Heading into the 2015-16 campaign, one storyline that has flown under the radar is who will be the third member of the Sedin line. While the answer was obvious for a number of seasons, the success of Radim Vrbata has complicated things, as well as a couple other candidates who have thrown their hats into the ring. Here are the favorites to being playing alongside the two former scoring champs come October.
Arguably the favorite to earn this position, Vrbata experienced one of the most successful campaigns of his career in 2014-15, playing largely with the Sedins at both even strength and with the man advantage. With a goal total (31) that ranks second in his career, and a career-best total of 63 points, Vrbata established himself as the Canucks’ go-to triggerman, and one of the most dangerous in the National Hockey League. While, on paper, the Czech sniper may be the obvious selection to play alongside the twins, the Canucks’ coaching staff may also deem it valuable for Bo Horvat, the projected second-line centre, to play alongside an experienced and productive winger like Vrbata.
As mentioned above, head coach Willie Desjardins may wish to put Vrbata alongside the young Horvat, and in that case, the clear favorite for the job is Alex Burrows. The 34-year-old winger has without question the longest resume when it comes to success alongside the Sedins, making him a low-risk selection, despite his declining production over the past couple of seasons. Unlike Vrbata, Burrows brings an element of grit to the table, which may appeal to the Canucks’ staff. While they may decide some of the Canucks younger forwards, whether that be on the second or third lines, could use a veteran mentor such as Burrows, his history with the Swedish twins may be too much to pass up on.
The darkhorse of the bunch, recently re-signed Sven Baertschi appears to be a virtual lock to make the squad next season, and should he impress in camp and be given a top-six spot, they just might decide to put skill with skill and slot the former Flames prospect alongside the Sedins. This could highly benefit the young Swiss forward both in the short term, and in the long run. While it’s highly unlikely management makes this decision, due to Baertschi’s lack of experience and the fact that they may seem him as redundant on a line with two high-end skill based forwards, it’s not worth completely writing off, either.
For whatever reason, each and every coaching staff that has graced the Canucks bench over the past handful of seasons has loved the concept of putting a speedy Danish forward alongside the Sedins, despite unspectacular production and an apparent lack of chemistry. While one would assume that the coaching staff has learnt this, it’s not a guarantee that they have, and there’s a slight possibility that we see Hansen alongside the twins sometime in the not-so-distant future.
Markus is a Vancouver Canucks columnist out of Victoria, BC. Markus is also a Staff Writer for Last Word on Hockey, an Editor and Staff Writer for country music website The Shotgun Seat, and founder of This Is Country Music.