It is silly season in the NHL.
It’s the time of year where we all see the world through rose coloured glasses. Everyone has lofty predictions about their team, as if we were all Marlin Brando retired in a Spanish Villa, spending our days sipping on sherry.
Some of do, however, make bang-on predictions.
Even though silly seasons in the NHL grapples most fan bases, Canucks fans aren’t seeing the world through those same rose-coloured glasses. It’s hard to feel optimistic after two straight bottom-dwelling seasons. On top of that, prognosticators everywhere are picking these Vancouver Canucks to finish near the bottom of the league for the third straight season. That would easily make the Canucks the worst team in Canada.
How times have changed.
While this helps keeps fans honest, it appears that silly season may have gotten a hold of Canucks head coach Travis Green.
It’s early in his Canucks coaching career, so maybe there’s a method to his madness. The lines at practice on Wednesday did create some cause for concern.
Here were the lines from Wednesday’s practice.
Baertschi-Horvat-Eriksson— Jeff Paterson (@patersonjeff) October 4, 2017
Virtanen#Canucks lines at practice
There were a few things that probably stuck out to Canucks fans here, but the one that probably caught the most attention were the deployments of Brock Boeser and Jake Virtanen.
Pretty much the worst thing you could do for Virtanen’s development is have him sitting in the press box for an extended period of time. If this is Green’s plan moving forward, what was the point of keeping Virtanen with the team?
The signing of Thomas Vanek doesn’t make it easy to sit anybody out. Unfortuantely, the best candidates for the press box at the moment are Virtanen, Alex Burmistrov and Derek Dorsett. Green just finished calling Dorsett and Brandon Sutter one of Vancouver’s best lines during the preseason, so that really just leaves Virtanen and Burmistrov.
Speaking of Vanek, it might be time to crown that second line as the slowest line in the league. The three players are the oldest on the Canucks rosters, and assuredly one of the oldest lines in the league.
If Vanek was a Canuck ten years ago, that would be one hell of a top line. Too bad it’s 2017, not 2007.
I’m not against Loui Eriksson on the top line with Horvat and Baertschi. Horvat has the ability to drive the puck to the net, and Eriksson is the former king of garbage goals.
Most will be disappointed not to see Boeser on that top line, but there’s nothing wrong with making him earn his ice time. Putting him in a sheltered third-line role with a bit of power play time could be a sneaky, smart deployment.
After last season’s strong performance, Granlund deserves a better fate than being placed on a fourth line with Sutter and Dorsett. Granlund is one of the Canucks better defensive forwards, so last season’s performance aside, there is logic in this pairing.
The silliest things about these forward lines? Vanek with the twins and Virtanen in the press box. Perhaps a switch is in order?
Here are the Canucks projected pairings heading into the season
Alex Edler - Chris Tanev
Ben Hutton - Troy Stecher
Michael Del Zotto - Erik Gudbranson
There’s a lot less silliness happening on the defensive side of things. While splitting up the successful pairing of Edler and Stecher seems counterproductive, reuniting Tanev back with Edler does give the Canucks a legitimate shutdown pairing.
Del Zotto and Gudbranson theoretically emulate the same pairing that Hutton and Gudbranson were supposed to be last season. Del Zotto should be given the green light while Gudbranson is your prototypical stay-at-home defenceman. It did’t work last season for Hutton and Gudbranson, but both him and Del Zotto should be hungry to prove that they belong in the NHL.
The wild card pairing is Hutton and Stecher. They have the potential to both be great or a liability. Stecher played with poise and intelligence on the back-end last year, arguably more so than his partner Edler. Hutton looked lost at times during his second season, so it’s a big year for him to prove he belongs in the NHL.
The two defenders are good friends off the ice, but it waits to be seen if they can translate that into on-ice success.
Green is likely to shuffle his lines countless time as the season goes on. It will be refreshing to see a coach who doesn’t stick with the same, unproductive, plodding lines.
At least we hope so.