A winning streak can often cloud a plethora of issues. That is the case with the Vancouver Canucks.
Despite racking off six straight wins since the Christmas break, there are still a lot of problems surrounding the Canucks, and most are related to the offence. The Canucks’ power play is a dismal 13.7%, good for 27th in the NHL. This was highlighted by a loss on Tuesday night to the Nashville Predators, where Calle Jarnkrok scored the overtime winner while the Preds were shorthanded.
Despite their win streak, the Canucks have had almost zero production from either Sedin twin. Henrik has four points his last ten games, but none in his last four. Daniel only has one assist in his last ten games, with no even-strength points. Bo Horvat and Sven Baertschi have been able to mask the Canucks’ offensive woes with their hot streaks, but the team needs more offensive production.
This is where the Canucks have mishandled Anton Rodin and the newly-acquired Reid Boucher, and it looks like nothing will change for the Canucks in their next matchup.
Hutton at least a week away
— Jon Abbott (@HockeyAbbs) January 11, 2017
Despite winning six of their last ten games, the Canucks have only scored more than two goals once. With that in mind, it’s puzzling that the coaching staff continues to sit two offensively-minded forwards in exchange for four bottom-six players with limited offensive potential.
Boucher Takes a Back Seat
One of the reasons why head coach Willie Desjardins has refused to insert Rodin or Boucher into the lineup is because he likes his fourth line of Brendan Gaunce, Michael Chaput and Jack Skille. Desjardins trusts these forwards to be responsible defensively, but their offensive upside has been extremely limited. In some cases, it’s been non-existent.
Gaunce is scoreless in 38 games this season, while Chaput scored his first goal of the season last week in his 29th game. Skille has been the most productive forward with seven points in 36 games.
In comparison, Boucher had eight goals and 19 points in 39 games last season and was averaging 14:16 of ice time along with power play time. That’s worth noting because Chaput has the highest average ice time of the three Canucks fourth line forwards at 10:08. Regardless, Boucher’s offensive ceiling is higher than anyone on that fourth line.
Willie Desjardins on Reid Boucher: "I haven't seen enough of him. The games are important and our guys have been good." #Canucks
— Canucks Now (@CanucksNow) January 11, 2017
The scouting report on Boucher states that he has an offensive flair and a great shot. His point totals from last season are reminiscent of this year’s Brandon Sutter. His points-per-60 at even strength are better than anyone on the Canucks fourth line, dating back to the 2015-16 season. In fact, Boucher’s 1.54 points per 60 minutes at even strength in 2015-16 would rank fifth on the Canucks this season, and higher than both Sedin twins. On a team that needs help scoring goals, isn’t he worth a shot?
Rodin Still a Wild Card
It’s hard to get a read on Rodin’s capabilities as an offensive threat at the NHL level, and that’s precisely why Desjardins needs to give him a shot.
In THW’s Canucks 2016-17 season preview, Rodin was listed as the Canucks’ x-factor. Halfway through the season, injuries have meant that nothing has changed. Rodin is still a wild card, but the Canucks are losing time in figuring out what they have in the SHL’s reigning MVP.
What do the Canucks have to lose in playing Rodin in their top nine? It’s not like the Canucks’ top three lines are clicking offensively. In fact, you could argue that there is no perfect trio among the Canucks’ forward group. Horvat and Baertschi are the team’s best forwards, but they are accomplishing this without much production from Alex Burrows.
Speaking of players who are inexplicably playing ahead of Boucher and Rodin, the Jayson Megna experiment needs to stop. He was finally replaced on the top line by Loui Eriksson in the Canucks’ last game, after producing zilch at even-strength with his promotion.
Megna has three goals and four points in 26 games this season, with two of those goals coming in the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in December. Other than that, he has been a non-factor. If Desjardins trusts Megna in a top-line role, why not give Rodin a shot as well?
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) January 10, 2017
The Sedin line has had a revolving door of wingers all season long, without any consistent success. Part of the reason for this could be the Sedins, who are aging, but a lot of the blame could also be directed towards Desjardins for his insistence on either putting Sutter or Megna on that line. Eriksson hasn’t worked out with the Sedins either, so there isn’t much to lose by giving Rodin a shot in that slot. The Canucks need to find out if they have something in Rodin, who doesn’t have much time to prove his NHL worth with the season half over.
What’s the method behind Desjardins’ madness?
Part of it could be that neither Boucher or Rodin has spent much time with the team. Boucher has only been in Vancouver for over a week, while Rodin has only been healthy enough to suit up for eight games so far. Rodin says he’s 100% healthy, but Desjardins would have a good reason to sit him if that isn’t the case.
Anton Rodin on second-guessing his move to NHL: "No, I haven’t. This has been my dream & it was a pretty easy decision to come over here."
— Canucks Now (@CanucksNow) January 9, 2017
Still, time is ticking on the Canucks to figure out what they have in these two forwards. By now, we all know what the Canucks have in Gaunce, Skille, Chaput and Megna. Despite what I’ve said to the contrary, Skille has been the best of the bunch, while Gaunce and Chaput have shown a decent defensive game. There is some merit to Desjardins’ decision to keep his fourth line intact.
Some merit, but not much.
Desjardins is afraid of taking risks. With the Canucks’ trapping, defence-first style, the coach wants players he can trust defensively and it’s evident that Boucher and Rodin haven’t yet earned that trust.
Ferraro: "Why would you pick up Reid Boucher on waivers to practice?" #Canucks
— Omar A (@omarcanuck) January 12, 2017
However, the Canucks are starved for goals, and they are starved for help on the powerplay. Desjardins needs to find a way to integrate these guys into the lineup to see if it will lead to goals or at least scoring chances.
Throughout his three years in Vancouver, Desjardins has been known for playing it safe. If he keeps this up and the Canucks continue to be inept offensively, then his penchant for playing it safe might be his downfall.