The Canucks lack of depth has created a number of headaches, and it’s a problem that promises to persist into next season.
One of the most glaring issues heading into next season remains...who will play third-line centre?
One of the most common answers to that question...is J.T. Miller.
There are certainly pros and cons of sliding Miller down to the third line. On paper, it gives the Canucks a tantalizing 1-2-3 punch at centre that few other teams in the NHL can match. Theoretically, it would allow the Canucks to spread out their offence, since one of those centres would get cupcake match-ups against third-pairing defencemen.
This is not a plan without flaws, however.
After Brock Boeser, you could argue that the Canucks don’t have a true top-six winger with Miller as the third-line centre.
Nils Hoglander is on the cusp, but both he and Tanner Pearson are ideally suited to be third-line wingers. Since the Canucks can’t afford to pay three more top-six wingers, it’s likely that Hoglander and Pearson are slotted into the second line heading into next season.
Another flaw to the “Miller as your third-line centre” plan is that his defensive play leaves a little bit to be desired. He can get caught trying to make the fancy play to get up the ice, or he tries to take on too much himself. It’s easy to see that trend continuing if he’s on a third line playing with lesser players than Boeser and Pettersson.
On top of all that...how would Miller feel about losing his spot on the top line?
While there are many things to consider here, consider this: How do the Canucks look with a “triple threat” forward duos?
Could Canucks ice three core forward duos?
You can probably imagine where this is going.
1. Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser
Arguably the Canucks two best forwards, Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser are already proven first-line players with chemistry. There’s not much logic for separating them once Pettersson is healthy.
2. Bo Horvat and Nils Hoglander
One of the biggest surprises of this season has been the emergence of Nils Hoglander. He’s currently a fringe second-liner, but he’s had chemistry with both Horvat and Tanner Pearson. With the Canucks lacking cap space to overhaul their top six, it makes sense to keep Horvat and Hoglander together heading into next season.
3. J.T. Miller and Vasily Podkolzin
I’ll be honest, I’m not in love with the idea of having Miller on the top line. By doing this, you are opening up a gaping hole on the first-line left wing, which is arguably harder to fill than a bottom-six centre position.
That being said, Miller might be the perfect player to team up with Vasily Podkolzin next season.
Podkolzin is known for his wrecking-ball style of play. Despite a certain recklessness to his game, he is a strong 200-foot player over in the KHL. Miller isn’t a great defensive player, but he does possess some of those “bull in a china shop” traits that Podkolzin also has. This forward duo could
On a side note, can you imagine Tyler Motte on a line with Podkolzin and Miller. That would be a handful for the opposition.
What does the “triple threat” lineup look like?
Here’s what the Canucks potential line-up would look like next season if they went forth with these three forward duos in mind. This based on the hypothetical roster I’ve put through in a couple of recent articles.
The players bolded below would need new contracts for next season, so their half-baked projected cap hits are below.
Guy — Elias Pettersson ($7M) — Brock Boeser ($5.875M)
Tanner Pearson ($3.25M) — Bo Horvat ($5.5M) — Nils Hoglander ($891,667)
Tyler Motte ($1.2M) — JT Miller ($5.25M)— Vasily Podkolzin ($925K)
Jayce Hawryluk ($850K) — Guy — Guy
Extras: Zack MacEwen ($825K), Guy
Buried: Loui Eriksson ($4.875M), Antoine Roussel ($1.875M), Jake Virtanen ($1.425M)
LTIR: Micheal Ferland, Jay Beagle
Quinn Hughes ($7M) — Guy
Guy — Nate Schmidt ($5.9M)
Jack Rathbone ($925K) — Tyler Myers ($6M)
Extras: Olli Juolevi ($800K)
Thatcher Demko ($5M)
Braden Holtby ($4.3M)
Roster size: 18
Cap Hit: $72,776,879
Cap Remaining: $8,723,121
I think the most enticing thing about this projected line-up, is that the Canucks boast a fairly decent top-nine, albeit with one gaping hole on the first-line left wing. However, if that’s the only place where management decides to spend money in the offseason, there are players who could be had.
We’ll touch on some potential targets in the coming weeks.
Why the triple threat concept isn’t a great idea
1. Canucks would have no true top-six left-wingers
The big hole is on first-line left-wing, but I would argue that Pearson is also a true talent third-line forward.
2. Miller is better off as a winger
Defensively, Miller is neither a back-checking ace nor a complete liability. However, his turnover rate this season, coupled with his success on the top line, proves that he’s better off as a first-line left-winger.
3. Who’s your penalty-killing ace?
Without Jay Beagle, Brandon Sutter and J.T. Miller are the Canucks two penalty-killing centres.
If Sutter doesn’t return and Jay Beagle remains on LTIR (like I’ve illustrated above), who’s going to kill penalties?
Miller would be your primary penalty killing centre here, which just isn’t an ideal spot for someone with his offensive potential. Ideally, you want the player who led the Canucks with 72 points in 69 games a season ago spending most of his time trying to create offence, rather than being sucked into hardcore penalty-killing duty.
So, what do you think? Would you like to see Miller as a third-line centre, teaming up with Podkolzin? Or, is he better off alongside Pettersson and Boeser on the top line?