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What Do The Canucks Do At Centre Next Season?

Things could be bleak next season barring unforeseen circumstances, especially down the middle.

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Arizona Coyotes
Mar 11, 2018; Glendale, AZ, USA; Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat (53) controls the puck against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

You know things are bleak for the Canucks when ___________________________.

Jason Botchford, just tweet that out and wait for the replies to flood in. Surely every Canucks fan has answers that range from reasonable to laughable.

For example, you know things are bleak for the Canucks when they overpay for a third-pairing defenceman who can’t stay healthy.

Or when their defence is so bad that they end up playing Michael Del Zotto as a top-two defender.

How about when the team you cheer for is cumulatively the worst team in the league for three straight seasons but doesn’t acquire any additional draft picks.

You get the point.

While there is a bright future, there are also some bleak outlooks for this Canucks team next year. Defence is an obvious issue, but so is there depth at centre ice.

Behind Bo Horvat, there are a plethora of question marks regarding what this team could do at centre ice in the coming season. With a plethora of questions comes a plethora of possible answers, so let’s debate some of them here.

1. Canucks Go Green

No worries, this isn’t some poorly constructed pun from a hack writer. There’s enough of that in my writing already.

I’ll stick with stating the obvious. If the Sedins’ decide that they’ve had enough losing and want to retire, it would create a gaping hole at the centre ice position. Sure, the Canucks are getting buried at even-strength with the twins, but they’ve in part helped resurrect a power play that was dreadful for years.

Yes, Brock Boeser was the main catalyst behind that, but the Sedins’ have played a part.

So if they decide to hang them up, it could mean that the Canucks are very green at centre next season. Behind Horvat sits Brandon Sutter, the possibility of Adam Gaudette along with quasi centre/wingers in Sam Gagner, Markus Granlund, and Brendan Gaunce.

Not so great, is it?

The Canucks could attempt to go even more green by trading veterans such as Sutter and Gagner, who are nothing but stopgaps and don’t figure to help this team once they start competing.

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at San Jose Sharks
Could the Canucks attempt to trade Brandon Sutter? Seems unlikely. (Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto)
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Something that Travis Green might try to do if the twins to retire, is play Brandon Sutter as a top-six shutdown centre like he did earlier in the year. Sure, Sutter hasn’t looked great in that role over the second-half of the season, but it worked for the Canucks earlier when Derek Dorsett was on his wing.

If this is the road the Canucks travel down, they would have Horvat as their top centre, Sutter in the second line spot, and some combination of Gagner, Gaudette, Granlund or Gaunce as their bottom two centres. Talk about a G-Unit.


You might be wondering why I haven’t mentioned Elias Pettersson’s name, and that’s because he’s mainly played as a winger in Sweden. However, the Canucks try something different there.

2. Pettersson Moves to Centre

It’s crazy to think that Pettersson could occupy a spot in the NHL next season, less than a year after many thought he would be a couple years away from action.

I guess that’s what happens when you tear up a men’s league as a 19-year-old kid, smashing decades-old records along the way.

Pettersson looks poised to either play in the NHL or the AHL next year. Since he’s proven people wrong all year long, all bets are off regarding his chances of playing in the NHL.

I think people are chomping at the bit to see what Pettersson can do at the NHL level, but the brakes probably need to be pumped on him before he even plays an NHL game.

That holds especially true if Pettersson were to shift to centre for the Canucks. While everyone has visions of him and Jonathan Dahlen dancing through defenders like the Sedins’ did, they’re still only kids. Predicting that they will jump into the NHL next season and make an immediate difference might be asking too much.

While it might not be a longshot that Pettersson makes the Canucks, it’s more of a longshot to say he’s going to make the NHL and play as a top-six centre. But hey, anything is possible.

3. Sign a Free Agent

Just no.

Unless John Tavares were to consider coming to Vancouver (and I’m not sure why he would unless he has a hard-on for mountains and rain), there’s no reason why the Canucks should chase any UFA’s.

I mean, caman.

4. The Sedins’ Come Back

What this really means is that nothing much will change for the organization heading into next season. However, it might be the most logical reason for the Sedins’ to return.

We’ve outlined that things look bleak if the Canucks were to start next season without the Sedins. While there’s promise on the wings, there isn’t much depth down the middle unless Pettersson is able to make a monumental leap in his development, which seems unlikely for next year.

It could mean that the Sedins’ hang on for one more season to usher the Dahlen’s, Gaudette’s and Pettersson’s to the NHL. Plus, it would be pretty neat to see Pettersson and Dahlen play in the NHL for a season with the Sedins. That is, if they’re ready for the challenge.

There’s a debate to be had on the Sedins’ future role with the team. By coming back, are they helping the younger players learn and grow, or are they taking roster spots away from forwards who should be on this team?

At the moment, it’s hard to see anyone in the organization jumping in next season to replace (or even match) Henrik’s point total. There’s an inherent risk with bringing back the twins, as this team would largely remain the same coming into next season. However, you can see that rationale since Jim Benning liked this team’s game through the first two months of the season.

There’s also an inherent and obvious risk with letting them go, because these offensively-inept Canucks might score even less without the twins. It could be a high-risk, high-reward scenario, because young players like Pettersson, Dahlen, and Gaudette could get a chance to shine. That, or Green might just play the hell out of Sutter and Gagner.

What do you think, how should the Canucks handle the centre ice position heading into next season?