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It’s Time for Nikolay Goldobin’s Return

Columbus Blue Jackets v Vancouver Canucks

The story of the first few weeks of the 2018-19 season was the Canucks’ high-powered offense, as the team regularly put up five goals and dominated opponents. That has changed over the last handful of games, as prior to their most recent win over the Nashville Predators, they had just five goals in the last four games. Whether this is blip or a sign of tougher roads ahead for the Canucks offence is the big question, but one way to mitigate the damage is to allow Nikolay Goldobin one more chance to prove himself.

It’s fair to be skeptical of Goldobin’s ability to be productive. In 124 career contests, he has a not-super-impressive 19 goals and 46 points. His career high in a single season for points is 27 (in 63 games last season), and for goals it’s a mere 8 (in 2017-18). In many senses, he also does not fit into Travis Green’s aggressive style of hockey, and the current group of wingers makes the current roster a bit restrictive. Why then, given all this, should Goldobin be given a chance now? The most convicing argument would be his AHL point totals with the Utica Comets, where he’s put up 13 points in 13 contests. While he’s done this before — he scored 31 points in 30 AHL games in 2017-18 — it nonetheless shows that the offensive instincts exist, and are being employed with great success.

Another bullish argument for Goldobin is the nature of his strengths. While the Canucks do have an influx of wingers, many are not skill-based playmakers the way Goldobin is. The likes of Josh Leivo, Tanner Pearson, Jake Virtanen, and Michael Ferland (when healthy) are all more known for their shots or board work rather than their playmaking, making Goldobin a bit of a unique offensive force within the context of the organization. One could even make the case that no one outside of the top line — that being Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, and J.T. Miller — is particularly impressive at dishing the puck, and that Goldobin would be filling a role currently unoccupied up and down the roster.

A call up for Goldobin also makes sense in that he can realistically fit on either of the top three lines. Early last season, he fit in nicely alongside Pettersson and Boeser. While Miller has been a resounding success as the third member of that trio, he could conceivably play with Bo Horvat (with whom he’s also had success), leaving Goldobin to rekindle chemistry alongside #40 and #6. ‘Goldy’, as he is affectionately dubbed, could also be a useful winger for Horvat, who has had his playmaking abilities questioned. Indeed, he could create a more well-rounded offensive attack from the second line, particularly if the likes of Virtanen and Pearson continue to be featured there. Even on a third line, Goldobin would offer a much needed dose of skill and playmaking, particularly if Brandon Sutter is used as the third line centre for the remainder of the season.

Many fans are tired of ‘The Goldy Wars’, and with good reason — it’s entirely conceivable that, even if given a chance, he reverts back to his bad habits that made him so frustrating to begin with. That being said, if the team continues to have scoring woes, there are compelling reasons — both in his AHL production and his skillset relative to his NHL peers — to at least give him a small opportunity to prove himself. Would it work in the long run? The answer may just be ‘no’, but it’s certainly an option at least worth considering.