an NHL regular. But with the end of the season approaching, that time has not yet come and Desjardins needs to do what is best for the team, which means shortening Vey’s leash significantly.

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