As we approach training camp, there is one group of players who are completely set up for the regular season: the Defence.
Or are they?
On the face of it, there are 8 roster spots, and 8 players on the roster. Done deal. Except the D corps from last year was not that great. In particular, scoring was woefully lacking.
Here’s the real question: how many non-roster D men get in after the start of the season before the injury bug bites? I’ll include due to a trade or a waived player being sent down and set the over/under at 0.5. Let us know what you think in the poll, and tell us why in the comments.
Here’s the pairings I see as spots to lose before camp stars:
Hutton and Biega in the press box.
These pairings are sort of the least worst options, MDZ-Guddy were a tire fire last season, while Edler-Stetcher were pretty steady and became the de facto top pair. Hutton is in the dog house. Biega doesn’t get rusty: he plays well even after a stint in the press box (plus he’s on a low salary). Process of elimination gives me this staring line up. It’s really too bad about Hutton, he was a hope for more scoring, but now my impression is that he’s been passed by everyone down to Juolevi and Hughes.
Edler is probably 1PP, although Travis Green might get creative, and I’m guessing MDZ is the favourite for 2PP. Stetcher might also get PP time, especially if Green goes old-school and has two D, perhaps on the 2PP.
Sounds fine right? Except there’s nothing much to get excited about, and good enough is not really good enough. There needs to be more scoring, and an obvious way is to get it from new blood.
So: if the Canucks can make a trade, or a prospect shines, who would go up? After we figure out who could come up, I’ll take a quick look at who might leave this top group, and how.
With the drafting of apparent wunderkind Quinn Hughes it was speculated that he’d have a chance to steal a roster spot on the left side, but he’s decided to go back to the NCAA and that’s probably for the best.
Nearing the end of the last season, Olli Juolevi looked like he was settling into a top pair role against men in Finland’s top league especially on the Power Play, and ready to jump to the NHL. Everyone’s favourite #6 Sami Salo said he was ready to go, and would spend the summer getting in the physical conditioning that would allow Juolevi to hit the ground running in the fall. Then injury struck, and back surgery recovery took away the training time. Now it’s doubtful that OJ will be best served starting in Vancouver. The Utica Comets are likely to be a good place for him to start the season to get in game shape with more practice and training time, and fewer games. Also a left side D. Probably the first call-up no matter which of the starting D move to open up a spot. I’ll even go a little further and say that Juolevi has the best (maybe only) chance to force himself onto the roster.
Next on my depth chart for the left side is Ashton Sautner. I’ve liked him ever since I saw him at the one Utica Comets game I managed to attend. It didn’t hurt that he was wearing #6, just like Sami Salo. I noticed him mostly because he was always in the right place, always made the smart simple play, and if I recall correctly even scored on the Power Play. When he had his cup of coffee in the NHL I was interested to see if he’d look out of place against better competition. I liked what I saw. Sautner seemed to play the same smart simple game that made me like what I saw in Utica. After saying all that: I think Sautner is best suited starting the season in the AHL. He’s likely to clear waivers, he’s only going to benefit from more playing time, and he’s a great call-up when they need him — it Juolevi is not ready yet. I don’t see him as more than an injury call up.
Let’s look at the right side:
The right side is not so stacked, but does not have any obvious opening. The excellent (but injury prone) Chris Tanev will certainly start as the anchor of the middle pair; the stalwart, hard working, and surprisingly defensively effective Troy Stetcher has earned a spot; and the big tough Erik Gudbranson is on a “Show me” contract so he will get every chance to actually show. With the possible exception of a Stetcher bounce-back year, there’s not much scoring in this line up. With the Bulldog as your press box backup there is neither need nor room for another player — unless he makes the team better.
Depth on the right is not strong. My depth chart is Chatfield, Brisebois, and hope for Woo to develop before he’s needed (not this year). I don’t have a strong impression of any of the depth guys, and certainly I’m on record as saying that GMJB should turn our glut of mid-six Left Wingers into a right shot Defenceman. It might happen, and it might not. I don’t see any movement here except for injury call up.
That’s it then, I think Juolevi is even money to force his way onto the team. No one else really jumps out at me.
So, briefly, where else could there be movement? I’m going to say trades are possible, and it’s easy to see any one of Tanev, Gudbranson, Hutton, or Del Zotto getting moved.
The replacement for all of them is Juolevi.
But that’s two RHD and two LHD being replaced by a rookie LHD! How the heck does that happen you ask?
Derek Pouliott is the answer to all trade questions. I remember Coach Green saying in an interview that Pouliott is effective on the right side because he’s one of the best at transitioning the puck from his backhand to his forehand. That’s a very specific technical comment that makes me thing Green has really looked hard at how much he can trust this particular lefty on the right side. It’s also one of the things that makes me believe Pouliott is ahead of Hutton on the depth chart.
There is one more scenario that would make sense: -1 for the back end.
If the glut of forwards means that GMJB and HCTG want to get a good look at one more of them, or avoid losing a particular player to waivers, they may choose to go with 14 forwards and 7 defence. In that case I’d hate to be in Ben Hutton’s shoes. My personal feeling is that Alex Biega is more valuable as a RHD and emergency Right winger. With Pouliott in the line up and Biega in the press box and Juolevi lurking in the wings getting ready for his main stage debut there’s a certain logic to trading (or even waiving) a LHD to make room for a forward.
What do you think? If I were a bookie offering 0.5 would you take the over or the under? Or would you set up your own book at a different number? Or do you think there’s other scenarios worth considering?
Over/Under: prospects making the roster
This poll is closed
Wrong line Dumb Ass !